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Sunday Brunch

This month, instead of a Poetic Micro Essay, I offer you a bit of mystery
and excitement from my dreamworld with a poem that takes place
in the heart of the Gila Wilderness.

This poem first appeared in The Journal of Radical Wonder, March 28, 2023.
(Link to the journal is provided below the poem.)

Happy holidays to all of you, whatever your traditions and beliefs.

I wish you joy!

Illustration by Jane Edburg


A Dream in the Gila Wilderness

I wander alone in an alpine forest
deeper and deeper into wildness

The only sounds are the crunch of my feet
on a crisp mulch of leaves and needles
the tweets of song birds and the wind in the pines

Majestic ponderosa tower above me
I breathe their tangy sweet aroma
their soaring canopies of long needles
glint in early morning sunlight

Gnarled piñons stand as elder sentinels
twisted and filled with nutritious nuts

A raven caws from a gnarled alligator juniper
while a woodpecker hammers in the distance

I feel a presence behind me
dark, mysterious

I turn, catch sight
of a shadowy movement
in the scrub oak underbrush

a sleek, muscular form
with a velvet sheen
a once-native, seldom seen
black jaguar

Strangely, I feel no fear
even though the jaguar
is so near I can hear
her steady breathing

I walk away slowly
telling myself not to run
not to trigger her hunting instinct

I try to stay composed
She is stalking me

I come to a mountain creek
only a trickle of flow remains
from last week’s monsoon rains

I step from stone to stone
northward in the riverbed
until I arrive at a small waterfall

I ascend its rocky, moistened slope
balancing precariously between
spiky agave and pink-blooming prickly pear
aware that rattlesnakes may
rest in the shade under
the granite outcroppings

I know the jaguar still follows
this climb is no challenge
for her feline acuity

For me, it takes focus
precise movement
full attention

She could easily
overtake me

She is pacing herself
to stay behind me

I sense no maleficence
but do not look back

At the top of the falls
I step onto a flat plateau

Before me stand the ruins
of an ancient pueblo

One crumbling adobe wall
encircles a subterranean floor
and the faded memory
of sacred ceremonies

I enter the circle through
a broken place

Instinctively, I kneel
and bow my head
to the packed-earth

I wait
expecting perhaps
to be devoured

She arrives at the kiva’s edge

I smell her earthy scent
I know she’s watching
though I do not lift my head

I hear her paws land close by
in a muffled thud

She comes to me
I feel her hot breath
on the back of my neck

Before I die
I want to see her

Never look a predator
in the eyes, they say

I lift my head slowly
my eyes are open

Her wide ebony face
is inches from mine
her eyes shining
with amber fire

She rests her forehead
against my own

I close my eyes
as a warm current of energy
courses through me

Her silken fur
caresses my brow
then lifts away

She grunts softly
then gently licks my face

When I open my eyes
she is gone

I am alone, alive

Many thanks and a link to The Journal of Radical Wonder

The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Southwest Word Fiesta™ or its steering committee.

Eve West Bessier

Eve is a poet laureate emerita of Silver City and Grant County, New Mexico; and of Davis and Yolo County, California. She has served on the steering committee for the Southwest Word Fiesta, and was a presenter during two festivals. Eve is a retired social scientist, voice and life coach. She is a writer, jazz vocalist, photographer and nature enthusiast.
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We respectfully acknowledge that the entirety of southwestern New Mexico is the traditional territory, since time immemorial, of the Chis-Nde, also known as the people of the Chiricahua Apache Nation. The Chiricahua Apache Nation is recognized as a sovereign Native Nation by the United States in the Treaty of Amity, Commerce, and Friendship of 1 July 1852 (10 Stat. 979) (Treaty of Santa Fe ratified 23 March 1853 and proclaimed by President Franklin Pierce 25 March 1853).

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