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Desert Heart

Desert Heart

The desert is still in me: the shadowed cabin, the sandy ground etched with silhouettes of Joshua trees and blossoming oleanders. I feel as if I am at the end of a road, at a place where no one has been for a long time. The wind blows and the afternoon is beaten down by the sun into a kind of slumber. The voice of a demanding god is everywhere: in barren hills melting into the sky, in the murmuring shade, in illuminated ocotillo bushes, in the sharp spines of the yucca and the mythical shapes of the Joshua trees.

I wait for signs: for the evening to come with its coolness, for  movement to fill the empty spaces, for visions, for change that never seems to come. The desert is fiercely unchanging, while people build cities to bury the wild and awesome silence of the land.

I surprise myself. I come from an island, from moisture and greenness, from coasts, hurricanes and fog, from ancient trees and yearlong blossoming. Yet I love the simplicity and authority of this landscape. Spirit comes to meet me here in the silence and proud isolation, in the harshness of the sun. The non-human prevails. Here I am the interloper. Here I have to bow to everything that is not me. Yet, there is a subtle tenderness I feel for the muted color and simplicity, the welcoming patios, the rediscovered taste of water, the playful wind, the resplendent moonlit night. I am humbled by beauty. Bright, defined shadows and incandescent hills dotted with rocks and boulders. Dusty roads, fluttering grasses.

The sun erases my boundaries. I am reduced to emptiness, the emptiness of the dry twig and silent stone, the emptiness of hours slipping quietly into eternity. My soul is moved by this contemplative earth. Here, where only the lizard moves, not knowing that this sun can kill us who need moisture to live; here, I open my heart wide to the winds of spirit, and I cry.

Carmen de Monteflores is a native Puerto Rican writer living in the U. S. She is the author of the well-received novel, Cantando Bajito/ Singing Softly. She wrote and produced the play, Blood Lines, presented twice in San Francisco, and has written articles, poetry and essays. Check out her new book “Possessions” at

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  • Judy N says:

    Hi Carmen,
    Thank you for the wonderful description of the desert…I love your writing. I feel that I have visited without leaving my desk. I am able to see you there. Thank you.

  • rachel wahba says:

    the way you love nature— the wind!
    the way you write it—the desert weaves its way into me.
    maybe i will learn through you making it “safe” to go to those places you so naturally ease into…

  • Mimosa says:

    At last, someone comes up with the “right” aswner!