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Creek Running North

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November 04, 2005

Benita Mora

Benita Mora's grave Eight days she lived. Her parents laid her to rest not far from here. The inevitable flash flood scoured her grave, mixed her bones into the alluvial fan. They moved her monument to higher ground.

When the mines played out they left her here blended into the mountain, a teardrop in an ocean of rock. A century of storms boiled across the desert. Wind and dust and rain went to work on the pale volcanic rock. The odd, formal engraving is half gone, serifs tossed into the wind and dashed against the Colorado. Some of the words are lost to the casual reader. The stone reads:

NACIO EN MARZO DE [unintelligible]
[unintelligible] ISLAS

There are men still living who remember when the words were plain.

My camp is within ten paces of her recuerdo. Were she to sit on her monument and look around her, she would see a hundred miles. Away to the east the plain stretches toward the valley of the Colorado. On each of thirty thousand nights the eastern plain fills with purple shadow, the color of heartbreak. Each spring came the Colorado in flood, raging through undammed canyons with each new melt.

Would she look to the horizon? Her vision is but eight days old. She may find it easier to focus on the immediate. The outline of her mother's hair. Fierce brown eyes shot through with weary red pain. Sweat beading on her father's forehead, carving a stark inscription beneath a Mojave sun. Perhaps her gaze is turned inward. She is part of the mountain now, and its thoughts are hers, a slow splintering of rhyolite, stalagmites growing drop by year-long drop.

Caves dry for perhaps ten thousand years, and then one day the stalactites began again to weep.

Meteors streak, one by one, toward Arizona. From down the slope comes a burbling of quail. Rocks tumble from the rhyolite peaks above. A handful at a time, the mountain is being leveled. If you were to climb a hard mile you could sit among the pines, look down on this spot. Rare rains run off the face of Benita's marker where her parents carved their stony grief. A gray-leaved buckwheat sends its roots there into the gravelly soil. Some decades from today when the inscription is no longer plain, the buckwheat will have eaten that grief. It will scatter its seed across the desert.

(for Corndog and his family, with affection.)

Posted by Chris Clarke at November 4, 2005 04:10 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:

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Thank you, Chris, for a beautiful piece of writing. They loved their baby daughter, and I just wish we could decipher Benita's mother's name from the rock's memory.

Posted by: Charles at November 4, 2005 08:23 PM
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Thanks Chris. Also with affection.

Posted by: corndog at November 5, 2005 07:01 AM
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you are a wild man with a heart big as all outdoors chris.

Posted by: dread pirate roberts at November 5, 2005 08:04 AM
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A gift you have.

You made me cry, again.

Posted by: carpundit at November 5, 2005 11:52 AM
decorative line of bighorn petroglyphs