Christina Torres

At Hellgate Canyon

Stop. Breathe. Again. Good.
Wind whistles in endless pine trees
as your neck cranes higher to look—
Do you see it yet?

The bright blue sky— paint from a God-hand— streaks
through the gaping canyons. A seemingly violent wound
is just a marker of time, slow erosion by wind, water, rain
to reveal a gift without obligation, effervescent and alive.

Pause among the sound of rushing water over stones.
Hear the call of your own blood bubbling underneath.
Know that the song is made sweeter because you are
here, a vessel for its melody, for this wild, babbling rush.

Now is the time to ask, to listen to its burbled question,
What do you want? What do you want? What do you want?
Listen as you sit on the black-orange-mold-moss that scares you.
Reflect on decay, on the parts of yourself dead and dying.

This place was not made for you. Instead of shrinking away,
can you rejoice? Can you sanctify your own body and the gift
of smelling the tobacco and salt? Can you turn the corner,
see the arrow of your own heart 
and the sacred sites it points to?

Make yourself a church that blesses berries and river water
as communion. Sing exaltations of pine-scented air and
the feel of the breeze at your back. Make each step a prayer
not just for the earth that holds you but your own body too.

Stop. Breathe. Again. Good

Smell the braid of burning sweet grass, a protection.
Love the untamed red of the unknown mountain cherry.
See the ochre handprint swiped like blood.
Smile at the violence used to create the unexplored,
gaping canyons of yourself, know the gift of your rabbit heart.

Look up at the sky and the canyon walls,
whistling in the wind. Feel your neck crane.
Do you see it yet?
Do you see?

Christina Torres is a teacher, writer, and runner living in Honolulu, Hawai‘i. Her work has appeared in ASCDTeaching ToleranceEducation Week and more. When she’s not working, she’s reading a book or searching the island for the best cheeseburger.