The Soul of a Poet: Mary Locke Crofts

Langtry, Texas at dusk

Langtry, Texas at dusk

My guest this week is poet Mary Locke Crofts who has recently published a slim volume of her

To Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas by Mary Locke Crofts

Pathways to Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas by Mary Locke Crofts

reflections of the past and present in the desert at Langtry, Texas. Langtry is about 60 miles west of Del Rio, smack on the Rio Grande border with Mexico. Her poems about this area of ancient history and rich artistic expression beautifully capture the life and loneliness of the place. You can order a copy for yourself from  The title is Pathways to Ancient Shelter: A Sojourn in Langtry, Texas. Learn more at

What led you to this project?

It was a graduate program at Pacifica Graduate Institute where I was pursuing a doctorate in mythological studies and Jungian psychology. As a 62-year-old storyteller, I selected the rock art of the lower Pecos of my dissertation. For a brief moment, I thought I might magically become an archaeologist and art historian, but, of course, that was not to be. I did, however, write about the history of rock art studies while, at the same time, imagining the unknowable myths of the hunter-gatherers who painted the rock art. As a result, I ultimately came to write about the “myth I was living in” as C. G. Jung termed it. It was an onerous journey.

Mary Locke Crofts

Mary Locke Crofts

I grew up in Big Spring, Texas, where my family owned the Western Auto Store. It was here that the wide sky and long vistas first stirred my emotional attachment and visceral response to west Texas. Langtry is 200 miles directly south of Big Spring.  interest in narratives of folklorists like J. Frank Dobie had been pulling me westward to find a cabin to write in. But it was sometime after I got my house in Langtry that I realized it was the place I had been longing for. Before that moment , I had been so disturbed by the seeming impossibility of my project that I could not see it.

What did you learn through the rock art of the early Pecos?

Through my experience of the rock art and its canyons, I came to a gradual understanding of the power of the land and its history and stories. My book came from my writing about this gradual awakening. I began with books, reading all I could about the history of rock art studies. Then I

Curly Tail Panther Rock Art Site on the Devils River in the Lower Pecos

Curly Tail Panther Rock Art Site on the Devils River in the Lower Pecos

began to explore the shelters of the lower Pecos with Carolyn Boyd and others at Shumla School in Comstock. When I got out of books and into the shelters, everything changed. Books however well written and photographs however well taken cannot capture the breathtaking power and beauty of the actual paintings found in the cliff sides along rivers and creeks. For example, the panther painted thousands of years ago seems to leap directly off the canyon wall and palpably into my perception of its creation.


Where the Gods Walk

by Mary Locke Crofts


Sacred space—

where the gods walk

with or without human awareness.

or so we hope.

Some say those who name the sacred

create it,

but others say we only discover

what is already there.


Long, long ago,

back when we remembered, and longer than that

when animals and humans were one,

before the split, before the fall,

sacred was not found and named.

All was mystery, everything sacred,

alive, listening, speaking—

all messages were crucial.


A sacred place is where I encounter the unknown

knowing the unknown is not emptiness.

It draws me as it terrifies.

Is my imagination large enough to create it,

to encompass it?

I do not know.

The sacred seems both within me

and surrounding me,

but I am not sure.


I come here to the rock art never doubting

that it was sacred to those who painted it.

What I doubt is whether I can share

their experience.


Humans and mystery—

ingredients for the sacred.

What I want to know is,

if you remove the people,

does the sacred remain?


What did you learn about yourself during this process?

Gradually my perspective moved from outward and objective to inward and personal. I had rented a house in Langtry in which to work. I hiked the canyons every morning, and every afternoon wrote about my experiences with the people, flora, and fauna, past and present, of this territory. I came to accept the longing that this place evokes in me so deeply that I eventually bought the house. I continue to spend many days and nights there.

What is one of the least expected things you discovered?

I did not expect that my own journey would become integral with the paths of the hunter-gathers and with the lives of current residents. Although I could not have imagined that, it remains the most rewarding part of the project.

So what’s next?

I am doing a class for University Presbyterian Church in San Antonio in on three Tuesday nights October. The information about my presentation is at  Ultimately, I want to continue exploring the valuable role of myth and narrative in discovering historical and personal truth.

Thank you for sharing with us today.  



3 thoughts on “The Soul of a Poet: Mary Locke Crofts

  1. Thank you Mary Black and Mary Locke Crofts, I am so glad to learn about this book. I understand, if I cannot yet articulate, the pull of this land and this art. I have been to rock art sites with the Rock Art Foundation now three times (Meyers Spring, Eagle Canyon, and Lewis Canyon), and am planning to return (Curly Tail Panther and more). There is something powerfully magnetic out there. Greg Williams, director of the Rock Art Foundation, whom (as you know, Mary Black) I interviewed for my podcast series, Marfa Mondays, talked about how it was difficult for him, too, to articulate the power of the experience of being in that space, with that art. Hoping to cross paths with you both sometime soon. Many kind regards.

  2. I love the poem. It puts spirituality in perspective. I’m also a fan of Langtry having visited numerous times. I particularly enjoy walking in the garden of native plants displayed there. Thanks for sharing this info, Mary

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