A Leveling

He brought us here, to this juniper desert,
across Midwestern state borders into broken promise,
sloughing family fragments like tire treads along the way.
I-80 rose up like Hell’s Backbone, egoistic and narrow-
sighted with drops on either side of slight rails.
We should have been safe in the valleys,
miles away from Boulder Mountain . . .
And yet I learned to fear altitudes,
the uncertainty of my own feet,
the distant perspective of abandonment.
Two years gone. Maybe it wasn’t long enough.
The knee-locking dread never subsides.
Instead, vertigo sets in on each downward step,
handrails clinched each time I try high heels
and the teetering always sets me down bare.
How can I be bowed into such spinelessness,
faint at the sight of red clay cliffs and sloping pines—
a grand staircase. Father Escalante would pray for me
to forgive. He would level my landings. He would lead
me to grace.

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