Wonder Valley

The cottage pulls itself apart at the joints in the heat of the day
settles back into itself at night

high desert wind clatters in the fan palms
fine dust coats the mirrors

In the yard husks of coyote melons
blow into the roots of the brittlebush

small things scurry across the wash
leaving shallow indentations in the sand

lizard, ground squirrel, jack rabbit
burrow under the creosote

beyond, a crust of manzogranite
oceans of baking salt flats

garrulous hunkered down shrubs
with the resilience of rock

a feral landscape of burnt out, boarded up cinder block
half-savage dogs behind chainlink fence

transient human purchase
slippery as sand

the highway lined by salvation—
liquor stores, animal shelters, churches

sun bleached cars drift
from one side of the yellow line to the other

air too dry for ghosts
signs scoured bare of their messages

crouch, bristle, burn
hold tight, bend with the wind

learn to pull yourself apart at the seams with the heat of the day and settle back into your bones under an exhalation of sky.
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31 thoughts on “Wonder Valley

  1. Murtagh's Meadow

    Wonderful images – love the one “air too dry for ghosts” in particular. Was this inspired by your recent trip to California?

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thank you! Yes indeed, Karina. The trip to the desert was fascinating – though animals and plants have learned to adapt well to the harsh conditions, humans, it seems really don’t belong there, long term. And yet such a wonderful place to visit!

  2. Argus

    “Air too dry for ghosts”? A wonderful brush stroke … I’ll bet it’s a great place for shooting the stars at night (our local stars are soggy much of the year).

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thanks for your kind words. Truly an amazing place day and night. In our week long stay we watched a full moon sink as the sun rose, so not great star gazing, but I hear it’s beyond compare.

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Very much appreciate your reading and commenting, Roger. All the best with your writing.

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      It’s one of the things I love about the desert – it’s a no-man’s-land. A place where you learn a whole new appreciation for the natural world and its extraordinary persistence. Thank you for reading, Robert! Cheers, Melissa

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Such a nice comment! Thank you. I’m always so grateful to have people read and enjoy the words. All my best, Melissa

  3. charissagrace

    I liked this a lot. Read thru it several times before I actually read it proper in the couplet I quote below…my eyes kept putting the word “instructions” in place of indentations!!

    “small things scurry across the wash
    leaving shallow indentations in the sand”

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Yay! I love it when people make suggestions. Thanks, Charissa. As you know, a poem is never finished – always a work-in-progress. Happy writing. Melissa

  4. Sunshine Jansen

    So many remembered desert moments crystallized here… And that lizard shot; wow. I live for those!

  5. neverest1

    I meant to tell you yesterday that this was a good one, and we got side tracked. I also love the new “cardinal sin” but as it is pouring here, I am off to call Susan (at the gallery) it was raining in the gallery and I worry for the paintings.

    AND thanks so much for coming to the gallery. Next reading is June 18th at 230pm and I think we may get a crowd for that, so if you are around for the reading, feel free and bring something to read!

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thanks, Laurie. Sorry to miss your reading – hopefully next week I’ll catch you again. Happy to have your new book of poems to savor. Three in the last 12 months – pretty damn great. Congrats!

    1. Melissa Shaw-Smith Post author

      Thank you, Pearl. It was amazing to spend time in a landscape that was so alien and yet so fascinating to me.


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