Elisha Holt


There is no immediacy.

The blood courses
in the cartilage of your ear.

Listen to the breath
of the prickly pear
the scent of its red
fruit. Listen
with the eyes of your tongue.

Snake scales undulate against sand.
Primrose, essence of serpentine.


Place a pebble within the mark of each fang.
Suck the heat in through your pores.
Stare directly into the sun.

Become a Mountain

of lizard bones
grinding itself into sand
the sockets of your
eyes blacken with ants
a dry wash
an expanse of vultures hopping
a carrion dance
your skull crawls to feathers
your hair rootless winds
into strands of a recluse’s web
braids into the nests of cliff swallows
a framework for mud and bird
saliva bones
each cell of your skin crumbling sprouts
tufts of crucifixion thorn
(a forest of crucifixion thorn)
your meat in the eye-glint of 10,000 coyotes
your sap flows into the blood of mesquite
your nectar moonflowers in the bellies of wasps
the saguaro is peeling back from its bones
the desert is
each crystal nerve of your spine
aware of its place
buffeting in the dust storm

Elisha Holt is a second year poet in Cal State University, San Bernardino’s MFA in Creative Writing program. He is a former farm hand, apiarist, forklift driver, dishwasher, and juvenile delinquent. His work has appeared in Apercus Quarterly, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, Badlands, as well as other places. This is his moment.

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.