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Contents Page: July 1, 2011, vol 7 no 2

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Melissa Spurr

 

Memories of the Sun

pounding hammers …
scraps of insulation
line the cactus wren's nest

The housing boom has advanced inland from the coast, bringing the rumble and bleat of bulldozers to our bucolic desert community. In almost every vacant lot, houses are built with jackrabbit quickness and sold before their dun-colored stucco coats dry. In a few years, scores of these new homes will stand as empty and forlorn as the abandoned gold mines that pock the Mojave—windows cracked, yards strewn with cast-off furniture, kitchens reeking with the putrid-sweet stench of sour milk and despair. But for now, recessed lights reflect like stars on polished granite countertops, real estate signs blossom alongside wildflowers.

No money down!
beer bottle shards
glimmer in the dust

To make way for new homes, contractors clear a collective forest of Joshua trees, the rangy, kink-limbed yuccas that have flourished here since the ice age. Most of the displaced Joshua trees are unceremoniously dumped in the landfill; the few that are transplanted struggle to survive. "These trees remember where the sun comes up," a tree mover says, "You have to be sure and plant them in the ground just the same way they grew, or they get confused and die."

"And it's not just the trees that get mixed up," he goes on, "One time, I hauled a Joshua tree eighty-five miles out to Barstow, and would you believe a bird followed me the whole time? Saw it in my rearview, flying right along behind me, and when I got to Barstow, that bird set down and panted like a dog, its little chest puffing in and out. Couldn't figure why it'd followed me 'til it flew over to a nest that was still in the tree. It followed its nest. All that way."

empty tortoise shell
wind moans through the mouth
of a mine shaft

 

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