I couldn’t make this into a poem so you’re getting a block of text.
The midsummer storms have past and the desert still isn’t cool. I fry between the watermelon mountains and the faded cloudless sky. Called Sandia in Spanish and watermelon in English, they are pink in the sunset. Last year, there was so much water that the hills were green instead of gold giving the melons the rind as well as the flesh. (You’ll remember the trail up the mountains.)
The storms past and this year was dry. The clouds gave little moisture before dying, but the desert is dry now, nothing grows from the hills to the river, not even in the rocky arroyos that skip their paths off the foothills. They are etchings of a thousand years or more of tentative water rolling off the mountains out to the Bosque to feed the cottonwood trees. These arroyos saw the Zuni, the Zia, the Pueblos, they saw the Mescalero, the Diné, the Apache. I do not think they see them anymore.
The River is mud now, the trees are salt cedar, and the white weeping woman, La Llorona, with her Mexican surname and her coyote sob, no longer bothers to search for her lost los niños under the bald man-less moon. The moon is untroubled by clouds.
The land is dead, I hear the datura woman cry. There are no more men to trap. They have left the cactus land after turning the dirt into concrete. Yet their cinema houses, bars, and restaurants still stand, just another ghost town of the empty west with no language left to read their signs.
In your final hours, I went to find your favorite flowers, and found I had forgotten their name. These things are hard to find now. Fleshy green things don’t grow without needles here, so I had to search dark, indoor places. In the East they say once a word leaves your mouth not even the fastest horse can catch up with it. I must have chased that word forever, but I never caught it. Said an hour ago, and gone already. There the blue flowers sit and I do not know their name in any language. You told me in English and Mohave. You told me your name in both too, but I only remember one and it troubles me as the dark clouds detour; split apart by the Spanish’s ancient watermelon mountains.
I had a dream two nights ago. I was up on the peak and the tramway tramcar was leaving, stranding me up there as the sunset died and the city spread out its lighted wings like an electric nebula. A tree nymph came down from the blasted pines to watch with me. It told me its name even though it was blushing behind its braided green mane. An Indian child lost, maybe; entombed, trapped in wood. She spoke and I recognized her then. You had drawn her, looking real, on your sketchpad, from your mind, without any references, on the day I’d first met you.
There’s a pump station a mile from my childhood home. The pumps don’t work. I want to fix these machines. If the machines are a metaphor for the world, then the world is broken and I can’t fix it.
Once there was a girl, you see. I have to keep remembering her.
I don’t have silence to spare
While crying out in despair
To think that she was so fair
And didn’t have the heart to care.
I had a dream a night ago. We were on the trail again and you went ahead leaving me with your fat friend, the one I met once near the end, the one I hated before he spoke, the one who terrified me because I realized then and still do now that I would always be yours but you would never be mine. He wanted to cut across the crest, but I was sure you’d gone to the peak. We went up to the forest line and met a man who kept slaves in his basement. There was no water left in the trees, see? So, he was using blood to water his family, his carrots, and his beans. The beans were good, but the carrots screamed when you bit them. We were there a long time, so we were sure you had walked back down to the trailhead. We jumped down the rocks to where we thought you and the water would be, but the place was empty except for a blowing breeze sweeping the clouds to the northeast.
I awake most nights with Jane’s Aria stuck in my head. I hum it alone. You had it on a track you used to own. Jane sings beautifully, but she has faded from neglect. Magnetic tapes cannot last forever. The dry probability has unspoiled her across the sand. Do you hear her voice now or ever? She stands as she always has, possible yet improbable until we make her or unmake her together.
Sometimes I think I am the sun driving the clouds away with my hot, dry breath and my flapping cottony tongue. In the desert you can smell water. When I come down, I try to seek it out and lap it up before the Earth does. I eat the plants because they are water too, and I never let any bodies go to waste. The mesa beyond contains corpses, mankind’s legacy. They are buried but cannot be forgotten for long. Women popped apart for their watery insides, men for their dry bones, and the Pueblos for their land. I find them and bring them back and worry on their bones. Except for the men, who have no bones.
In truth, the midsummer storms never came. I waited and waited, but they flew by on zephyrs to lands north and east. There must be something terrible in the west to make them fly so fast.
Eight months ago I had a dream. They were introducing Janey in a great hall with three hundred packed seats. She wore white to emphasize her dark skin. She wore glasses to hide her blue-green eyes. She talked of you, but not of me. Then she talked of me, but not you. Then she talked of water.
The poem remains unwritten. I could not carve the stone. I said I would. I told you I would. But I cannot. It’s too hot to think, I think. I am in the sun everyday. There is not a cloud in the sky. No birds sing, no flowers bloom, there’s not a cloud in the sky. The streets are silent, the river does not run, no coyotes, skunks, or rabbits patrol the arroyos or flood tunnels. The majordomo ignores the irrigation channels. The fields are empty, the roadrunners run no roads. There is not a cloud in the sky.
And as I sit in the middle of what used to by the busiest intersection in the state with its burned out lights, under the sun’s intolerable heat, while looking up at the blue pearl shell that has never had a cloud in it, I remember that you drew all of this, all of it! in your sketchpad when we first met.
I cannot remember your favorite flowers, the poem you wanted me to write, or your true name. But I can remember clouds. Those I still see clearly.