When traveling in the desert, you judge
thirst by touching the tip of your tongue
to the inside of your cheek. The canyon
trek is harsh, and every breath feels like breathing in
the beginning of time, and tastes like ancient salt,
mined from the bones of the wind.
This is, after all, the grave of a river.
Keep the camera and the Chapstick
in the closest pocket of your khaki shorts.
The canyon walls are a library waiting
to be scraped open; the languages so old
the best you can hope for is an approximation:
translation always misses the silence of snow
in snow, the glint and greed in gold.
The guide unpacks a cooler of ham-and-cheese
on white on the unshaded shore, sends around
a sky-blue bottle of Cutter bug repellent. You pass.
Spray tanner works better. None of the out-of-state
tourists brought an umbrella, or their body weight
in water. You remembered to drink the water
on the way down so you don’t have to lug it back up.
You write a poem on your arm in Sharpie,
snap a pic with your cell before you sweat it off.