A week ago, I was talking to a friend who was about to take a trip to Palm Springs. I asked, "Will you go to Joshua Tree National Park?"
Her face lit up. "That's brilliant! We have 2 days which are free, and I haven't been able to think about what I wanted to do. Is it worth the trip?"
We talked about why it was worth it. I went there just after Christmas of 2012, and the place continues to enchant me.
Of course, the desert enchanted me long before I ever saw it. I've been writing poems about the desert for decades. When I actually made it to the desert, I was happy to see that I had gotten the desert right in those poems.
Here's one of the ones that comes to mind. After I read Craig Childs' The Secret Knowledge of Water, I wrote the poem below, which was published in The Ledge. In many ways, it's a love poem. But if you read it with baptism on the brain, you'll come away with something different. If you read it as you think about the desert fathers and mothers, maybe you'll get something yet again. Or could it be John the Baptist talking to God/Jesus? Or a more modern believer, talking to God?
Floods and Desert Canyons
My friends assume I’m dry
and barren. They do not know of my secret
spots, a cup of water here, a pool
collected there. An occasional visit
from you keeps me hydrated.
I boil away with my own dreams and ideas.
I blaze with words, my surfaces
too hot to touch. My pitiless gaze
burns as I survey my culture,
dream of new life forms.
You surge through my carefully constructed canyons.
In a matter of minutes, you change the landscape,
sweep away the detritus.
You carve me into intricate
forms, unconsidered before I met your force.