"Desert Sounds"

A weekly poem, read by the author.
July 10 2012 6:30 AM

"Desert Sounds"


120621_POEM_BURNSTINE

Photograph by Susan Burnstine.

Click the arrow on the audio player to hear Howard Altmann read this poem. You can also download the recording or subscribe to Slate's Poetry Podcast on iTunes.



The iguana is still under the rock.
Blossoms unfurl scents over coiled snakes.
Saguaros arm their shadows
With the long legs of daylight.
And whose limbs got buried where
The grand inquisitor unearths deeply.

So it goes in the Sonoran desert.
Sky shows its teeth with cacti.
The mouth of civilization spits out sand.
Who are we, who are we?

The heart of the blue-throated hummingbird beats
Up to twelve hundred times a minute.

The palm-sized bird can play its hand backward too.
With good reason metaphors stay open past midnight.
When desert sounds coax silence into submission.
When darkness branches off.
O the miss in mystery; the hiss in history.
The tap in a child’s tapping: wake up, wake up.

For Slate's poetry submission guidelines, click here. Click here to visit Robert Pinsky's Favorite Poem Project site.

Howard Altmann's second book of poems, In This House, was published in 2010. He lives in New York City.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 22 2014 8:07 AM Why Haven’t the Philadelphia Eagles Ever Won a Super Bowl?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.