Sherod Santos

1948 / Greenville, South Carolina

Near the Desert Test Sites (Palm Desert, California)

—for Logan and Renée Jenkins
Unlike almost everything
Else just surviving here
In summer, poison flowers
Flourish in this sweltering
Heat, tangling like blown
Litter in fences around
The trailer parks and motel
Pools, and turning the islands
Pinkish-white between
Divided lanes of freeway,
Where all day long against
The burnished hubbub of U-
Haul trucks and automobiles,
Off-the-road vehicles and
Campers, the oleander shakes
Its brightly polished pocket-
Knives, as at the motorcade
Of some ambassador hurrying
Through a village of the poor.
And every day by late after-
Noon the overwatered lawns
Around the shopping mall
Still burn off brown, their
Pampered opulence upbraided
By the palms' insomniac
Vision of one ineffable apoc-
Alyptic noon. But the smell
Is somehow sweeter than
That makes you think, a dry
Lemon-sweetness, as if some-
Where nearby wild verbena
Has been forced to leaf
By a match held up to each
Bud—and the silo-skyscraper
Holiday Inn at the famous
Resort "Where the Horizon
Ends" could almost be that
Match the way the heat
Sloughs off it like after-
Burn. And yet, because
Of the way the sun in-
Tensifies everything, one
Always has the feeling there
Is much less here than meets
The eye: the halcyon blink
Of a shard of glass, a Lear-
Jet wafted into vapor out
On the tarmac's run, the way
Common quartzstone gives
Off heat which seems to come
From inside itself, and not,
In fact, from that more-
Than-imaginably-nuclear sun
Which every morning starts
Up so illusionless, and every
Evening slow-dissolves
On the blue and otherwise
Planetary hills, like a Valium
Breaking up on the tongue.
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