Half a day’s detour to Gran Quivira”

and we arrive, near sunset,

to find a locked gate across the road.

We climb the fence and leave exact change

for maps of the ruins. A sign warns

of rattlesnakes that shelter in

the deep, open rooms and crumbling walls

of the ancient Spanish mission and,

predating it, a pueblo, now excavated.

Twenty unexcavated mounds surround us

on the ridge. Without a guide, we do not

ask what pestilence, what drought,

disease or war drove the living

from this place. Perhaps we do not walk

with proper awe. Tourists in a state

pocked with extinct settlements,

we are dulled to absence, to abandonment

of landscape to the sky. Still

we are astonished that the light

so rapidly diminishes, leaving us

pathless, surrounded by open pits,

sherds and murmuring brush.