Colin F. Jones

THE DESERT RIDER

~ 1 ~

IWVPA Club Recognition of Outstanding Non-War Related Writing: November 18, 2006
Awarded: November 18, 2006
The low landscape of plain of the Colorado desert,
Lies in the shadows of the lost desert mountains
Severed with dark purple and ruby like shadows;
Edged by ridges of blue and fire-flame fountains.
Solitary and barren in the blazing hot heat,
A fiery furnace of accumulating waves,
Spreads across the great waste of flat sandy sheet.
Over patches of bare rock and gravel strewn paves
The hot breath of the wind drives fine gritty sand,
Into rumpled white pleats for cholla clumps,
Mounded like miniature great golden dunes,
Cresting over arroyos and haphazardly dumps,
Into the washouts the finer powdery grain,
Blown out in the turmoil and blown in again.

~ 2 ~

Omnipresent light scatters the shadows;
The gilded mountaintops are ablaze,
The sand dunes look white in the summer,
Forming the slopes of the desert maze.
Finches hide in the sanharo and sing;
In the cholla, Linnets build their nests,
Ground squirrels seek out their shade,
Or hide behind rocky-formed crests.
The rocky walls of the mountains are steep,
Weatherworn to a dark reddish black,
Dry–moated by canyon and gully,
Where giant boulders hide animal tracks,
Among the grease – wood, and the cacti
And the mesquite that the harsh sun attacks.

~ 3 ~

Arid basins form in the great valleys;
Dried lakebeds where nothing will grow,
Arroyos of gravel and rock-strewn beds,
Where the strong winds constantly blow.
Lomas and mesas in distinguished array,
Pepper-pot the nomadic sand,
Escarpments of stratified cliffs,
Rise from the desolate withering land
Tis harsh country indeed, splintered and cracked,
Thrashed by the wind through the dunes,
Yet bathed in the lustre of fiery dawn,
A kaleidoscope of wondrous hues:
Defiant and fierce though wild and battered,
Beneath a sky of changing blues.

~ 4 ~

The desert is a place of elemental war,
A silent unceasing battle for life;
Withered and burned sparse grasses form,
Cutting through the byssus like a knife.
The wind is a fine sculpture of granite;
It shapes porphyry with a harsh-delicate hand.
She carves images to tease the imaginative,
And buries them in the golden sand.
Wild storms flash over the ranges,
Hurling boulders into the deep ravines,
Sweeping stones and bushes into rivers
That form violent turbulent streams.
That run red flooding the canyons,
Then just vanish as quick as a dream.

~ 5 ~

Fire wind and water has formed the desert,
Leaving burnt foliage and weathered rock,
Leaving salt lakes and washed out basins,
When time was not counted on a clock.
There are isolated secret places,
Where underground pools feed springs,
Where the spirits of ancient ancestors,
Along the canyon trails still wing.
There are distinct traces of old seabeds,
For the ocean once covered this land,
And black lava swirls of glass like pave,
Show that volcanoes took a hand.
There are grit-stones, shales, and slate,
Wide conglomerates and basalts grand.

~ 6 ~

The talus guides great rocks to the plain,
Aided by the violent accumulating floods,
From the very foot of the mystical mountains,
To where the cacti for centuries has stood.
We wonder at the great mosaic pavement,
Of carnelian pebbles and agate and jasper,
Compacted by time and the weather,
By nature the great architectural master.
Iron will not rust in the desert…
Nothing ever decays in the sands,
Dead things turn to dust on the wind,
And the sand of the desert expands
Far off to the green places of trees
That to the edges still desperately cling.

~ 7 ~

Dull red are the mountains pinnacles,
But in the pink haze of the sunset like fire,
They blaze with a passionate beauty,
Vermillion flames from each splendid spire.
For in those ramparts live life-giving spirits,
The guardian spirits of the living and dead,
Watching over the great plains and valleys,
Where mystery makes her wonderful bed.
All the colours are there of the rainbow,
Merging and changing with reflection of light,
Silver and gold reflections,
Probing into the cool of the night.
With purple and topaz collections
What a magnificent and wondrous sight

~ 8 ~

He had walked to the ranch house in faded blue jeans
Dogger worn down heeled boots absent of spur,
In a blue denim shirt worn from the suns harsh beams,
And old Stetson hat all dusty from tending the herd.
At his belt he carried a six inch Colt 44 magnum
Holstered against the leather chaps covering his thigh,
Carrying a McCellen saddle, the day’s work being done:
His black stallion Gall left to graze nearby.
But that night as he slept he longed for the desert,
His great muscular frame was restless and stressed,
He longed for the solitude of the mysterious desert
So he rose from his bed and soon he was dressed.
He stepped into the darkness and silvery moonlight
As silent as a hawk gliding over a crest.

~ 9 ~

His blood red stallion Red Sleeves was stamping in readiness,
Twenty-three hands high and never once shod.
He throws up the soft saddle rigged without stirrups;
The horse’s flanks bear no scar from a cruel spurs prod.
He mounts like an Indian in the leggings of the Apache,
With pressure from his knees the horse walks away,
His quiet voice reassures him, and the horse understands,
As he sits tall in the saddle and moves with its sway.
His blue eyes beneath the Stetson look black in its shadow
As the soft-footed horse picks his way down the slope.
Soon they have crossed the home grazing meadow,
And from a gentle command the horse breaks into a lope.
His handlebar moustache frames a rugged set profile,
Of a man of great wisdom who knows how to cope.

~ 10 ~

Tall and relaxed he rides through the heat waves,
In an aurora of light and sparkling dust,
Riding along patterns of glimmering rock paves,
Through mesquite and cactus along phosphorous crust.
Along the low ramparts through canyon and draw,
Sharp eyes missing nothing ears missing no sound
Seeing the tracks of a lizard; the print of a paw,
Hearing the scurry of rabbits over the harsh sandy ground.
Completely in tune with the rhythm of hoof beats,
From the horse that he rides a trusted old friend,
He rides all alone across the grey sheets,
For on his own wisdom he can always depend.
Yet he rides not alone who rides through the desert,
For he rides with a spirit that few comprehend.

~ 11 ~

The refractive mirage where hot air hugs the ground,
Forms great lakes of silver and delicate shade,
And as he looks he can almost hear the sound,
Of the deep grey water forming a cascade.
There are hidden springs caught in crack and cleft,
He knows the places where real waters run,
But knows in his approach naught will be left,
Of the illusionary span of deception by the sun.
The long legged horses grazing by the lake,
Vanish into the dancing waves of heat,
But of the stark white bones there’s no mistake,
Where a grey wolf to old age had met defeat.
He rode on by beneath the yellowing sky,
Towards the mountains where the eagle flies.

~ 12 ~

Colours change with shadows and celestial light,
Changing shapes and size and dancing air,
Reflections from hot plates and oblique planes,
With deceptive wanton images everywhere.
From yellow gold to lilac then to pink,
With all the alluring sparkle of a gem,
The sun with ruby streaks begins to sink,
Behind the iron grey-blue of mountain hem.
The long shadows dim and vanish into night,
The silver streaks of moon in margin spears,
Across the golden sands like arrows in flight,
Where in new colours, his shape again appears
And his horse’s legs grown longer in the waste,
Retract into the wonderment of this place.

~ 13 ~

Beneath the phosphorescent glow of the desert moon,
Surrounded by the dimmer pinpoints of the stars,
He lay upon his saddle leather pillow,
Uninterrupted by fast trains and streaming cars.
The boundless heavens stretched in purple splendour,
A fine sheet thrown over the vastness of the land,
Where the distant Orion out in space so endless,
Paraded with The Pleiades in beauty grand.
And the silence ever present all pervasive,
A quietness that makes loud ones every thought,
Yet with ears attuned hearing insect sound invasive,
For he is by natures passion in her talons caught.
None here would hear his cry if he expressed it,
Yet what could be his sadness in such a retort.

~ 14 ~

Distance is absent in the vastness of the night,
The air is cool and dust nymphs dance the breeze,
Ancient spirits take leave of hidden site,
To touch his skin and calm him lest he grieves.
He feels the presence of those he’s loved and lost,
Ghost like angels spiral from the sand,
The airy silence in which his thoughts are tossed,
Allow the touching of a gentle hand.
Then all is still the long shadows have returned,
The far off shapes of mountain peaks are set,
Against a dotted sky of purple hue,
And as he sleeps his thoughts of them are met.
And all that sweltered in the fiery day,
In the cool of night surround him as they play.

~ 15 ~

Silently like phantoms their spirits all come,
That he from his sleep by instinct awakes,
He could not see their shadows in the dull fires flame,
But could feel their presence and knew them by name.
Tis a land of elusion caused by the rising of souls
That dwell here in the silence of purified space:
The spirits of great warriors and their following kin,
That blend into the desert with the perfection of grace.
Here Usen frees his children to meander the wind-streams,
Their spirits reaching out as pure memories of love,
Reviving the spectres from the end to the beginning
From the beginning to end of the fourth living dove.
That round him they mingle with comforting caresses,
And sleep soon returns like a comforting glove.

~ 16 ~

A wild horse gallops across the great plain,
Silent hooves in the gold powder of dust,
Tail held high and with free flowing mane,
With effortless stride head determinedly thrust.
She shines like an Angel on a far rugged crag,
To where the great horse hammers his way,
And clouds like grey wolves in the ghostly night,
Seem to gather nearby lest the Angel doth stray,
Beyond the celestial trail Grey Eagle patrols,
The master protector of the dark purple skies,
And a wondrous scene in his mind unfolds,
As the ache in his heart with reality complies.
He smiles in his sleep understanding the message,
And from deep in his soul love wells in his eyes.

~ 17 ~

Up the narrow grey trail through parapet and stone,
Towards the summit bathed in the moons silver light,
Higher and higher through the ruins of an encampment,
Like a streaking black arrow at the height of its flight.
Sweeping past yucca and saguaro and boulder,
Drawing closer to the angel still smiling above,
Her black raven tresses gleaming down to her shoulder,
Outlining her profile bathed in the majesty of love.
He knows who she is and responds to her beckoning,
He leaps across clouds surefooted and strong,
And he who is sleeping finds his heart quickening,
For here in the desert his very essence belongs
The stallion in fire has finally reached her,
He rears silhouetted in moonlight among glittering throngs.

~ 18 ~

Sand-whirls moved slowly in spiralling columns,
With the majestic grace of a dancing troop
Shimmering shafts of sunlit marble entrancing,
Hundreds of feet high in a gold – flaked loop
The great orange moon dressed her in finery,
Silvering the ridges of the background array
With an aureole of hues around her magnificence
As she mounted the horse and galloped away.
Fast through the clouds with the lightning flashing,
The thunder resounding across the great plains,
And the coyotes were howling in the shadowy mountains,
As she rode through the heavens without saddle and reins
Then he awoke to stare at the pinnacled horizon,
Where a lone eagle silhouetted drifted silently away.

~ 19 ~

The night air whispers to the creep of the morning,
And the wildflowers are blooming after the rain,
Blood red is the sky as the new day is dawning,
As the sun with hot fingers re-establishes her claim.
Slowly the rider traverses the landscape
And follows the trail through the escarpment above,
He travels through history to a secret location,
He rides with a passion, and a heart filled with love.
The grey one is watching and is guiding his instincts,
Leaving sign on the trail no other could find.
And he rides into mystery with an inner connection,
With the enchantment of magic that is clearly defined,
Fading from sight in the dance of the heat waves,
Leaving nothing but memories of his glory behind.

Fast through the clouds with the lightning flashing,
The thunder resounding across the great plains,
And the coyotes were howling in the shadowy mountains,
As she rode through the heavens without saddle and reins
Then he awoke to stare at the pinnacled horizon,
Where a lone eagle silhouetted drifted silently away.

Author’s Note: To JJ in memory of Becky. I made this attempt to write about your desert country in this poem. As I have never seen it in real life, it was difficult to write.

Sunset silhouette in eastern Colorado
Sunset silhouette in eastern Colorado