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 European who became a longtime resident of Phoenix and has developed an interest in the wildlife of the West. He has a recent book with watercolors and poems featuring the local birds, The Flying Desert. Read other articles by David.