Friday, October 14, 2011

Ghost Town, Mojave Desert

I’ve been gone a while, doing things that require work like traveling, writing assignments, lying sick in bed, but today has been a restful day. I took photos of my desk,

my cat,

my flowers,

myself reflected in the computer screen (up above). Then I researched quartz for no compelling reason and wrote a poem based on an experience I had while traveling last week.

Some sad things have struck my family since my mother died last summer, and they caused me to be called out of town. I knew I wanted to write a poem about something that happened on the trip but didn’t know how to begin. At three in the morning Wednesday, sleepless, I wrote down five words ~ ghost, laugh, laundry, edges, beer ~ and posted them as a prompt on Poetry Jam, a blog I’m hosting this week. I wrote the poem Thursday. I’m interested to see what other poets do with the words.

Ghost Town, Mojave Desert

Someone spilled a glass of milk in the sky
and the indifferent wind pushes it
against the barren hills that frame this town.
From the open window of a stale motel
I watch the creamy puddles eddy
among signs that scream for gas, food, lodging
as mesquite brush waffles in a vacant lot.
When I was a girl, I cruised that drag
in a blue Mustang and worked at a florist’s
over there, where that pawn shop squats.
I want to hate it now, with everyone I love
erased from here. But I see my father
teaching me to steer an army Jeep
across the desert, his brown arm braced
against the windshield as we bounce along
and laugh. I see my mother hanging laundry
on the clothesline by the driveway, where
my brothers and their cronies lounge
against their trucks with cans of beer
and shirttails hanging out. I hear my family
working, banging, revving, hammering,
the pop of rivet guns, hissing blowtorch,
the hollow whine of sheet metal
sculpted in their hands. I smell the tang
of ozone, sharp as a knife, after the rain
and I smell the sand, a billion shifting grains
of memory that stick like windblown grit
and won’t wash off, except in the blessed rain
which comes only when it will, not
when you will it. On the edges of my life
the wind still sings its love for the desert
and I taste the sweet bitter fruit of loss.


Rachel Fox said...

I really like this. It feels so strong and sure and powerful (I can almost taste the beer!). The last line bothers me - I know what you mean by it but I'm not sure it stands up to the rest of the poem in terms of the individual experience (it feels a bit general). But that's only one opinion!

Anonymous said...

Over the past few months I have been filled with nostalgia for my Mojave. I spent 10 years in that desert and was rendered sober there. The memories are bittersweet. A lot of hurt, but it was home.

I love the poem. Especially this:

...a billion shifting grains
of memory that stick like windblown grit
and won’t wash off, except in the blessed rain
which comes only when it will, not
when you will it.

Brian Miller said...

cool way of putting it with the spilled milk in the sky...also foreshadowing the emotional line of loss as well chris

Teri and the cats of Curlz and Swirlz said...

Very evocative, sad but full of life's travels and dreams...

The Bug said...

This is a lovely memory poem. I'm currently reading a book where one of the characters said that the land that you love comes down through the genes - & when you find that land you can feel the connection. In this case she was talking about the love of the desert - and the character she was speaking to was thinking about her instinctive love of mountains. It made me think of how I felt the first time we drove through the Ohio cornfields - home! Weird for this western NC girl :)

TechnoBabe said...

Really fun to read this nostalgic piece. You paint such a clear picture with your lovely words that I could see the blue Mustang and the pawn shop. Nice.

Gerry Snape said...

such memories....makes me want to go back "home" myself...except that it also is not there anymore.

Lyn said...

What an exquisite capture of that feeling of going back to what is no more. I had a similar experience when I went back to my small town and the store we owned was flattened to make way for condos and weeds grew up through cracks in the concrete of my beloved high school. I could hear the voices of the ghosts of my past. So enjoyed your poem. Really lovely, and haunting.

Helen said...

Chris, this is poignant .. I feel and see everything you describe. I love it.

Lolamouse said...

This is so nostalgic and lovely! So many great images. It sets a real mood and a sense of place. Love it!

Joker the Lurcher said...

i love this poem - really evocative. the smell of ozone - perfect. there is a word for the smell of rain on earth which i only learned last year - 'petrichor', but ozone brings something more to mind.

Mama Zen said...

This really engages the senses. Gorgeous write.

The Noiseless Cuckooclock said...

your words take us far and wide,
neat take.

nsiyer said...

Agreat write up. Damn good

Okie Book Woman said...

I love your poetry, and this one is especially nice. I'm glad I found your blog.

chiccoreal said...

Dear Enchanted Oak: Indelible memories of good times comes shining through. I can still smell the stinky beer!

the walking man said...

I like the piece quite a bit but I don't think it will be a real ghost town until all memory of that time and place is forgotten in two or three generations.

Heaven said...

I like the emotional undertones, the family nostalgia lines are strong and resonate with me.

Very meaningful write ~

Cassiopeia Rises said...

Beautiful! A wonderful poem full of memories that one must never forget. Well done.


Peter Goulding said...

Fantastic images, as usual, Chris. Has the feel of a 60s road poem about it and completely authentic.

twinkly sparkles said...

Thanks for the poem. I like it a lot. I try not to say too much about bits and pieces of people's poems on blogs, but I do want to say that I really like the way this laid out on the (virtual) page. It's just an added pleasure for me as I read your words. Great piece.

Syd said...

Such great memories. I can still taste and feel the memories of my home town. I can be transported there in my mind to those days of my childhood. But it is hard to go back and see the changes, reminding me of my own passing days and pending mortality.

Carrie Burtt said...

Such powerful imagery in this poem of memories Chris....I will have to check out Poetry Jam...I also wanted to let you know that I have an award for you over at my do not have to follow the rules or accept it...i just wanted you to know that I think you are truly inspiring!! :-)

Karen said...

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, and developed as I never seem to be able to develop a poem. Beautiful, and I'm jealous. :-)

♥~Judy~♥ said...

I love your work area!

Yvonne Osborne said...

This is a moving piece of poetry. See what the desert does to you? I guess any place one has grown up in will be embedded with poignant memory.

You want to hate it now like you did then, right? Funny how we yearn for something other than what we have.

I bet your blue mustang was HOT! I always wanted one of any color. Sigh.

I would try to write something with your prompt words but gosh, I don't know....I try not to think about the ghosts.