West of Sanderson

As the sun sets over the desert
the warm evening breeze is laden with possibility.
The rocky soil is damp and the mosses have greened
in the crevices where water collects.
The strong, tangy aroma of creosote permeates the air
as a mockingbird begins his endless chorus into the night.

 I wonder what it is that I will find
as I walk these hills tonight - scorpions and geckos for sure,
or perhaps a glimpse of a ringtail slinking across a limestone ledge.
The rustling of the breeze through a nearby sotol
brings me back from my reverie. It is now nearly dark
and time to begin my nightly journeys.

 I look across the fence at these barren hills
so full of life awakened time and again by the summer rains
and I long for a time when there were no fences.
I turn on my light as a pick my way through the acacia, lechugilla,
and cactus. A small banded gecko, tail raised and waving,
deliberately moves away to the security of a limestone slab.

 To my right, I see a scorpion, black and shiny
as it clings to a vertical wall of rock. It and the gecko are
good signs, I think, of things to come.
A catclaw catches my leg as I walk, and I pause to extricate myself.
As I climb the hill, I journey back to other nights years past -
this hill, this desert, holds many memories.

 I remember the mule deer I spooked,
the same blacktail rattlesnake on two consecutive nights,
and three kingsnakes in gray, orange, and black.
I remember woodrats and owls, smells, sounds, and sights
of this desert's vibrant web of life, and I wonder -
what memories will this hill hold for this night?

 By Troy Hibbitts, February 1997