by on July 6, 2024 :: 0 comments

photo "A Gift from Above" by Tyler Malone

The blonde cacti are mountain lions chasing California dead. The long desert highway of Arizona has crows and vultures flying low at the roadsides searching for carrion. Place names have the words of death in them like Dead River, Dead Rodent, Dead Porch, Dead Horse. The grass is sharp and sun-scorched. This is the place where outlaws took their last breaths before getting shot to death and pioneer families got lost, starved to death in the desert and were left for scavengers.

The sun is a sand-scorched moron sending lasers to Pluto that got lost in flight. We bridge cathedrals and wonder if they’ll ever arrive. The moon’s palate awakens at dawn with the sand, snakes, lizard kings, peccaries racing across the barren land, looking for where the sun’s nape allows for peace of mind, at a rest stop before the Pacific.

When I reach the Mojave Desert, I pull off the main highway and ride down a zigzagging backroad that skirts past looming, tall cacti and scrub brush. At the side of the road is an old, abandoned caboose, half of which has been turned into an empty trailer home. An oil car and wooden box cars with strips of white paint peeling off are attached. Surrounding it are coyotes, snakes, mountains and the desert wind. Not a car passes.

I walk inside the trailer, and it seems to have been empty for months. There are no sheets on the small bed in the corner and the toilet doesn’t work. Only one light functions, which when I turn on, I find an unopened single barrel bottle of Maker’s Mark. The bourbon smells crusty but pure, the smell of the winter, maple syrup and the ride through a Minnesota snowstorm. I take a sip and its burning harshness strikes my throat before warmth fills the swaying empty gourds of stomach.

I go outside, sit with legs folded on the hardened crusty, dust-colored ground with the Maker’s bottle at my side. It must be a few hours past noon, as the sun has slunk from its pocket directly above the brow. I look around, take in the view of cacti nearby, the scrub brush blowing in the faint breeze, the small lizards scurrying by.

The longer you sit in the desert the more you become it. And the less bourbon that fills the bottle and the more that falls down the throat, no longer offending the tongue, lips or throat, and you come to know it like a brother. The brother crawls through the desert and you just watch it, seeing an alternate reality version of yourself, with a grin, as you sit self-satisfied with the whiskey at your side and there’s nothing that can harm you. The world is your fucking oyster staring at the sun and getting blinded.

And wondering if the sky were a beak, how would it go about ripping you apart, so that all that remains is your skeleton and even that is tattered by the bird’s sky beak and what you have left is a thought that remembers who you were before being ripped apart, and if you could just dust- pan-and-brush the remains into a quiet place, maybe a confessional of a Gothic cathedral, where you could rebuild yourself before the horse stampede nightmare runs at you like an ogre gone mad. What if you can’t remember who you were before the beak ripped you apart and you sprint out into the desert’s desiccated arms. Do you, after being scarred by cacti quills and the desperate dry throat thirst, become dinner of the coyotes and mountain lions? Or do you find a sharp knife from the trailer, place it between sizeable rocks and race into it at high speed. Or better yet, wouldn’t it be interesting to put a nice slice into your neck, and let it blood-rain down upon the desert in firestorm?

editors note:

Sometimes, it feels like you can’t get a handle on anything. Sometimes, though, you have everything in your hands. What do you do with it all? ~ Tyler Malone

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