Rearrange the chambers of my heart
into arched doorways
leading to courtyards of dandelion sprawl,
all the webbed greenery to shroud my mind
into flattened, still glass.
In the yawn of space,
I lounge on lilies, looking for
heart shaped pads to tread water,
float on flowers and blow
seeds to the wind.
Let me stay here,
an archer under the bow of atmosphere,
flinging arrows dipped in clouds,
tearing into a dungaree sky patched in flight,
until my eyes become mirrors of these winged threaders,
dragonflies stitching watery horizons.
I am more landscape than breath and body.
Uncaring for the blare of the world.
Leave me in blended refuge.
Days roll into limp cigarettes hung from a torn smile,
Coughing shade from flowered lungs
With sulfuric flourishes.
The sweet rub of match.
Temptation stained thumbs.
The tilted season leans its heavy shoulder
Into the crook of spring.
Greased hair, plain white tee, flicking ash,
Daring the wind to ignite.
Drag racing with the forked tongue lot,
The silent serpents hidden in 14-karat grass,
Bladed beauties, luminous skin in bold patterns,
Distracting the eye with nubile flare.
What did mama sing over the sizzle of eggs?
Red touch yellow, kills a fellow Red touch black, a friend of Jack
But Jack was nimble; he was quick.
He changed his colors in a season, grew five inches,
Lost his boyhood looks, morphed into stone to
Prey upon the girls of summer,
Scatter their hearts like blackbirds
Just to watch a glass collision,
Falling for mirages and heady desires.
His hands found their shoulders,
Massaged the muscles along their delicate bones,
His cold blood pumping,
Working well in the heat.
Posturing, he went for the runt of the neighborhood
Who had blossomed into coral perfection.
But she remembered the taunts of yesterday
When he gave her the slip,
Folding into shadows,
Watching the man-made lakes expose bathing lines,
Ringed history rubbed into rocks,
Slipping out of their silted suits
With greedy evaporation.
The rain came in hesitant bursts
Tentacles spawning and retracting
A jellyfish moving in an ocean of silted sky
I drank from the oval bowl
Sipping the gratitude of high places
Open vistas unleashing boxed thoughts
Passing through me
Wind with voiceless imprints
A drink for the thirsty held to parched lips
Blistered from too much sun and confinement
I never did well in small spaces
Even in forested places
The trees suffocated
Sped my heart, pulling me upward
Never wanting to be grounded
Too much earth to contend with
Perimeters to pinch at my skin
My legs climb with language
The patter of sole to dirt
I wove my body into the stretched fabric
Of mist and memory
Of land where water fell, tripped and searched
Into the seas carrying
Old man with creased faces and bulbous noses
Women with daggers and babies, lovers in waiting
Finger painting a sky with my mind’s eye
So childlike in sight
My body could disintegrate
Leaving me with immortal vision
Enough to drink distance
Until peaks bow into light
As rain streaks the sky
Blossoming into an array of color
A glorious arch rewards those with
A willingness to wait out storms
A mind quiet enough to understand
We choose our view
In the burgeon of clouds
In the yawn of the parched desert
A thief waits to strike the wandering souls
The broken down car, the lone hiker,
The unbalanced soul, seeking vortexes
Buried answers, buried treasures
The lost arrive, the found return
A gladiator thrown into a pit of bread and circus
Too late as a fiery hand is placed upon your eyelids
Performing ceremonies, rearranging your senses,
Stripping bones of memory and flesh
To wash in the foggy bottles of rain,
Saved from the barren rivers threaded with cottonwoods
Offering cups of shade, teatime moving with winds
Brewed by the underlings, the shadows thrown under the desert brooms,
All the invasive creatures that will not be eradicated
Empowered by disgust and neglect
Cup them in your swollen hands
For one last fight
You will win when everything is lost
So sink your toes into the surrender
Wading gently into the jaws of the horizon,
The lapping tongue and swollen tonsils, clouds wedge in your jowls
Coughing on the orange dust of sand swirl
Test the waters as you swim into a saturated sun
The prickly pear stain and crimson coated cactus slabs
The pink halo blooms and fiery cholla globes, torching an entrance
Crawl through the window shards
Your ticket will be taken as you find your seat,
While the clever thief strips you of your desires and sight,
Narrowed down to one, unquenchable craving
Delirious upon the realization you will be erased
You consider the consumption
To roam the expansive halls of limestone and quartz,
To rest your bones on the warm rocks, sharing space with reptiles
Your fingers dragging along the smooth stone,
Shaped by the potter’s wheel of time
Allowing spirits to finger your pockets,
Pull your insides, leaving entrails as a warning to others
Milky white skulls, home to the skins of shedding snakes
You have entered the arena unprepared
Staring at the devil on the horizon
Wishing you wore your dancing shoes.
Nature is the biggest showoff. This cactus flower is the size of my fist and only blooms for one day. I pulled off the side of the road, trespassing, to get this shot — and it doesn’t do it justice.
Even a parched desert will struggle to create something beautiful.
Art begs to be noticed, let’s face it. We can draw those stick figure families or write those shitty poems. We can fill our middle school diaries with cringe-worthy angst and paint lemon-colored suns sliced in the high corners of an 8 ½ x 12 sheet of paper, assaulting white space with rainbows and butterflies, or dark daggers and angry eyes. We can pose in the coffee shops with a laptop and a latte, drizzling prose like the caramel on their frothy tops. And it could be brilliant. And it could be crap. And it could very well have saved us that day.
Because creating is inherent to us. Like living and breathing and carrying on in the most wretched of circumstances. And the days I want to quit writing are the days in which I only think I do because we always return — hours, days, weeks, or years later – and make our way back, like spindly branches hiding life under a dull bark, begging to be noticed. Even if it is by one person – known or unknown — feeling okay in that moment, purging ourselves a little bit at a time, until the earth is saturated enough to burst with blooms.
Because spring is inevitable. And we will always remain participants and witnesses.
I spent most of my youth chasing destinations before learning that no matter how far you go, your roots will always follow, dragging around like entrails. I was convinced they were as shallow as the cacti; the saguaro can grow up to 60 feet tall, with only 4-6 inch roots. But then I discovered they extend as far as they are tall. Also, there is a secret that anchors this mammoth two feet deep — the taproot.
The desert is in full bloom now. The orange blossoms and acacia flowers ride the winds, swirling around like aromatic tumbleweeds, bowling down the streets while people stop and inhale with closed eyes. Even the cacti hide color like easter eggs, proving beauty will find its way in even the most unforgiving places.
You can’t beat the Arizona highways. All these photos were taken with my camera phone, without stopping. Imagine if I did stop and had the right camera… (aw, who am I kidding…my kids wouldn’t allow it). Here is the Santa Fe train moving north to Tucson, passing a mine in the mountain.
We got a lot of rain recently. The desert responses with greed and gratitude — greed in that you have to watch out for flooding, and gratitude following with a slow absorption.
I ran into a coyote the other day. He’s hard to spot, but look at the bottom of the saguaro. We stared at each other for a good minute before he was bored with me.
The fragrant creosote is the signature scent of the Sonoran desert. It, too, is in full bloom, speckling the mountains with color and running like lazy, yellow rivers in the lower basins.
Spring always comes earlier in the desert. You’re either drunk with it, or heading down the Allegra/Claritin aisle at the local drugstore. Hopefully it’s the former.