The desert is soft and fragrant with creosote—
burnt matchhead mingled with honey.
Joshua trees crowd the landscape like city-dwellers
waiting for a bus, leaning into the wind,
arms outstretched, as in warrior pose.
The sky is matte and cloudless, forever-blue
diamond cornflower, melancholic azure,
permanence yearning to engulf, to devour.
I pick up a cigarette someone left for dead,
half-buried miniscule shipwreck smoked
down to its filter. There’s no outrunning:
even the Mojave isn’t immune to avarice.
Slow down your breathing, whispers a Joshua
doing a backbend. The air I hunger for,
the wish, the wanting—settles inside me,
next to the ghosts my mother breathed
into my bones a lifetime ago.
By Anna María del Pilar Suben
Anna María del Pilar Suben has worked as a contact tracer and social worker for people diagnosed with Covid-19. She received her BA from the University of Rochester, where she studied psychology and creative writing, and was awarded the Pearl Sperling Evans Prize by the Department of English.