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At the South Rim
by JC Sulzenko

A blind man goes to the Grand Canyon. NO, it’s no joke.
He really travels there, asks his friend, What do you see?
He turns toward her, toward her reply.

She looks past him across long shelves of rock,
down, down, down to a mud-brown river.
She does not answer.

No wind, no rustling leaves rescue her
from the penury of her words.
What’s it like? he insists.

She squares her shoulders, picks up a rock,
a slice of shale. Puts it in his palm.
What’s this?

She closes her hand around his. Hold it tight.
Feel the ridges, the cracks, the rough edges.    
That’s the canyon in your hand.

Yes, yes. But so what? He leans forward,
two steps away from a drop of 2000 feet.
She pulls him back.

He grips her wrist.
I need to know. I NEED to know
what it looks like.

She tries again. Cliffs and plateaus contour down,
layer upon layer, ledge upon ledge,
to the river, thin as a ribbon from up here.

How far down, how deep?      
She squints at the staircase befitting giants and myths.
Stand 1000 men, each six feet tall,

shoulder-on-shoulder. That’s how deep.
He nods. Are there colours?
What colours?

She frowns, has never asked
if his eyes remember
mortal colours or know only shades.

Think of scales on a piano: the treble— 
high and sharp, cold and brittle
as the limestone below the rim.

Lower in the chasm, think of bass chords,
warm as the lava-red rocks that catch,
hold the desert sun.

The canyon, a concerto—its movements
aligned with the fanfare of dawn,
with the coda of dusk.     

She smiles, turns to her companion.
He nods his head.
I see, I see.

PHOTO: The Grand Canyon, Arizona, by JC Sulzenko.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My only visit to the Grand Canyon almost a decade ago led me to write “At the South Rim” years later. I had approached the lookout with eyes downcast. When I raised my head, I could barely take in the spectacle it was my privilege to see. I was not prepared for how this wonder’s scale and beauty would affect me and stay with me to this day.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JC Sulzenko’s poems appeared on Arc’s Poem of the Year shortlist, and have been featured in Vallum, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, Oratorealis, Naugatuck River Review, and online — either under her name or as A. Garnett Weiss. The Light Ekphrastic and Silver Birch Press have published her work. In 2019, she won the Wind and Water Writing Contest and WrEN Award (Children’s Poetry), and judged poetry for the National Capital Writing Contest. In 2018, Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press) as well as the Poet’s Pathway and County CollAboRaTive projects featured her writing. Point Petre Publishing released her South Shore Suite…POEMS in 2017. Her centos took top honours in The Bannister Anthology (2016, 2013). She has presented workshops for the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Griffin Trio, MASC, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Public Library, and a number of Alzheimer societies, among others. She co-authored chapbooks Slant of Light and Breathing Mutable Air with fellow Canadian Carol A. Stephen, and currently curates the Glebe Report’s Poetry Quarter, plus serves as a selector for bywords.ca. Visit her at jcsulzenko.com.