Shaun Griffin – So we just returned from Egypt a couple of months ago, and it was just as Putin was going into Ukraine. And so when we got home, we were all still fairly disturbed and trying to figure out what to do.
Egypt–Six Days On
Six days since touching down—the borders
fade in the contrails and still, the donkey, the egret
the languishing river remain. I try to release
the faces but they will not go—Yessir, Mobarek,
these men who leapt at our door—and the smoke
from the charcoal kilns, the sugar cane stalks,
the bitter sweep of dust in the face, the tourist
bus waddling the potholes to the temple,
so we might see who was pharaoh, who was slave—
and they almost assuage, these frescoes of how it was—
the paint from crushed malachite, ochre, and egg white
and beyond the barrier of comfort, another border
pressing down, these many lives peel away
as the new king descends and the furious survival begins.
We try to pretend it is not real, try to imagine coming home
to silence or buildings unshattered like the extant tombs
but there is no tourist guide, no secret to reveal. We are kept
from the corners of the earth where the pain protrudes.
How unlike a beautiful war to complain but it does, and the
throats of upheaval no disguise– they are on their own.
Egypt Six Days On is a new poem, not yet published.
Beneath the Laurel of Immigrant Ashes
What began as sorrow can only be shame—
The winnowing of children from their frames
Like they are paper blown from a field,
A silhouette of something wanted, an aura
Of an eye that might have belonged to a
Family, but the wind cannot abide this
Dissection: the crush of children whose
River has swallowed this afterbirth
Of supplication, what became of the road
North: the coyote, the peso, the cross,
How nothing is concealed from its stare,
This dominion of mercurial soldados
Who bequest this trance of small towns
To the feral kingdom, and the children
Look on from the distance of black and white
Photos, this noose set upon the color brown.
From Shaun’s new manuscript, Walking Out of the Desert.
Find all of Shaun’s published work at your local bookstore here.
Shaun will be reading at the Nevada Humanities Literary Crawl on September 10 in Reno and at the Las Vegas Book Festival on October 22.
His Border Series exhibition of watercolors is currently showing at Great Basin College in Elko through late fall.
Shaun Griffin has received numerous awards for his work including the Nevada Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and the Rosemary McMillan Award for Lifetime Achievement in Art. In 2014 he was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.
He is the author of several books of poetry, including This is What the Desert Surrenders and Bathing in the River of Ashes. He’s also written a memoir called Anthem for a Burnished Land and a book of essays about the American West called Because the Light Will Not Forgive Me. He has edited a number of books including Desert Wood, an anthology of Nevada poets; selected poems by Joanne De Longchamps (Torn by the Light); and a volume about poet Hayden Carruth called From Sorrow’s Well. Griffin is also known for his translations of Chilean poet Emma Sepulveda’s Death to Silence, and has worked as a teaching poet at colleges and at writers’ conferences in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
Founded in 2020, the Sierra Nevada Ally is a self-reliant 501c3 nonprofit publication with no paywall, a member of the Institute for Nonprofit News, offering unique, differentiated reporting, factual news, and explanatory journalism on the environment, conservation, and public policy, while giving voice to writers, filmmakers, visual artists, and performers. We rely on the generosity of our readers and aligned partners.