by Brian Spears

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.