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.