My daughter has lived in the desert this year. It's the first time she's lived somewhere I haven't been, and I squint at the rare photo she sends in an effort to understand what she experiences, what she sees. I don't know her friends, I don't know her life.
Each day I look at the temperature where she is and groan at how hot it is. (Yesterday it was 109 degrees.) "It's a dry heat," yes, but it's still unbelievable. She says you can't comfortably go outside during the day. I read an article about how homeless people die every year of heat in her city; air conditioning is nearly a necessity.
This past week I have thought a lot about deserts. We had several days of a dust cloud from the Sahara hanging over our normally idyllic blue skies. Here's an article about it. Experts named the cloud "Godzilla." It's a regular phenomenon to have desert dust in the atmosphere, but this was the thickest in fifty years, and this was the first year I was aware that they actually gave it a name. I read that we could expect extra beautiful sunrises and sunsets, but that turned out to be false; we couldn't see anything in the sky except grey, or feel anything but oppressive, heavy, heat. The Ministry of Health took a moment from their Coronavirus updates to tell us to be careful of this dust; don't exercise, stay indoors, wear your mask (at least you have a mask - see, it's multipurpose!). Now Godzilla has moved on, but reportedly we will get some more effects from it tomorrow.
I've also been reading poems about deserts, in a book called A Nostalgist's Map of America, by Agha Shahid Ali, a poet from Kashmir who wrote in English and became a U.S. citizen. He merges all the deserts of his life in his poems. Although I've been trying to learn more about him and read more of his work, I find my favorite poem so far is still the first one of his I read, "Snow on the Desert."
I had hoped to travel this year to visit my daughter and to see her home, but like so many things we'd planned, it didn't happen. I have to imagine what it's like, using my various source materials, and unfortunately those materials include articles about how COVID-19 is spreading there and how there, as everywhere in the US now, people are marching against their local examples of violence.
This summer I'm locked down, but it also feels a bit like wandering in a desert, a desert where I don't see a clear path and I don't get all the references in the poetry (Orficace?) and it's hot and hard to breathe.
Here's today's roundup. And over at Kat's blog, she's sharing some Summer Poem Swaps, including some I sent her. You can read them here.
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