The Sky and the Desert

The town I grew up in was originally called Jackass Flats by the black lunged, cruel hearted, pale faced settlers who, with their noble and calloused hands, built the meager spine of shops, saloons and rancher’s reserves which the infrastructure clings to, to this day. The earth is dry and crude, there. Cotton puffed thistles and prickly pear blossoms are the most ornate foliage one will find amongst the brown and tan skeletons of plants that only rarely blush green under the non-committal kiss of rain, but the locals all agree that the real centerpiece is the sky.

It’s the same sky that hangs over foggy London or smoggy New York City but there’s something in the emptiness of our sky. The one that stretches on scorching cyan for miles uninterrupted, and erupts magnanimous every evening all coral and crimson and ochre, only to burn so black and so cold in the night that the stars are like frigid holes punched in the velveteen blanket of darkness which seems draped over a bright and magnificent bulb beneath.

Our sky makes the dead earth look alive.

And people in the barren valley between the border towns and the ski retreats tend to reflect this sharp juxtaposition. There are dry and crackling landmasses of folks just sitting and waiting and slowly executing a spiteful whitewashed mariachi themed dirge of the dying as far as the eye can see. Conservative, simple folk. They are stubbornly grey, excruciatingly fundamental. Their skin is cracked by the sun just like the earth, and just like the earth, you can depend on them to be a static landscape of perennial weeds. Ruddy, though they’re fragile and- don’t wait for them to die a natural death because they’re going to outlive us all, the lizards.

And then there’s the others.

The outcast bright nights of souls flittering fuchsia along the trails of dead leaves (and even still, those muddied leaves glitter with the dew which turns to frost on January mornings like so many tiny, temporary diamonds.) Everyone casts the prickly pear blossoms a sideways eye between puffs of Marlboro Red, everyone secretly wishes them dead. Everyone hisses, you’re not the sky, just quiet enough that you’d have to be spying to have heard, and to confront them, well that would be ruder than rude.

But there’s a place for the outcasts, there’s homes for us, still.

There’s Castle Canyon Mesa, a small square grid where every aluminum plated singlewide provides shelter to someone too brown, too intoxicated, or otherwise too poor to find his bootstraps. And all of us kids who came up in that block, we knew the glisten of eyes too wide to take in the needles by our Kmart brand Adidas (with four stripes, not three) at the bus stop. We knew what it was to rollerblade hot asphalt all day so we didn’t have to endure another day of our parent’s volatile relations capped off by a brown liquor evening where the cops come to call about another domestic dispute.

We watched each other fade from innocence far sooner than the others, and we held each other’s hands in an explicitly unspoken way. It was in our chins tipped up in the halls at school and our voices muttering, “hey.” And to this day, I don’t know if I could mention it to them without them balking and puffing up their chests because that’s what you do.

If you’ve ever come up with less, that’s what you do. You let your frayed jeans drape over the fourth stripe on your Adidas, you suck in your belly which bloats beneath the cheapest fare, you harden the tears at the corners of your eyes into a smile like the thorns on a cactus and you manage to mumble a terse greeting.

 

 

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “The Sky and the Desert

  1. This is just an exercise, I am trying to work on getting something on the page without stumbling over the details which is something I really struggle with. Constructive critiques are welcome.

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  2. Hi K of JAK,

    Yes, an experiment like the Manhattan Project. Two scientists where killed by blasts of hard radiation as they worked to perfect the bomb. Almost every sentence in this prose/poem is a rush of image that contorts and smashes around, running toward the period. I call that a beautiful thing. Each word is a breath, that leads to the next, filling out lungs so we can live. That is the thing about experimenting with words. I am a big believer in a good editor and constant reappraisal. For me this was more poem, than prose. I wonder what it would look like in the format of a poem? If it is to remain a prose piece, then I would rewrite a few of the sentence endings. Nothing more. The best sentence in the whole thing is “The earth is dry and crude, there.” The pause and then “there.” Am I crazy? No, only odd ideas. I recall a bit of poetry that went like this: “and the fat orange goldfish were dead, there, drying out.” The most important word, for me anyway, was “there.” It brought me to the spot. You might say I believe in “there” as a tool, as a path to your thinking, the key to an image. Thanks. Duke

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    1. Thank you, Duke, I appreciate your uplifting critiques. My writing always comes across as poetry even when I try my hand at prose. I will work on formatting this and see if I can clean it up some more.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow, I think I’ve been to Jackass Flats. I like the four stripe not three Adidas – reminds me of working with foster kids and not realizing just how important shoes were to social status. I think that might make a better title. (PS My Jackass Flats was Price Utah – also called Castle Country – I’ll never forget the flash floods full of red clay and the weddings were every guest got just one half glass of campaign even though the kids were high on meth) Great debut – welcome aboard the rust-bucket.

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    1. It’s so interesting, the more of the world I experience, the more I see how many places are very similar. Same town names, same street names. People are essentially the same.

      I have been to glass half empty meth weddings like that. I guess I’m lucky that I was too young for either.

      Thank you for the warm welcome. I still feel humbled in the presence of great talent but this is such a beautiful outlet for a part of me that is hard to express to casual friends. I hope I can get my work sharp enough to be worthy.

      Liked by 1 person

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