Cliff Dwellers and The Part-timer

By Charles Joseph Albert

Cliff Dwellers


The asphalt shimmers almost white 
in the heat waves. Not far off, 
a long recession in the desert
hints at our destination.
We crack the windows of our van
and walk a trail of crushed lava
which winds along the arroyo's edge.
Neon lizards bask, unmoving.
It's almost like a movie set:
adobe ruins in stony cliffs.
The heat's appalling. How did
the Anasazi once live here?
Seven thousand years ago
these hills were home to antelope,
buffalo, bighorn sheep…
only reptiles now, and cactus.
The climate had a "little" change
that drove off the cliff-dwellers. 
This cloudless sky's now only dimmed 
by wisps of smog, reminding us
of a steeper cliff not that far off
that huge refineries perch atop,
and coal-fired power plants teeter.
To the north. The east. The west. 



The Part-Timer


Washing the supper dishes, I paused to admire

a souvenir from my son's recent birthday party

at a paint-your-own pottery place.


While his guests decorated their statuettes,

A staffer had him make a handprint

on a souvenir plate which she lettered herself.


Such effort for a boy she'll never see again!

And so much patience with the other guests.

How can that enthusiasm last?


You'd have to be fresh to do that job,

I thought. A part-timer, young.

And it probably isn't a lifelong career,


though, when it comes down to it, what is?

Not my current job, I have to hope.

Nor yours as reader of this poem.