Lorna Dee Cervantes’ “Flatirons” is an evocative rendering of the mountain range situated to the southwest of Boulder, Colorado. It is dedicated to “the Ute and Arapaho,” tribal communities who lived in this region for centuries, and the images that Cervantes assembles in a series of surrealistic vignettes convey aspects of the communal life that has vanished as a result of the advance of the European social order. In the opening lines, Cervantes depicts the mountains as “ghosts/ of slaughtered mules,” establishing the ethos of loss that is one of the dominant modes of the poem, and then personalizes the image by declaring that “the whites of my/ ancestors rest on the glaciers,” extending the concept of a haunted landscape. She develops the image further as she envisions the remains of a prior culture “veiled/ and haloed with the desire of electrical/ storms,” a surreal portrayal that joins the terrain to the psychological inclinations of its inhabitants.
As the poem proceeds, Cervantes moves toward the present, noting how the vivid features of the geologic strata (“a chimney of shedding sundown”) attract visitors to the region. A kind of dual perspective emerges as the ancestral connections Cervantes evokes are, in a sense, assaulted by more recent arrivals. Calling herself—and by implication, her cultural heritage—“Statuesque/ and exquisitely barren,” she asserts that her “seed shines/ in the dying rays” but that...
(The entire section is 484 words.)