Western History

The wind’s a second skin
to anyone who stops out here, steps off
the road and stares
at the lizardskin slopes and the teeth
with which a desert ridge
bites into the sky. How dry
is dry, how long
does sunlight take before
it’s dust in an arroyo?
A raven’s shadow rocks
on sagebrush silence while
an echo wanders lost
from canyon into canyon, repeating
its account of history
with the screams of dislocated tribes
etched into the walls, and the thirst
that snapped a mesquite
branch where every mine
is a toothache
in the mountain.

David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and often reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant. A new book, Unmapped Worlds, featuring older poems that had suffered neglect, is out from FutureCycle Press. He recently took up watercoloring again, after twenty dry years. Read other articles by David.