The Low Desert, My Gift to You
by Billie Burke
I want to give him all the things I had, Second Place Winner
long stretches of country road, infinite rows of almond trees and blushing peaches.
The sweet, pungent smell of silage carried by the hot breeze.
Juicy golden orbs stacked high along the dusty roadside,
delivered by hands as dry and cracked as the earth, with a smile smooth as milk.
It is both hot and dry, cool blue and green all at once.
The sky mimics the ocean,
stretching from the dark brown furrowed earth,
flowing up and beyond the snow capped granite Sierras.
I want the low desert valley painted on his heart.
Colors so vivid, so tangible to be gobbled up like dark red cherries from a roadside stand,
hot from the sun, bursting, staining his fingers,
leaving vibrant memories, solid, and faceted like stones in fruit.
I want him to love the thick fog that swallows up whole houses.
Letting the cold damp settle into his bones.
For it will burn off as fast as it rolled in,
dissipating into the hot brown haze that soils the falcon blue sky and blurs the horizon.
The valley is alive, its pulse palpable.
I want him to have it all when his heart is still filled with wonder,
still able to invoke its energy.
Rapid and quick, 300-train-cars-long quick,
emblazoned with a rainbow of graffiti.
A moveable feast for little boy eyes.
I see him in the rearview, eyes wide.
He’s on that train now, being carried as far reaching as imagination allows,
far beyond the lull of the whistle.
I wish I could bottle it all up for him,
the winding cry of the mariachi, trumpets and strings,
to be uncorked when his spirits are low.
Letting the music flow out over rooftops and through knotholes in fences
electrifying the whole neighborhood.
Capture the tinkling bell of the helado cart that beckons you to run after it,
wrappers crinkling, hands freezing,
feet burning on the hot sidewalk as you dig for lime and coconut ices.
I know it’s settled in. Indelible, memorable,
thick as the almond blossoms
blanketing the ground like snow.
I know it’s enough
by the way he squeals with delight
as he watches almond husks spill off a conveyer into a heaping mound,
A front loader digs in and carries them away,
a swirl of colors, yellow, rust, mud.
All these memories, piled high, bits and shards waiting to be scooped up.
About the Author
“I am a writer and poet living in North New Jersey. ‘Low Desert, My Gift to You’ is a poem I wrote for my son after my mother died. We spent some time in my home town of Atwater, California, and it impacted us in different ways. I was reminded of the beauty of coming home, he was engulfed in a magical adventure. I saw the place where I began, through different eyes. I hope whoever reads it will get a glimpse of wonder, borne of small town life.”