"Desert Sounds" By Howard Altmann.

"Desert Sounds"

"Desert Sounds"

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

"Desert Sounds"


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.

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