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Grand Canyon

Amil Quayle

After working as a guide during the early years of commercial river-running in Grand Canyon, Amil Quayle ran a cattle ranch while he earned a doctorate in English from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, and then he returned to his childhood home, a small house his father had built near the Henry's Fork of the Snake River in St. Anthony, Idaho. His two sons, Bruce and Manx, and two of his grandchildren, Eric and Kyndle, are now Grand Canyon river guides. Quayle's two award-winning books of poetry, Pebble Creek (1993) and Grand Canyon and Other Selected Poems (2009), draw on his family's long intimacy with the rugged landscapes and rural cultures of the American West. Most of his poems give readers a finely detailed and sometimes sorrowful view of the changes that have overtaken the West's human and natural communities during the last century. In this, the title poem of his second book, he digs even deeper into time, finding a metaphor for the shape and texture of his life experience in the geology of the Grand Canyon.

I speak now of that Grand Canyonwhich lies within each of us. Thereare pre-Cambrian rocks at the center,the core, and talus from yesterday’s fall;marble and granite grown hard from thepressure and heat of heartbreak andpassion; crumbling sandstone, layer onlayer of sediment, sentiment piled onover a lifetime’s experience. The sunbursts on us each morning then diesand we are in darkness, but moon shadowstease our walls. We listen to the pulsatingrhythm of time’s river lapping at ourshores. The sandy places slide, diffuse,move closer to the sea. A billion yearsof erosion is magnified, demagnified intosixty or seventy years as we measure time.Perhaps in a million years your shinbonewill be a fossil in another Grand Canyon,cold in a bed of rock next to mine.