On the Move: Ships, Fringes, Fog, Song

 The Ghost Ship

A.E. Stallings 

She plies an inland sea.  Dull

With rust, scarred by a jagged reef.
In Cyrillic, on her hull
Is lettered, Grief.

The dim stars do not signify;

No sonar with its eerie ping
Sounds the depths; she travels by

At her heart is a stopped clock.

In her wake, the hours drag.
There is no port where she can dock,
She flies no flag,

Has no allegiance to a state,

No registry, no harbor berth,
Nowhere to discharge her freight
Upon the earth.


Last week a couple of friends and I drove over to Aspen where Juan Felipe Herraras was appearing.  Herraras' poems don't quite appeal to me, but the man entirely won me over.  I think he might be our first national laureate whose work comes from the spoken word tradition. On stage, he embraces the role of the kindly elder, has a bit of a medicine man vibe.  I came away feeling he is a well chosen guardian, representing, as it were, one tent, one genre, one school, one constellation in the great big poetry sky.  He is particularly suited to the role as spokesperson now, given the present discourse and public debates on peoples in migration. He spoke movingly about his experience of immigration, migration, displacement, poetry.  He spoke eloquently about voice and what it means to the displaced.


Closer in, we have made our home on the fringe of what might be called a migrant town-- a small agricultural oasis here in the high desert, with a river running through it.  Down the road: a post office, a couple diners, the brewery, a distillery, medical marijuana dispensary,  biker bar, a couple of art galleries, a gas station, and a laundromat.  The best part: No traffic lights. 

Further out, a host of assorted wineries surround the town.  The economy (and the soil) is very poor, but sprawled across East Orchard Mesa and throughout Palisade are miles and miles of orchards and vineyards.  In  summer, the winds, which travel at impressive speeds up and through De Beque Canyon in the evenings, cool the hot night air, creating a sweetness of peach, a good hard cider,  a crisp, deep grape.  Contrast, they say, is everything.  

 I've on occasion been invited to teach the arts to migrant children in Junction, a sister town about fifteen miles out.   Even the youngest of these kids are bilingual, yet most hardly raise their voices above a whisper. Immigration, migration, displacement, voice. Perhaps voice is so powerful, it terrifies us all.   

From here on the edge of the world, nestled against the mesa, I watch an endless parade of wildlife track across the snow.  They rarely seem to rest, the fox, the quail, the scrub jay, the deer, the rabbit, the coyote.  Even in the dead of winter. 

In constant movement as well: the skies, the weather, the clouds, the very atmosphere.  Here on the edge of everything, the constancy of motion is emphasized, dramatized, even flagrant.  Fog slips in and out of these  rough rocks up through the mountains and into the heavens, and most of the time, no footsteps are left behind.  Countless little flurries of snow, far below the timberline, find themselves drifting through these canyons, gullies, ditches, and other nameless secret places.  Rainbows appear, and vanish. 

Everything it seems, is on the move.

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