Forever

She walks along the sandy desert wash.
She sees her footprints from the day before.

Rocks glisten in the slanting light.

A broad-brimmed straw hat
shadows her face. The hat has

holes where it’s been snatched back
from a stealing wind.

Her knuckles are as twisted
as the manzanita.

Her heel presses into the soft sand,
and then her toe. When the breeze

quiets, she can hear grains of sand
shift under the weight of her step.

The sun is warm on her shoulders.
She has been here forever,

or so it seems.

The wind blows the piñons,
sounding like the ocean,

like a field of wheat,
like the breeze in the piñon trees.

Her days drift one into the next.
She floats, moved by the scent of pine,

by memories as hazy as heat
hovering above the dirt road.

There were others once.

A child’s sweet voice
echos through time

to hang in the treetops.
Or is it a bird?

There was a husband once.
The earth that covers him

no longer a mound. The wooden marker
has weathered and it leans.

There were dreams once.
Plans. Hopes and hurts

mislaid between the black skillet
and teapot dented with use. Lost

between the broken slats
of the slanting porch.

Sometimes, she finds herself standing.
As still as a tree.

Not knowing how long she has been there.
Or why.

At first this shocked her.
She would talk to herself crossly.

Silly old woman.
Silly old fool.

Can’t just stand here.
Got things to do.

Now she walks
and stands
and walks.

When she’s hungry
she looks for food.

When her body aches, she moves.
She dozes on the porch steps,

lulled to sleep by the buzz
of flies, but distantly.

The preacher’s wife comes sometimes,
her car stirring the dust far off

down the road, long before the sound
of the motor catches up.

This is the second preacher’s wife.
Or maybe the third.

They come. They smile. They leave
food on the table.

Coyotes bark.
Crows caw.

Today listening to the wind,
she thought her feet

were turning to sand.
When she went to move,

her right foot felt planted.

One day, she thought,
I will stand here,

and I will not wake.

The thought warmed her
like the sun.

–gail ford

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