Michael Andrews Arts

See Announcements for details on publication of Archilochus poems in Arion Magazine.

Desert Patterns

A Small Book Edition by Michael Andrews


Artist Book

Desert Patterns is a single poem, from the RiverRun project, and associated photography. Ansel Adams once photographed the same canyon from the other end. Naturally you could drive to that point. Like myself now, Ansel was at that time a car photographer. I took my picture the hard way, several weeks on the river, rough camps and scaling to cliff to take the picture. The river was muddy-red that day because of some flash flood dumping from a side canyon.
First Printed 2004. 16 5 x7½ inch pages of text using Goudy Old Style and Dylan typefaces, integrated with 14 photographic illustrations. Case bound in bookcloth and signed by the author.




Desert Patterns

   San Juan River, Utah, 1976

               for my brother Rick

The river is up 4 inches.
It curls and spirals
eddies between the rocks
and shoots over the rapid.
All day the clouds
make the same pattern
swirl around one another
with long white fingers
then die in a gust of wind.
For hours I stare
at the sandstone cliff
faces and horses
wars and generals and poets
march by,
petroglyphs scratched
into the stone.
They are all dead.
We cross the river
carry our clothes
high above our heads.
The sun drops anvils
on our backs.
We walk upriver
climb the cliff
into a water canyon
an alkaline pool
a little mud
a mound of crystal
desert salt and sulphur
dripping from the stone.
We sit 200 feet above the river.
It's 120 degrees.
The ochre cliffs
bleeding from the sky.
The patterns of rock
laid open by the surgical cut
of the river.
Oceans have passed
and glaciers.
They drew canyons
on the desert floor.
They tell a story
about a guy they found
last year in Cataract Canyon.
He had fallen from a cliff
broke both legs
and when it came too hard
he crawled to the jimson weed
and ate it all
knowing it was a quicker way to die.
But that plant is a bitch killer.
It sucks the hope
like breath out your lungs
until your heart
has the good sense
to stop.
It was a chickenshit way to die
slumped over a log
with that huge terror
stamped into his face
until the sun and ants
picked it clean.
It's all the beauty
we leave behind.
A configuration of bones
cast for an augury.
It's a scorpion
dead and dry
still clutching
the underside of a boulder,
an arrangement
like words on a page
or words in your ear —
I will leave them for you.
A hundred million years ago
this was an ocean.
A billion sea beasts
owned this canyon.
They left their shells
stamped in the stone.
It's the pure, white geometry
of a horse's bones
bleaching on a plate
of desert sand.
They almost spell
some last word.
We spend a lifetime
drawing patterns in that sand
it's a little token
of our appreciation.
We walk down to the river
jump in, cool all over,
swim in that pattern of swirls
get out on the hot stone
drying in the last light
watching the sun
fingerpaint clouds
going down past the rim.
When we fart
it echoes off the far canyon wall
and we laugh
just like that river
green and swirling.

I'm lucky to be alive.
I'm 31.
Rick is 27.
We are lean and strong
and our bodies are as naked
as the cliffs
brick-red and gold
and right now
this canyon
is ours.