We have the body of a woman, an arch over the ground, but there
is no danger. Her hair falls, spine bowed, but no one is with her.
The desert, yes, with its cacti, bursage, sidewinders. She is not in
danger. If we notice, there are the tracks of animals moving east
toward the sunrise. And the light is about to touch a woman's body
without possession. Here, there are no girl's bones in the earth,
marked with violence. A cholla blooms, just two feet away. It
There is a man, like her father, who wakes to a note saying I have
gone, for a day, to the desert. Now he knows she is in danger. He
will try to anticipate what happens to a young woman, how it will
happen, how he will deal with the terrible. In him, he feels he
knows this somehow. He knows because there are men he knows
who are capable. This place she has gone to, where? But it doesn't
matter. There is, first of all, the heat which scorches, snakes
with their coils and open mouths, men who go there with the very
thing in mind. The very thing.
It is the desert on its own. Miles. Beyond what anyone can see.
Not peaceful nor vengeful. It does not bow down; it is not danger.
I cannot speak of it without easing or troubling myself. It is not
panorama nor theatre. I do not know. It is conception—the gifts or
burdens I bear, whether arch, a prayer, or danger. They can happen,
yes, we conceive them. This very woman I know. The man does sit
tortured. The desert, created, merely embodies its place.
And watch us lay our visions, O god, upon it.
Valerie Martinez, "It Is Not" from Absence, Luminescent. Copyright © 1999 by Valerie Martinez. Reprinted by permission of Four Way Books.
Source: Absence, Luminescent (Four Way Books, 1999)