Mom called my south Albuquerque hotel room,
said she wouldn’t allow me to visit. I wasn’t welcome.
After traveling all the way from Bellingham,
I was only a few miles away from her home.
My girlfriend commented, That’s family.
Now we’ll get to do more sightseeing.
She reluctantly agreed to Santa Fe,
but declined Taos, even after I explained
how I loved adobe Taos and Taos Pueblo
limned by snow-haloed mountains.
My girlfriend wanted to see ruins.
While she decided which ones we would see,
I struggled with relationships as wreckage.
Disbelieving Mom’s refusal, angry,
I drove the rental sedan through Los Alamos
toward Bandelier National Monument.
We stopped at the edge of a massive ancient caldera.
From the turnout we heard an elk bugling.
I felt my old demons—self-doubt,
Dense gray smoke smudged the western sky.
Wildfires surrounded our destination.
The site was safe; relieved,
we wondered about the role of fire
and scarcity of water in this land.
We marveled at the slot canyon
and residential cells of a once thriving settlement.
We exclaimed over petroglyphs
and cupules in living rock
used to anchor building poles to canyon wall.
We drove back to Albuquerque,
pushed on toward Salinas Pueblo Missions.
The parched land tilted southeast,
dissected by barbed wire fences.
Emptiness surrounded lonely ranch houses
and scattered knots of livestock.
We were largely silent;
during one stretch of roadway we argued
about subjects external to our relationship:
plastic bags, drivers’ refusal to give up SUVs.
We made it to Salinas Pueblo Missions,
found a desolate land shorn of love.
The ruins were vast, lifeless, forlorn.
The mission church and kivas
were desiccated wounds open to the sky.
Structures still exuded the sacred.
Failing relationships left me shorn of love, wounded.
I thought to ask my girlfriend, Is this the end?
Even in a sacred land it can be too late
to build an altar to the goddess of second chances.
This is what the end looks like.
Andrew Shattuck McBride is co-editor of For the Love of Orcas, forthcoming from Wandering Aengus Press in 2019. His poem “I Was Happy as an Ant” was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Crab Creek Review Poetry Prize. His work appears or is forthcoming in Crab Creek Review, So It Goes Literary Journal, rise up review, Eclectica Magazine, and Clover, A Literary Rag. He edits novels, memoirs, and poetry collections.
Facebook: Andrew McBride
Photograph Matt Artz.