Burgeoning Clouds

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The rain came in hesitant bursts
Tentacles spawning and retracting
A jellyfish moving in an ocean of silted sky

I drank from the oval bowl
Sipping the gratitude of high places
Open vistas unleashing boxed thoughts
Passing through me
Wind with voiceless imprints
Liquid whispers
A drink for the thirsty held to parched lips
Blistered from too much sun and confinement

I never did well in small spaces
Even in forested places
The trees suffocated
Sped my heart, pulling me upward
Never wanting to be grounded
Too much earth to contend with
Perimeters to pinch at my skin
My legs climb with language
The patter of sole to dirt

I wove my body into the stretched fabric
Of mist and memory
Of land where water fell, tripped and searched
Into the seas carrying
Old man with creased faces and bulbous noses
Women with daggers and babies, lovers in waiting
Finger painting a sky with my mind’s eye
So childlike in sight
My body could disintegrate
Leaving me with immortal vision
Enough to drink distance
Until peaks bow into light

As rain streaks the sky
Blossoming into an array of color
A glorious arch rewards those with
Lifted heads
A willingness to wait out storms
A mind quiet enough to understand
We choose our view
In the burgeon of clouds

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The Devil Dances on the Horizon

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In the yawn of the parched desert
A thief waits to strike the wandering souls
The broken down car, the lone hiker,
The unbalanced soul, seeking vortexes
Buried answers, buried treasures
The lost arrive, the found return
A gladiator thrown into a pit of bread and circus

Too late as a fiery hand is placed upon your eyelids
Performing ceremonies, rearranging your senses,
Stripping bones of memory and flesh
To wash in the foggy bottles of rain,
Saved from the barren rivers threaded with cottonwoods
Offering cups of shade, teatime moving with winds
Brewed by the underlings, the shadows thrown under the desert brooms,
All the invasive creatures that will not be eradicated
Empowered by disgust and neglect
Cup them in your swollen hands
For one last fight

You will win when everything is lost
So sink your toes into the surrender
Wading gently into the jaws of the horizon,
The lapping tongue and swollen tonsils, clouds wedge in your jowls
Coughing on the orange dust of sand swirl
Test the waters as you swim into a saturated sun
The prickly pear stain and crimson coated cactus slabs
The pink halo blooms and fiery cholla globes, torching an entrance
Crawl through the window shards
Your ticket will be taken as you find your seat,
While the clever thief strips you of your desires and sight,
Narrowed down to one, unquenchable craving
Delirious upon the realization you will be erased

You consider the consumption
To roam the expansive halls of limestone and quartz,
To rest your bones on the warm rocks, sharing space with reptiles
Your fingers dragging along the smooth stone,
Shaped by the potter’s wheel of time
Allowing spirits to finger your pockets,
Pull your insides, leaving entrails as a warning to others
Milky white skulls, home to the skins of shedding snakes
You have entered the arena unprepared
Staring at the devil on the horizon
Wishing you wore your dancing shoes.

-S. S. Hicks

 

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Sunset Witness

 

 

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S. S. Hicks (Sunset off Yarnell Mountain)

 

I drove into a sun-drenched,
Arizona sky.
Met the horizon swallowing day.
Hiked for miles to
disappear into the stretch of land.

In blankets of clouds I stood.
Casting a line
to catch shadow puppets
swimming in valley streams,
patterns snagging on reflections.

Surrounded in trees saturated in lichen green,
pillared stalks of the century plant,
dirt threaded in golden grass,
branches twisting into gnarled sculptures,
clawing at the blue tarp sky,
stirring colors to paint
the sweet carnival.
While the earth begged to be noticed,
dwarfing the demons in our heads.

 

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S. S. Hicks

Why We Climb Mountains

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To escape words and thoughts, embedded like dirt under nails, carried around in fists. They collect at our feet, seep into our dreams — fragmented sentences, snapped like branches of a much larger tree. Sometimes they need to be culled to have sense and meaning. Written and captured. Painted or strummed. Believing their permanence. Other times we want them shed alongside the rocky paths. Hear them scuttle like brittle leaves pushed up by a random wind. Looking like crabs, walking sideways to surf clouds in a mirrored sky.

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Here, thoughts calcify. Words become colorful stones, staking blue, a stairway of stories and time. The tented world of where we live, and come to understand, we are casual witnesses of nature. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Mountains, Lions, and Research (Oh my)

I’m trying to go through years worth of crap in order to move and I keep coming across old photos that give me pause, wondering where the time goes. I will spare you the personal photos (set to the Green Day song “Good Riddance”) and stick to the ones that restarted my writing journey. It began with a longing — for mountains, feeling I was misplaced in New York, my father’s illness, my mother struggling to keep him alive, my oldest brother going through a divorce. My family felt like it was slowly crumbling at a distance. And while doctors and nurses save lives, art saves the soul.

Now, I always loved the Superstition Mountains, a spectacular pile of volcanic rubble 40 miles east of Phoenix. I sat in my kitchen, scanning websites for photos of them when a book idea came to me. Then I spent two long years writing badly, trying to make up for lost time in which I swore off writing. (Oh, writing, I can’t quit you.) I was unsure of what I was trying to say, unsure of my voice, plagued with self-doubt. Little did I know, we all begin here. It’s part of the deal. A way to weed out those that don’t have the stomach for it. Because, let’s face it, it can bring you to your knees until you smell the piss in the carpet. Well, I don’t really have piss in my carpet. Hell, I have hardwood floors. But you get my drift.

At first, I needed to do quite a bit of research for my book; it involves a hundred year old legend, gold mines, and prospectors. I already knew how to write authentically about cowboys, but prospectors were a whole different ball game, as well as, places in the Superstition Mountains, covering 160,000 acres of government owned wilderness.

My older brother Dan was going through a bit of a rough patch and told me he would be my guide in the mountains. He was hired immediately for various reasons. But mostly because he owns a gun and would not be afraid to use it. Of course, when I asked him what if he didn’t have time to pull his Colt 40 on a leaping mountain lion, he just said he could run faster than me. Not the most reassuring answer…

Together, we did a lot of hiking, a lot of talking, something neither of us were used to, as we’re busy with our own families. I’ll write about it someday. There is a lot to tell, because let’s face it — how often do you have a chance to spend time with your adult brother?

In the meantime, here are some photos of our journey.

The Superstitions © SSHicks
The Superstitions
© 2009 SSHicks

I took this off a dirt road to Rogers Canyon trailhead. It was a spectacular morning. Dan and I rose at 6:30 am to begin the day…and I’m not a morning person like him. We drove 1.5 hours to get to the trailhead, hiked 9 miles, and only encountered 1 person. Someone from the Forest Service that said he had already seen two rattlesnakes and to be careful. Yeah.

Windows of sky © SSHicks
Windows of sky
© 2009 SSHicks
Road to Rogers Canyon © SSHicks
Road to Rogers Canyon
© 2009 SSHicks

This was the road to Rogers Canyon. It was a BEAST to find, but somehow we managed. It wasn’t like we could ask anyone directions.

Four Peaks © SSHicks
Four Peaks
© 2010 SSHicks

Four Peaks is visible from Phoenix, but I took this off the side of the road on our way to Tortilla Flat. That’s Canyon Lake.

Hike to Weavers Needle © SSHicks
Hike to Weavers Needle © 2009 SSHicks

This is a view of Florence Junction in the distance. I love the jagged peaks off to the right.

Dan in the Supes © SSHicks
Dan in the Supes © 2009 SSHicks

My guide.

Mountain Lion Kill ©sshicks
A Deer: Mountain Lion Kill
© 2009 sshicks

Dan is an avid hiker, camper and hunter. While I don’t have the stomach for hunting (or guns), Dan can sense animals like no one I know. He found this carcass well off the beaten path by following “drag” marks. I thought he was crazy… To me, they just looked like a small skid in the dirt. Sure enough, he was right. He had a whole theory of how it went down… Maybe that’s his book because he kept trying to turn mine into a Louis L’amour novel.

Weavers Needle ©sshicks
Weavers Needle
© 2010 sshicks

Well, this should look familiar, as it is the banner of my site. Although it looks quite phallic and could invite a bad joke about have a pinnacle in your pants or are you just happy to see me… But it is central to my story. Weavers Needle is named after Pauline Weaver, a hunter and tracker from long ago.

Dan at Angel Springs Ruins ©sshicks
Dan at Angel Springs Ruins
© 2009 sshicks

Here’s Dan at Rogers Canyon Cliff Dwellings. They were built 600 years ago by the Salado people. You can’t tell, but here he’s telling me to “take the goddamn picture already” because I was having technological difficulties with my dying camera. He’s impatient with civilization (too many phonies) and sometimes fares better on ranches and wilderness.

Cliff Dwellings  ©sshicks
Cliff Dwellings
© 2009 sshicks
View from the Cliff Dwellings/Rogers Canyon ©sshicks
View from the Cliff Dwellings/Rogers Canyon
© 2009 sshicks