Tuesday, April 22, 2014

John Ford Slept Here

image borrowed from bing

John Ford Slept Here

“The more I see of Indians, the more convinced I am they all
have to be killed, or maintained as a species of paupers.”
---General William T. Sherman.

There is something about the Southwest
that draws me to it repeatedly--maybe
because of the hundreds of Westerns
shot in the Mohab area of Utah by 
Howard Hawks & others, out in the Arches,

or that John Ford country just off AZ 163,
running north off 160--reminding me of the summer
we stayed in an overpriced cigarette- smoke stinking
room in a rundown motel in Kayenta, where
I ate my first fry bread taco;

remembering how upset I was when I found out
the famous parts of Monument Valley could not
be seen from the highway--they were all on
the Navajo reservation, & you have to pay a fee
to drive onto it, & then pay another fee to huddle
in a dusty flatbed sight-seer truck that could
negotiate the blow-sand dunes & potholes
purposefully left in/on the roads that snaked
out among the monuments.

I mean no one can easily describe the heart-stopping
thrill as one stands for the first time along
the southern lip of the Grand Canyon, peering
into the pleistocene reddish-blue vastness
of a gash carved by the Colorado river, & later
seeking out the northern edge of the canyon
with its lesser view;

I do so enjoy all those stops at ancient ruins
from Flagstaff to Page, but something unique
& fun is to roll northeast on AZ160 toward
the 4 Corners Monument, where the Ute Mountain
reservation bumps feathers with the vast AZ/NM
Navajo nation, where the geographic physical
corners of AZ, NM, UT, & CO all meet cordially,

no actual approach from UT highways, but yes,
160 NE out of AZ,
NM64 coming NW out of Shiprock,
or CO40 dropping down SW out of Cortez,
near to the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde
or the several ruins at the Canyons of the Ancients;

a funky ostentatious tourist monument erected
right at the cross bars of the four state lines,
where I stood spread-legged in the quadrangle
posing for the obligatory photo, with the merciless
sun beating down at 118 degrees, where

four ragged rows of Native American booths 
were sitting under unpainted planks or canvas
selling fabulous Indian silver & turquoise jewelry
(some made in Mexico we found out later),
trinkets, moccasins, blankets, t-shirts made in China,
pottery, sculpture, baskets, & art, a warm mix
of Ute & Navajo cultures, with fry bread stands
every fifty feet. 

The place seemed like a fulcrum, a vertex,
a nesting of heart & drum beats, a marriage
of mingling & tingling, a reservoir of rejuvenation,
where one readied them selves to seek out
even more red rock canyons, pinioned-choked
arroyos, pueblos, vast vistas, sage-scented
rest stops--

making your own road movie,
both in your mind & digitally,
indefatigable, never tiring of the next
viewing, reconnecting with a rawness,
a vigor that fuels your imagination,
salves your incessant wanderlust,

until the next trip,
ever returning,
ever yearning,
ever curious. 

Glenn Buttkus

Posted over at dVerse Poets Poetics

Would you like the author to read this Road Trip poem to you?


Björn said...

I definitely share your love of the Southwest - I've driven past that monument a new-years night. The cold wind hunting our minute car on the way to Flagstaff.. We boarded in a motel and found ourselves in the middle of Tennessee Volunteer fans on their way to Phoenix .. That's a road trip to remember

Laurie Kolp said...

I've never been to the Grand Canyon, but it's on my bucket list. Beautiful area.

Anonymous said...

Really well done Glenn. Being a Ford fan I've seen my share of Monument Valley the best way--in the films. >KB

Mystic_Mom said...

Indian tacos! Try bannock burgers next...love this piece. Although your opening quote fired me up a bit! Ha ha

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking us on this wonderful journey, Glenn - a juicy piece of poetry!

Anonymous said...

There are way to many places to see, and just not enough time. That monument has just been added to my (ever growing) list of places to see.

mrs mediocrity said...

Like Laurie, I have yet to make it there... thanks for giving me the little mind trip, I could almost see it.

You made it all sound incredible.

Brian Miller said...

you know...for what we put those natives through...i def dont mind dropping the coppers....been south-south west...like el paso and down in that area...flown by the GC....i love me some texas....i would love to travel more....

Grace said...

Love the ending Glenn ~ someday I hope to see and travel that way too ~ Have a lovely week ~

Wolfsrosebud said...

ah... there are disappointments when we travel, but those Grand Canyon views make it worth it

ayala said...

Love the ending and I hope I see it one of these days.

Anonymous said...

I only wish pictures could capture route 40 running up through new mexico... or the badlands in spring.

Nice words Glen

vivinfrance said...

Westerm films on a 9" TV screen are the nearest I've ever come to this landscape. I was always on the side of the Indians, as I had long plaits then!

Joseph Hesch said...

Part of my loooong bucket list (and I'd better hurry) is to see Monument Valley. You've goosed visiting Monument Valley (you know me and The West, Glenn) nearer the top. Well, that and to slip beneath the tongue of a stagecoach and come out the boot, none the worse for the wear, just like Yak Canutt. Brilliant visit here, my friend.

Anonymous said...

You are describing, very vividly and with such nostalgia mixed longing, a part of the world I so badly hope I'll get to see one day... This was a wonderful read!

Anonymous said...

took my sons there a few years back, when they were still impressionable and wide-eyed with wonder. now they're teens... cool write, Glenn, and most assuredly a trip down memory lane that you've let us all share ~

Anonymous said...

You give a sense of both the splendor and the tawdry. Thanks. k.