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Wednesday, November 13, 2019


by Katherine West 

The U.S. Air Force released a much-anticipated draft environmental impact statement for its proposal to modify the boundaries for military air space over southwest New Mexico, including areas that would be used for F-16 training missions out of Holloman Air Force Base over Grant County and the Gila National Forest. … One of the alternatives proposes that low-altitude training — meaning F-16s flying as low as 500 feet above ground level — be allowed over those areas. —Silver City Daily Press, November 1, 2019

Ground level, nothing
enters the wilderness, except feet—
horse feet, human feet. We start
at the river and work our way up
and through how many worlds?
From yellow willows through pink mini-canyons
through tawny and scarlet grasslands made by
fire and decorated with skeletons
to foot-tingling vertigo cliffs dropping
from white heights straight down to
vertical death straight out to horizontal
eye-flight—180 degrees of mountain waves
lapping at the sky.

And just like being lost at sea, I can feel
the lack of humanity. My human
radar finds nothing to ping against, no
roofs glinting in the sun, no
distant roar of traffic, or guns,
just the last of the falling leaves ticking
against each other like light rain on the roof,
catching the late sun like a flock of distant
birds at five o'clock.

Behind me, the pale half-moon rises silently
in the afternoon east—and I remember
how she rose with Venus on Halloween
when the first cold came and
made them very  bright—still brighter
than the new, too-fast moving, human
Stars that surround them—and I remember
that there is no wilderness in the sky
as the F16s detonate their weekly flight.

Katherine West lives near the Gila Wilderness, several hours from Silver City, New Mexico, where she and her musician husband perform music with poetry about the true meaning of wilderness.