Frances McConnel The 2River View, 8.4 (Summer 2004)
New Mexico, July, New Boots

I bend over to tighten the laces
of my new hiking boots, fawn gray
with lavender laces and turquoise patches
of canvas that let my feet breathe.

They are slow weights and clunky,
but they give me a solid footing.
I clump around, getting used to them,
then we start out over the hills.

The sky is blue with three small clouds,
a red-tailed hawk wheeling in high circles.
Bare ground broken by clumps of bronze grass
and cacti—runners and puffy ones like furry thumbs
that leave bare skin shot full of fiery prickles.

We’re looking for rock art—petroglyphs
scratched onto the dark boulders
by natives years ago: Annazasi--an extinct tribe—
or the Pueblos. Pictures like exploding possums
signify birth. Suddenly, a sharp pain;

a two inch long cactus needle sticks out
of a turquoise patch. I have to take off my boot
to pull it out—the first of many times--
as if the land doesn’t want me, me and my fancy

REI boots. Next time, it says, go barefoot
for weeks first, and practice walking on broken glass
Come like a native in moccasins
and put each foot down tenderly
in the footprint of whoever has gone before.

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