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  • After Thanksgiving we drive through an alpine forest,
    snow on the North side, then descend
    onto the second largest rift valley
    in the world.

    At the Pueblo, dogs stare at our dog on a leash.
    We stand on the banks of Red Willow Creek,
    that flows through the village,
    the source, a spring fed lake in the mountains
    where the Indians go for a ceremony every year.
    The land is sacred to our people, the guide says,
    our houses, made of earth, have been here for one thousand years.
    Are these the same people
    who own the casino in the ugly town down the road.
    Sacred ground preserved with money
    from the idle games of desire
    of those others who occupy this land gracelessly.

    After the tour my mother sits on a bench,
    talks to her old friend, former college roommate, their faces glow,
    this reunion is what we really came here for.
    I take their picture as if we are mere tourists.
    It is her eightieth birthday.

    The promise of a holy site is strong.
    The desolate, raw tranquility stirs a longing in me.
    Driving away, I watch, through the rear window,
    a large cloud in the cleft between peaks,
    resembles a bird in flight, wings uprising,
    illuminated to a vivid pink by the setting sun.
    The bird glows and I want to go to the lake
    with the ancestors. But the road dips
    and the rift valley disappears.

    Yellow after-glow and a half waxing moon light the hills
    on the long road away from the mountains.
    My brother and his wife in the front seat,
    my mother and I sit in the back with the dog
    leaning over our shoulders, breathing.
    “Kicking- ass ranch,” my mother suddenly laughs.
    Sure enough, there it is,
    in welded steel letters, on a tall gate,
    there, in a one room shack, by the bend in a river,
    someone is already home.
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