—Kelso Sand Dunes, East Mojave Preserve
My ten-year-old daughter is feeling brave, so
we go rock hunting today, explore far beyond
the last dirt road, just she and I, no dad.
We see the sand dunes from miles away,
some hallucinogenic scene from the Sahara,
camel humps rising from the flat desert floor.
My daughter wants to climb them, but
there’s no sure way to guess how far away
they are, no sure measure to tell how tall,
I tell her it’s not safe to hike mountains so
unstable, hills that shift in light winds,
our boots would fill with sand and we’d
sink like thirsty prospectors come to find
buried treasure, lured by promises of silver
and gold, the rattlesnake’s hypnotic charms.
“Mirage” was previously published in “No Place for a Puritan: the Literature of California’s Deserts (Heyday Books, 2009.)
Ruth Nolan is poet and writer living in Palm Desert, where she teaches at College of the Desert. She blogs about the desert for KCET Artbound LA and Heyday Books Her poetry has appeared recently in Rattling Wall Issue 4.