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Susanna Rich


Monument Valley

Red sandstone buttes heave into
this abalone sky—Dolly Parton Rock, Ear
of the Wind, Sun’s Eye—stray teeth
in some vast primeval mouth.

And you want us to go down this mountain—
seventeen miles of gooseneck and hairpin turns—
to “stand in their violet shadows,” you say,
“Feel immensities. Be small for them.”

All you see are colossal Mittens, West and East,
thrust into noncommittal strays
of clouds, as if dangling by fingertips
from the “toes of invisible gods.”

But I, in this stripped-down Hertz, pump,
pump brakes against the dust sucking
the treads out of radials I so
carefully calibrated to 28 pounds cold.

You don’t understand, it comes to me:
there is no climbing back up this 43% grade.
Don’t tell me others are making it.
Don’t take the wheel for me.

This is a road of pulverized sunsets.
These monoliths mock us—they
whose minutes are millennia,
hours eons. Three Sisters

and Rain God need not wait
for our inevitable dust—
their vast silence
pours from our eyes.


Susanna Rich is a professor of English at Kean University and producer and host of Poets on Air, through which she has interviewed Billy Collins, Alicia Ostriker, Stephen Dunn, and others. Her work appears in such venues as Nimrod, Phoebe, Frontiers, and The New York Times.
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