In Tufas, Julia Park Tracey offers what at first appears to be a simple and quiet poem focused on the landscape and nature of the Sierras, but there’s something there behind the scenes so much more vast and tragic that’s only hinted at through her words. She explains, “In February 2019 our only son, 21, took his own life, leaving us a shattered family. In April 2019, three of my daughters and I went on a road trip to the Eastern Sierras, crossing through the butterfly migration, on our way to see Mono Lake, with its fascinating tufas, and to soak in hot springs. The air was so cold with that thunderstorm overhead, and the water so war—it was a beautiful, sacred place to cry and feel his spirit with us.“
Tufas rise from Mono Lake, salt pillars
like coral reefs exposed. The parking lot is white with windblown foam.
We speed through clouds of yellow and orange petals, that were once wings,
Now bodies stuck to windshield and grille;
Swaths of golden poppies, white and purple lupine
beckon thirsty travelers to stop, to rest and restore.
We disrobe in a gray wind and slanting rain for the hot springs in the valley floor,
soak in sulphured water while thunder cracks and butterflies pass over.
This is Paiute land, Shoshone fields, rich grassland and
granite mountains tufted with snow,
but only we are in this pool, steam rising in cold April rain,
no one to deny permission,
grant the word that makes this stolen time okay,
or forgive Lot’s wife the backward glance.
(Note: The Eastern Sierra is in the path of migrating butterflies in spring.)
Julia Park Tracey
Julia Park Tracey (she/her) is a poet, author and journalist. Her poetry has appeared most recently in Soul-Lit, Not Very Quiet, Autumn House Review, Coffee People, and Daphne. Honors include Poet Laureate of Alameda, Calif., California, Frederick C. Fallon Award for poetry, and a San Francisco Foundation Award grant. She lives in the low Sierras, California. F/IG/T @juliaparktracey