One Hundred and Twenty Degrees

The ones against have gathered
in the park, while those in favor
rally in the air-conditioned hall close by.
Everybody’s angry. The forecast is
for record temperatures, short attention spans
and an outbreak of patriotism
around the time
the daily high occurs.

Almost full, the moon
slides from behind the high-rise
where a million secrets
are kept of who
owns who and which debts
are outstanding. Even darkness
refuses to cool.

Six AM a comfortable
eighty-two degrees; by seven
it is ninety and the news from all
around the world rolls in
without abatement
while only the tabloids offer shade
by way of lingerie
scattered between scenes
too painful to absorb.

Fifteen minutes shy
of nine o’clock: the sun
is bold and triple digits shine
from the thermometer. There’s an old man
on the street with somewhere to be
walking slow as the weight
of the water he carries demands.

Pigeons look for water and the cats
for shade as lunchtime
reaches the highest for the date
since records were first kept
back when the West was wild
and guns kept it that way.
Give or take a few
degrees of desert heat
nothing really changed.

Mid-afternoon and nobody
outside walking, which creates
a peaceful impression
close to what happens
when everyone carries concealed.

The evening news is telling
what we already know,
advising anyone outdoors
to keep drinking water
but without ever saying where
the empty bottles go. There’s smoke
at the sacred mountain,
smoke close to the border, smoke
to the north and east. In the city
there’s thirst
and indoor entertainments
based on violence that makes
a wildfire look mundane.

Surviving by grace
of Salvation Army water
those with no door
to close behind them
peel away what layers of the heat
they can and lie down
with the stars
for cover. A hundred degrees at midnight
and imagination for a windchill
when the air rubbing against
a cheek feels like
the fur of an animal come
seeking shelter.

David Chorlton has lived in Phoenix since 1978. He grew up in England with watching soccer as a major part of life although he has managed to move on to other interests since then, including reading and writing poetry. Read other articles by David.