Paria Canyon


Northeast of Coyote Buttes

The trailhead descends from the

White House Ranger Station

Into the Paria River Canyon.


The trail & green-grey

Muddy river become one.

This will continue forty miles.


Delicate white honeycombed sandstone

& smooth fluted caves greet me

At dangerous flashflood narrows.


I bivouac here long hours

Exploring each hollow’s solitude

Where illuminated shapes sit

Thousands of years contemplating

The Ten Duties of the King.


Up red gallery walls

A driftwood pile big as a

Beaver lodge was hurled

Into fifty foot high crevasse.


Near Buckskin Canyon confluence

A log is wedged between

Towering canyon walls.


My shoes are heavy.

This backpack doesn’t

Even a hold a book.


Above circling crows, the whole country

Degenerates into hatred & greed

Led by corrupt officials.


These are my feet

Walking the watertrail.

These are my ankles in

Paria snowmelt.

These are my calves

Caked with wet sand.


This is where I stepped

Into a deep pool

Up to my shirt pocket

& little green notebook.


I empty my boots & socks of sand

Where the canyon begins to widen.

A deer passes as I sit idle at

Mid-day admiring all around me.


I waken at night to gaze

At the unseen hand of stars

Directly above the bend

In the river.


A bent cottonwood glows

With light-struck new leaves.

Sandbar spits embrace the grass

& all that grass renunciates.


Anasazi traveled here long ago

Passing between Grand Canyon & Bryce.

They left petroglyphs to guide others near

Echo Peaks


The river cuts through Kayenta

Sandstone & pink shale

In a series of shoots,

Then through the Moenave

With its block-like boulders.


I scan the stone bank for

Flowers that bloom.

Only a fool passes into the desert

Without stopping at

Last Reliable Spring.


How red these walls appear

Under moonlight––

Grand staircases upon which

Stories were begun

& told without interruption.


Here I am dodging quicksand.

Here I fell down a conglomerate bank.

Here I lost myself for an hour.

Here I cut through layers

Of petrified dreams.


Now I am walking through spring desert,

Passing rings of cactus.


The canyon is three miles wide

As it nears the Colorado.

Here the river twists

Itself around the canyon

As life twists around myself.


Although the sky sacrifices everything

For the good of the people, it says

“Don’t worry about me.”



28-30 March 2001



[Published in Quien Sabe Mountain:

Poems 1998-2004. © 2004 by Jim Cohn.]




Quien Sabe Mountain
(MAP Publications, 2004)