On The Desert

The desert works, it operates or functions in a certain way, except – no the vagueness of this “certain” way is perfectly appropriate for its problematic subject-verb claim. Which makes me wonder if the desert works like a language – but no: this essay is about the desert. And it doesn’t “work.” At best I’ll cobble together an assemblage of possible verbs that show something about it, or how I think about it, or what it makes me think.

Just out of reach of my apprehension of it is what I simply deduce to be what is going on: networks of living organisms comprising its texture, the what must’ve been about how these bluffs look like this and those cliffs look like that. Like the dark lofty Rockies to the east with their shining white caps I can only wonder, even as I am privileged to move through it on roads, at sunset or sunrise.

Bonnie Desert

The roads must’ve altered things profoundly, in all these ways outside of my apprehension. The red rocks aren’t rusty, they’re not exactly blood-colored, they look like I want something to have done something to them in order to live, but I suspect that they’re the closest things to agents on the landscape, the most powerful ones.

It isn’t the idea of the desert’s alien indifference, but the apprehension of it that is significant: that were I to walk a lonely wash and feel its desert soil walls with my hands I might’ve been the only human ever to have done so, or seen this blade of grass, or that a thousand miles away the anxieties of real life still make their presence known to me, in the form of some sort of invisible pressure, while remaining unregistrable to the rocks. There is an inarticulable value differential here, two separate all-intents-and-purposes, and they coexist separately, like the fact that I both do and do not want to run away and disappear into the desert because maybe that is what it is telling me: that there is no running away.

The flowers are delicate, its stalk and leaves and the lizards are tough, the rocks hide things, dance around moments of disclosure and suggestion, rest in a difficult-to-apprehend space that is equidistant and remote from both static and fluid. It’s not that it can’t register hyperbole (that would only return us to it), but that I can’t seem to know what it is that I’m looking at.

But it is just that fuzzy under-texture that I touch, that I feel, or that touches me, that I move through.

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