The Resting Place
This poem by Jeanne Julian appeared in Issue 2 of The Lakeshore Review.
Each of these rocks is alive, keeper of a message left by the ancestors.
—William F. Weahkee, Pueblo Elder
An obit finds its way to La Posada, The Resting Place,
dim garden-graced hotel in the Arizona desert.
The shock of it scorches. Alters every space,
obliterates oasis. On each door, a sign: Enter in Silence.
Depart in Peace. She’s gone, who only last Christmas
stood for a family portrait. My now-dead friend, smiling.
Her convincing wig her gift to them. The last picture
she shared with me was of a stranger’s dog. Alone,
sitting and attentive. She always talked to dogs.
In the arid climate of absence, grasses wither,
branches rattle. We’re stilled, guarded,
like saguaros in remote wilderness,
stalwart among sharp-spined others likewise
scarred. Singing solos in a silent choir,
bent arms raised in entreaty to a bleached sky,
we each shrivel into woody ribs, mortality
a gilded flicker nesting in our hollows
from torrid day into parched night.
That night in the railyard behind the old inn,
I watch trains arrive, halt
as if stunned, jolt forward, onward, again.
Near the tracks, a small dog on a leash.
I reach down to touch its soft head.
Wordlessly, the old man tugs it away.
At La Posada all are desperate for relief
from drought. In the courtyard even the bees swarm
a trickling fountain in golden armament. Next day I go
somewhere else and wandering among hundreds
of petroglyphs, ancient symbols on baked rock—shapes,
faces, hands, beckoning—I find myself part of a vanished clan
of loss and I remember one early Atlantic spring, cool fog
rolling in dense as smoke and no lifeguard in the skeletal chair
and she and I, side by side, slowly rendered invisible.