No campfire allowed, not even after the rain that soaked through the seams of our tent, so we ate crackers and jerky, pemmican and trail mix, waited for morning and the promise of pancakes at the Ranger Station, necessary fuel for the day’s hike. Mule deer wandered across the path between tent site and bath house, and we stood, stunned by this world we’d wandered into unaware. I wished for my camera, but I’m happier I left it in the tent; I’d rather nostalgia corrupt my memory of that morning, that day, that trip. I want to remember the mesa like Cather: There are ruins everywhere, perched about like swallows’ nests. The ranger pointed at what he said was a trail upward to the mesa, handholds and toe ledges that we swore would crumble if we touched them. All around, charred tree stumps, remains of the last fire, ongoing drought, no green sprigs seeking light. No sweat to sate the ground—the air inhaled our moisture. As though the rain had never fallen.

BRIAN SPEARS is poetry editor of The Rumpus. His first collection of poems, A Witness in Exile, is forthcoming from Louisiana Literature Press, and his poems have appeared in Quarterly West, and The Southern Review, among other journals. He was a Stegner Fellow from 2003-2005 and currently teaches literature and creative writing at Florida Atlantic University.