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If Only To Wake When Night

Drive through the Mojave heading west

and you inherit the desert’s hot breath

the parched sandpit of it—

When I was looking for relevance

I held hands with a world that needed me

badly as it needs fire trails

through lowland scrub,

root systems and laughter.

I was in a new kind of desert

where the Santa Anas lick down

your shoulders halfway through a latte,

but the Mojave’s not duped

by orange blossoms, avocado trees,

clutches of Bermuda grass

when all irrigation gives rise

to twenty million fine, identical blades.

A city-desert is a nightmare world,

a Sahara sprawled in every direction

with stucco, brick, Spanish tile, sheet metal, glass,

teak and tile playhouses in the hills

where ficus and doum palms

disguise the dunes,

where desert cars are hallucinations

across flats of broiled land

where women wear gauzy numbers to stress

their melon breasts and men hide

their bald heads in Dodgers caps.

When night breaks the sky is a starless

fixed bluescreen

on the abandoned Dreamworks wagon,

but the city never sleeps,

instead it burns

with helicopter searchlight fingers

tattooing ten thousand lamps

of sand along my arms

only to wake when night’s

a saguaro flower cloistered

in stout spines along the dry plains—

if the desert were a woman

she’d want to whistle a tune to herself

(you know what they say about a whistling woman)

lodged as she is in pancake rock layers,

the millennial batter

of conch shells beaten

then cooked

always wanting

always the mason of jettisoned architecture.

She would sing

through taproot fingers

but the city wouldn’t hear her.

Alexis Orgera