There’s something about the limitless Panhandle landscape—those views in which the most prominent feature is the nothingness of the horizon—that stirs creativity. These views have inspired restless poets and painters for more than a century. Our region is rich with imaginations accustomed to making something out of nothing.
So in an issue devoted to language and reading, we wouldn’t dare close these pages without dedicating a few of them to poetry. We reached out to three local poets to solicit a piece inspired by this area. Then we gave those poems to three of our favorite photographers, with a simple assignment: Give us an image inspired by those words. We’re thrilled with the result.
Along the River Red I Found an Arrowhead
As a boy, maybe ten, I found an arrowhead
along the River Red, set on the sand like a gift,
so it seemed. Alone I came upon the striped flint.
No tracks but mine. The arrow’s shaft: gone to time.
Only me and the stone and the river
and ripples in the sand like the crease between fingers.
The stone’s still-sharp edge could slice my fingers,
despite time and weather. The arrowhead’s
maker formed a thing that will outlast the river.
A striker of stones showered sparks from this gift,
passing hand-to-hand-then-piercing-hearts. Time-
and-time again man has given man this flint.
But like wind without origin, from whence comes this flint?
As a boy, maybe ten, with my childish fingers
grasping the sharp flint, I couldn’t conceive the time
contained in the pink, white, and purple-striped arrowhead.
The mere hundred years since an unknown warrior laid this gift
on the wide, sandy banks of the Red River
might register as one grain of sand in the river’s
long history. This particular flint
comes from another river whose waters are a gift—
west to east—across the Panhandle desert. Fingers
of the Canadian knapped the earth like an arrowhead,
flaking each layer of geologic time
‘til a valley lay in the Panhandle’s palm. How much time
did it take the Canadian River
to scrape down two hundred feet to Permian mud? Spearhead
makers discovered this layer of flint.
Then with river stones and stone-blistered fingers
they quarried out slabs of this Alibates gift.
But still, in my search for the giving of gifts,
I’ve found no beginning, simply an unending giving of time.
Before God said, “Let us touch fingers
with Adam,” there was this river; before this river,
an inland sea, silting quartz crystals, forming this flint.
What work has been done, so I could say the word arrowhead?
Now, at forty, with this gift from the river,
each instant this flint has witnessed the persistence of time,
and I can pinch it between fingers, formed as an arrowhead.
Photo by Jim Livingston
The way winter coming sharpens a place.
How the clouds cast shadows that trip
into the canyon behind the houses, then lift out again,
too thin to stick on the branches of the reaching trees.
The rib-bare coyotes trotting toward their breath in the air,
the cold air skinning on the teeth, even colder.
The sunflowers breaking nearly to the ground in the wind,
just hard seeds and cracked brown stems left.
The restless shadows that mean different things:
to the birds, a calling they can’t shrug off, a leaving.
To the houseflies, chilly dormancy, dreams of horses.
The trees, a shivering weightlessness; the grasses, a ripening.
To the deer at the feeder, darkness that soon passes,
then arrives again, the moments of sun and shade
like running through thickets, although they stand now still
at the bottom of the draw. They are quicker,
sharper too, in the snow-scented wind.
The way the front comes in.
In mornings soon, gunshots among the trees.
How every loss feels the same way:
darkness and light tumbling to a horizon;
noise, then silence.
The realization that you, at least, are left.
Then, that a little hunger can save you.
Photo by Angelina Marie, Short Eared Dog Photography
The winter evening stole you away, every day grew a little bit colder
Springtime peaks around the bend again,
All is sweet when I feel you now and then
Leave the sorrow, bear the pain, roll it off your back again
Breathe the air, your stunning love holds them to your heart
Leaves will fall when autumn’s here, red and brown let down your hair
Day by day you’ll wrap the twine,
Adding to your bridge of time. Your bridge of time.
By July the stars began to pray, I would learn to burn a little bit bolder
A broken leaf dances in the wind again,
I’ll find a way to shine without you now and then.
Photo by Venice Mincey