Elisha Holt

The Clear Light

The vibration of molecules
in the empty space
of a bucket
in a cupboard below the kitchen sink.
Air spills over the brim
as drops of water leak from a loose pipe.
Each drop of water, a red thought,
a needle in the arm
of a man dying in a white room.
In between each drop, the air is unstirred.
In between each thought, the man rests in stillness.


For Virginia Holt Martin and Walt Pratt

In ’97
a flash flood
washed out a section of the highway
in Red Rock Canyon,
collapsed the pavement
into a flow of grey slush.

I thought of this
as I waited in the doctor’s office.
Stared at the vermillion carpet
as she told me the cancer
had spread to my bones.

I thought of how the wind
scoured a hole straight through
the red center of a boulder.
The photo I took of my son
smiling back at me through that rock window
the time we went hiking
along those oxidized sandstone cliffs.

I thought of my wife,
the slight dimple in her left cheek,
her hair that shined like obsidian
and flowed down the full length of her back.

I couldn’t bring myself to tell them,
said I feel like going to the beach.
I stood knee deep in the water with my boy,
let a handful of sand slip through my fingers
to be pulled into the receding tide.
I told him, flesh is like this.


You wake in the night remembering
that your father is dead,
as if the news was only just told
to you. And in the absence of light you vision
a flat land, Joshua trees
like contorted shadows,
tumbleweed giving texture to the dark.
You remember the time when you met in the hall
and his surprise when he stood
within a foot of you. You knew then
that he could no longer see.
And now you
are going blind,
each year growing dimmer, the past
growing brighter in your mind
until waking in the night to visions
of what’s passed
is all that sight has left to you.

Elisha Holt is a poet of the desert’s edge. He was born in San Bernardino and raised in the rural Palo Verde Valley, on the Colorado River, in the shadow of the Big Maria Mountains. He currently resides in the cresting winds of Hesperia, California. His work is forthcoming in Badlands and The Pacific Review.