on Desert Flora

Kiley Hudson


Creoscete bush

Exhaling on the plant through cupped hands, one can create the smell of desert rain. The natives to this land, the Cahuilla Indians, would place its leaves under their tongues to quench their thirst. Scaling down a mountain, I remember this, a thirsty traveler. I pluck a piece from the bush and try not to chew. No water, no trail. But the staggered vegetation and cuts in the rock guide me down. In snaking patterns they pull me, winding down the eastern slope. The storms have long passed, but evidence of their former presence remains in this desert landscape. Sand sits pristine atop a rock in moon crater-like grooves, markers of liquid drops that once dotted its surface. I touch the dirt to feel the crusted curves, but the shape shifts and turns to desert dust. There are blossoms, too. Wildflowers in bloom. Pops of yellow emerge from the sides of desolate highways.


Beavertail Cactus

Beavertail cacti sprout magenta buds. Coming down 74, I pull over, leaving the door ajar, consumed in haste. Cars whiz by as I climb the gravelly hill. They honk, startled at the sight of metallic white, which emerges too quickly upon their rounding the bend. I laugh in spite of myself, thinking of death and hot automobile parts on that desert slope.

Such foolhardy things to capture ephemeral beings, fragile and fleeting.