dragoon mountain dreams

by Abel Salas



I am running, breathing

fast and climbing, the

pebbles underfoot scattering

in echo of genetic memories

carried in the wishful capillaries

that sting with child sweat

and desert dust in the Texas

Canyon not far from the

Dragoon Mountains along the

Interstate that flings us,

me, my father, sometimes

a carload with three or four

spirited girls who take turns

reading or drawing horses

for me, always, on every ride,

a quiet, beaming brother seven

years ahead like a prince walking

alongside my father in a Stetson



This is Arizona and they are

here with dinosaur boulders

scampering across the rest stop

so familiar from countless Tejas-Cali

criss-crossings, it has become a ritual

for them, a glittering reward for him

He knows already of Goyaałé, the

the true human name of the one

known by the whites as Geronimo,

has spoken Crazy Horse in one

dizzy exhale alongside the names

Cochise and even Mangas Coloradas.

Spoon-fed Black Elk’s prayers, he has

watched in quiet awe while his brother

carves V-I-L-L-A and Z-A-P-A-T-A

and C-H-E onto planks of wood with

a soldering iron that glows and smokes,

has played at Apache and Nez Perce

even longer now than cowboy or cops.

He is the child who shapes a pyramid

Of clay in fifth grade for a teacher

Who marvels at the boy who reads

the sad story of Chief Joseph and writes

A bicentennial essay scolding the U.S.

For its broken treaties and the wars

inflicted on its noble and native people



The teachers are openly proud

And honor him with a task as tutor

To children in the special room

Or the library where he tells

them stories of Wakantanka and

the trickster coyote when they

cry and beat the floor with their

closed fists because the words, letters,

pages dance and move in backward

somersaults before their sad, tender

eyes and the 10-year-old storyteller

does not yet know the real name

for what hinders them or even how

to tear the gift from inside himself

and lodge it gently in their souls,

these smaller boys he reads to in

the afternoon when his classmates

are sent on crossing guard duty

or recess in an oak tree playground



Always, he remembers Arizona

Thinks he will find a vision there

If he walks through the night

Toward the desert strongholds

That once sheltered the stoic

Warriors who make him proud

He is able to say Azteca and Maya

And Comanche in the same phrase

He builds a lodge and a small travois

Because there is not enough earth

For a hogan or poles for a tipi

He looks for flint and obsidian

collecting feathers from the

chickens and the turkeys his

mother is grooming for meals.

Inside the small trailer home

where the seven in his family

live until it is time to leave

the empty patch of land where

a pony named Billboy has died

and been burned and buried,

until the move to a crowded city

named for the dark-skinned angels

who led his horse and his great uncle

to a peaceful field far beyond the stars



The sweat lodge at seventeen

takes him back to every moment

leads him on the road to four

directions as the sage steams on

blistering, white-hot volcanic rocks,

rocks unlike the canyon boulders

left behind outside of Tucson

near the ancient saguaros and

their phantom sign language

to his cousin Anthony and the

accidental elbow fracture,

a mere seven years before, to the

shame on his father’s face when

he confessed he was responsible

even if his primo smiled with pride

after the gesso was set and painted.

No one knew the backyard scuffle

had been over who would be chief

because Anthony was Arizona and

Could claim a connection to the

Cotton and the hard Yuma sun while

he could only dream of disappearing

With the Dineh or the Yaqui for good



The ceremony and an uncle poet like a

granite stone come to life with fire

bring me to myself just as the dance

And the circle and the drum remind

me of a bond from birth and creation

to relatives reclaiming the traditions.

A strong medicine woman much later,

who knew the poet and has forsaken

the dance that was not hers because

it came not from the ice mountains, or

Raramuri where her mother was born,

has spoken new dreams and opened

doors to the spirit world like tendrils

I could not have foreseen or known

And still a part of me resides there in

each palm that came to shape the song

and the healing with notes and melody

as if wind in flutes made from bone or

earth or reed in the throats of so many

teachers and honored tías y tíos, tambien

the soul sisters and red-skinned abuelitas

as well the lost lovers who guide me still

even in their echoing absence after they

have made the move to other places on the

water path that sparkles like a red silk ribbon

leading us to places of peace and joy like

amber or turquoise stones fused tightly,

bound with silver and leather clasps for

hearts seeking, beating together always

over and again. Again. Heya, heya-ho


Abel Salas, Photo Credit Rafael Cardenas.jpg

Abel Salas



                                                        contributor, 2018 third edition


Abel Salas is a Los Angeles based journalist and poet. He has written for The Austin Chronicle, Los Angeles Times Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, LA Weekly and the New York Times, among others. His poems have appeared in Zyzzyva, Beltway Quarterly, Cuthroat: A Journal of the Arts, Cipactli and Huizache as well as the anthologies Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Change (University of Arizona Press, 2016) and The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising From the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles (Tia Chucha Press, 2016).

Salas is the editor and publisher of Brooklyn & Boyle, a community, arts and cultural monthly and was a co-founder of Corazón del Pueblo, a grass-roots arts, education and political action center in Boyle Heights.

Photo Credit: Rafael Cardenas