The Magic Hours

“The Magic Hours: Tucson Mountains,” “Lacuna,” and “Cenzontle”

In Issue 74 by Susan Cummins Miller

The Magic of the Hours: Tucson Mountains

The universe lurks

in the magic of the hours:

the evening sun slides behind

the ruins of an old stone house

and the cholla thicket, strewn

with the wreckage of windblown leavings—

a little daylight before the filmy net descends

on the hall of the lost world.

Talking in whispers, in music from a myriad

species, word becomes unwritten song, the bittersweet chant

of an endless past: ritual, elegy, dreamsong

swinging on an eastern rainbow.

Sun full-set. Shimmering heat. Strange moonlight. Stranger

names. Graph the design in textiles of silence. In the darkness

even the tolerance of trapped believers, travelers from a parallel

existence, sketch arcs across the firmament’s deep past.


Standing in the cleft, fingers

tracing the Great Unconformity. Missing

time in the stone diary of seen, felt, touched,

known. Farther afield we measure

sections of rock strata, date

them with fossils and decaying elements. Interpret,

correlate, construct a fence

diagram of overlapping columns—an elegant

Parthenon that almost, almost

succeeds in filling that gap

in time. But within the remaining

empty quarter—the millennia

of eroded or never deposited

earth history—lies the locus

of imagination, of story.


Mockingbird: singer of four hundred words

in a universal language needing

no translation.

Thirty-three years ago

when we moved to Tucson I heard

the familiar, ever-changing songs of the gray

birds that nested in the bosque

next door and fed on insects in our patch

of lawn. But when the grass gave way

to gravel the cenzontle moved on

to greener habitats. Yet, somehow, the music

continued, whistled and warbled

by curve-billed thrashers that came to nest

and sing here among the native thorns

of cholla and saguaro.

About the Author

Susan Cummins Miller


Tucson writer SUSAN CUMMINS MILLER, a former field geologist and college instructor, has published six novels and an anthology containing the works of 34 women writers of the American frontier. Her poems, short stories, and essays appear frequently in journals and anthologies, including the forthcoming Without a Doubt: poems illustrating faith and So West: Love Kills. Two poetry collections, Making Silent Stones Sing and Deciphering the Desert: a book of poems, are forthcoming from Finishing Line Press (2022; 2023).

Read more work by Susan Cummins Miller .

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