The White Shoe Irregular:
It was fun while it lasted.


Sally Stratford

I rode and rode the traffic south
until it spit me into that parking lot
wedged between red rock walls,
next to a camper, towels hanging on a tree,
baby food jars full of sand in the window.

A delicate shock, delayed for months,
overcame me. I clenched my fingers
in my hair, unable to cry.
The sun set and soon the canyon
crackled with stars.
At the hot springs, in turquoise water,
I dug handfuls of thermal mud
and rubbed it through my hair,
wanted to cut it off — every inch
four months of my life.

Later, hair still long and in braids
I stared at Zion Canyon in the dark.
Yazzie, the Navajo storyteller came to my porch.
He talked about the badger's bag of stars
and how coyote stole it, spreading the Milky Way.
His black hair turned silver as the moon rose.
He taught me the original name of the canyon
Mukuntaweep. I had to practice. Mukuntaweep.
He left me with a story of the red-rock
that first had been mud.

I slept small in my sleeping bag,
moon leaking through the curtains.
I sat up and pulled them back
and the light spilled through,
seeping into my mattress,
like cool, clear water.