I study the persimmon sand
a tiny jawbone
a downy plume the length of my thumb
there is no quartz
no plastic shard
but when I look up
the moon is a sliver of lace agate.
apricot to molten above the western mountains
what burns imperfectly
all of that
there is no need for more
And still I find more in the desert in which some believe there is Nothing: the words My Mission printed carefully in pencil at the top of a sheet of notebook paper; a poem in a child’s scrawl:
It is somthing
green. And it’s
face is not green. he
is not a
king. He lives
It starts with
an L and
it ends with
There is a tattered scrap of a large print bible in which I find unintended inspiration:
“Sun stand thou
and thou Moon in the vau
And the sun stood still, and
until the nation took
their enemies. Is this not written
What I am not finding in this generous desert is work. I am not alone in this nor in the fury a gas pump has begun to inspire..
A friend calls while I am walking in the rose-gold light. She speaks of the necessity of doing her part of the greater work in partnership with the elements; in partnership with Water, Earth, Air and Fire. I stop in the blue shade of a Joshua Tree and listen. The gibbous moon hangs above the southeastern mountain range.
“Metallurgy,” she says. “Permaculture.” I move out of the shade onto an old mining road. I remember teaching the 2004 Desert Writers Workshop and what emerged:
Three women sit at the end of the long table in a cabin south of Moab. There has been an early October snow. The light is dove gray. There is a fire in the woodstove.
The women have known each other less than a week. They are writers. One of them has taught. The other students and teachers have gone to their rooms, or in to town to unwind from four days of intense work.
The room is so quiet they can hear the fire popping in the stove and the sound of wet rain on the big windows. A woman says something. Another responds. And then, as though they have moved toward the moment from the instant they each decided to stay at the table, each woman tells the others that she was sexually violated when she was a little girl. Their voices are calm as they speak of finally remembering, of puking and howling and, only a week ago, one of them watching in horror as a new date set his hand on her child’s thigh.
“Three out of three,” I say. “One hundred per cent.”
I think of my solitary walk before dinner. The western sky had boiled with clouds. Their light was sulfurous, brilliant as the edge of a new-honed blade. I had imagined a hot spring below the clouds, its waters dangerous and beautiful, its mineral steam billowing up.
I had imagined sky and earth were foundry and forge. For making weapons, weapons made for cutting through. I imagined that to die by one of these blades would be painless. Death would be finished as soon as begun. I wondered why my mind roiled as the sulfur-yellow clouds did. Why violence simmered beneath my spirit.
I look into the bright and ferocious eyes of the two other women. Sky blue. Cloud gray. I am surprised that I do not express fury.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I am so sorry.”
This is the nature of true metallurgy. This is the nature of women’s work.
Metallurgy. Taking one’s place in the perfect pattern of Water, Earth, Air and Fire. Not fixing, but mending so that there is always the hair-line wound that admits the light.
The surrendered will always have our work.