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Desert Son


Burden Line Drawing_edited.jpg

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Yucca springs up like stagnant swords
along the unshadowed dirt path, 

where this son of the desert retrieves and absorbs
the sun and its kin like tokens of worship:

the black-tipped ear of the jackrabbit,
the bee-addled yellow barrel-cactus bloom,

the goldfinch-flecked eyes of the stray cat
with more than feathers on her tongue,

the pocket-knifed throat of the prickly pear, 
oozing juice bright as blood exposed to oxygen,

the pigeon perched on the telephone wires,
claws wrapped around the voices passing through. 

This is reverence. An ancient acknowledgment.
Head bowed and blooming under the golden sun,

he notices, built in the cradle of cactus arms:
a nest, a home, among needles and thorns. 


Picture professional - Chelsey Burden_ed

CHELSEY BURDEN is from Kingman, Arizona. She is the author of the poetry chapbook “Thorax Carnival” (dancing girl press, 2017). She earned her MFA in Creative Writing at Northern Arizona University, where she also received her Bachelor’s degree in Women’s and Gender Studies/Sociology. She has served as a poetry editor for Thin Air Literary Magazine. Her work has been published in Gazing Grain Press, The Ploughshares Blog, GO Magazine, 3Elements Review, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, Arizona’s Best Emerging Poets, Curios, Contemporary Ghazals, Pattern Recognition, Literary Mama, Flash Fiction Magazine, Entropy Magazine, White Stag, The Telepoem Booth, and The Narrow Chimney Anthology.


I chose to share a poem inspired by my hometown of Kingman, Arizona. Kingman is a small Mojave Desert town that many people experience as a gas station stop on the way to their real destination. A place meant for passing through. Yet, it’s also a place that many desert plants, animals, and people make their homes. The deeper you go into the desert, and the stiller you become, the more you can witness the life that is hiding there. This poem is about my dad’s daily desert walks into the hundreds of miles of wilderness at the edge of town, just outside my childhood home. 

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