Lorine Parks

the man who wrote in his hat
   I kept saying     it’s a miracle    Ed Rosenthal

because he is a poet
he always carries a pen for jotting down phrases
but now he is lost in a desert of grotesqueries
Joshua trees contorted like tongues tasting salt
he forgot to top off his water bottle
that was six days ago     when he left the resort
he thinks   thirst is rocks   sand and rocks
which he wants to write down but he hasn’t a pad
he will do without paper and still write his poem
he drags a stick in the hard-crust dirt to draw letters
then sketches on orange rocks with a black stone    then
erases his illegible lines with the back of his trembling hand

he wanders farther   he tries to drink his urine
but the output of his body disgusts him
he won’t dig a cool shallow pit in the sand
because it looks like a grave
he tries to remember the Sh’ma 
but only a few syllables of Hebrew
remain in his cupboard of prayer

he hallucinates he believes he has won the Nobel for Poetry
and the Peace Prize for Achieving Understanding at Sinai
till at last   from the low reptilian stem of his brain
an instinct claws its way over his city mind
the desert insists on economy   the kestrel and buzzard
do not flutter in their search   they glide
there is wisdom in staying still and letting it come to him

he stops moving in circles and collapses
flat as parchment    parched as his hat
he takes off his headgear to write on it
he still has his pen    his stylus for poetic inscribing
but instead of a new Xanadu    distilled from delirium
he scribbles his ethical will and testament in his floppy hat
naming his pallbearers   giving advice   leaving love and
now he recalls his Hebrew   shalom to daughter and wife
his witnesses a long-tailed pocket mouse chewing a seed
and a basking gecko    his notary a night moth
his signature validated by a black blob of a spider
sprawled like sealing wax on the hat’s brim

he waits    near expiring   the sun like a burning bush
for whichever piece of paper comes first
a coroner’s certificate   or a tabloid with rescue headlines
or a banner of light made by night stars over the desert
saying mazel tov   good fortune
a great miracle has happened here


Lorine Parks knows the high desert from having lived on an Indian Reservation in Nevada for a year.  In 2008 she took a plein air Tebot Bach Foundation poetry workshop in Joshua Tree National Forest and stayed at the legendary Twenty-nine Palms Hotel.  From that it was easy enough to imagine the trials of the poet-hiker who was lost in the Joshua Tree wilderness.  One must always respect Mother Nature, especially so in the strict economy of the desert.