Mesa Verde, Colorado by Amanda Hayden

mud mortar, build your kivas first (21 kivas, 150 rooms)
sifted smooth city steps weave vertical, friendly snakes wind up
narrow and steep, you can still touch the plaster families slept against
800 years ago, what cliff lullabies did their kids dream this high,
under nightscape and cosmos’ brilliance, explosion of stars,
constellation stories, you can still touch original holds for their hands and toes
to climb out the tunnels, life and death, you crawl, become a four-legged
no longer two-legged, like in the inipi
sweat lodge womb
if there were ancient Anasazi baby gates
to keep kids from falling the brochure does not say, but a parent wonders, also not mentioned,
the common mistake of saying Indigenous peoples had no civilization
when 21 kivas are 21 churches
and we know by this, we are in the footsteps of those who understood be still and know
without it written in ancient scrolls, who knew how to collect water from seep springs and
carve channels in bedrock, how to rip mighty echoes through the canyon
to the horizon, to their ancestors, whose shoulders were smooth with wings
in ancient worlds, who knew how to celebrate and gather
to leave messages and poems, track moon cycles, anticipate eclipses
how to craft individual blocks of sandstone to stack fortified walls
in the sides of towering cliffs,
civilized people who knew
for 700 years
how to be families
how to protect their kids so they could
safely dream under the nightscape,
create stellar narratives, become constellations

Amanda Hayden is a Poet Laureate and Humanities Professor who has received several awards. Her chapter, Saunter Like Muir, was published in Eco pedagogies. She lives on a farm with dogs, cats, goats, pigs, chickens, and Dorothy the duck.


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