its rainbows make
postcards to fly home

its vastness crows fly

the ranger explains the equation
between altitude and latitude

he tantalizes with stories of the north
so much higher
so high everything on the kaibab plateau
has flora and fauna of the canadian
rockies plus a squirrel found nowhere
else this squirrel black
and white is sometimes mistaken for a skunk

birch trees spruce quaking
aspens populate the density of forests
not pinon pine

my son and i absorb lessons
around the flames of the fire
and he begins to put on the pressure
he wants to get to the other side
of the grand canyon he wants us
to ride burros down to the bottom
along a thin trail of next to nothing
on one side

under the burros’ feet gravel
slips sideways and all the way
down the fact is my son is only ten

and needs to be eleven to legally
go on this trip he wants to talk
me into lying about his age he
knows i’ve done it before this
time it’s his idea i tell him the
reason for this rule is insurance

the insurance won’t cover
if something happens and they find
out we lied but he’s willing
to take his chances he doesn’t care about
insurance he knows i hate insurance
companies myself he knows i have total
contempt for them and their tall buildings
they put up in downtown los angeles
the truth is i’m glad he’s only ten
not eleven when i wouldn’t have
a chance when i would have to get
my ass on a burro pointing straight
down it isn’t so much
healthy fear and a wish to preserve my life


it is that i know beyond
the slightest doubt the part of my anatomy
most directly involved with the burro
wouldn’t be able to tolerate four or
more hours on the back of a moving
beast of no great intelligence knowing
that beast would probably not of its own free
will have chosen to do this either the
burro would be coerced under
duress i know my rear is not in shape

for it i know it i would be in
agony of sore aching screaming muscles in
ten minutes’ time and i wouldn’t be able
to get out of the saddle
it is a formula for torture

i tell my son no i can’t lie about
your age not today try it he says try
it he’s telling me he’ll respect
me more as a mother if i just try to lie
on his behalf and i understand what
he’s saying i understand how much

he wants to go down that narrow
path twisting down for literally miles
how he doesn’t give a thought
to what his own bottom will feel like
he doesn’t have to he knows his happiness
will more than compensate for any
physical discomfort if he even stops
to think about that aspect of what
he is proposing

his arguments fizzle down to nothing
because it is not his age that is
the crucial concern it is the aspect
of my anatomy that knows its
limits that has not been designed
for this and doesn’t want
to be initiated into burro
riding beginning with a monumental
trip hairpins straight down for two
terrifying miles no i won’t go no we
won’t go and that is that but he
won’t take no for an answer and he
keeps at me watching the lucky ones
get on their animals looking at me
accusingly i know i have the
insurance company and all the regulations
on my side i have everything i’ve
always despised and flouted whenever
i could and he knows it my
integrity takes the long fall

i am not going to tell him it’s my
anatomy the fact is also i would
probably get on a burro whose name
is jennie and she would somehow
put her left foot down in
such a way that she would for a
moment lose her balance and fail
to regain it and we would descend
together off the trail rapidly
disappearing and the buzzards would

begin to circle the mist would rise
and a rainbow would become our
epitaph

i don’t want my son to lose his mother
that way

forget it i tell him i’m not getting on
a burro

we go into the bright angel lodge and
order trout with green beans mixed
with toasted slivers of almonds
everything is beautiful and tastes great
he glares at me in a friendly manner
he knows he is defeated he simply
doesn’t have the arsenal of arguments
to deal with my stubbornness i know
he is thinking about what it will
be like to be eleven to qualify
legally he’s thinking what it will
be like to be grownup to be an
adult to be free to make his own
decisions to be able to deal with the
grand canyon on his own terms
he sees himself on that burro
going downhill through spectacular scenery

that night after the ranger talks about
the north side of the canyon again
he urges me we really should go there
it’s obviously the most interesting side
and fewer people go there and
it is like canada and can we go?

i tell him i take out our maps and
i show him look i say
crow flying it is twelve miles
straight across but for us it’s two
hundred miles do you realize that?

it’s a two hundred-mile drive through the
desert we have to loop around this
way he smiles at me he knows i can’t
say no this time he smiles his smile
of sweet victory

the next day
we are driving by dome-shaped dirt-colored
hogans in the desert
we are driving through the kaibab
plateau of utah and it does look
like canada