By Peter Brown Hoffmeister
Sunrise, the first day in Joshua Tree, a Purple-Bibbed Hummingbird
flits and dips into the late March blooms off my back patio, and a male House Finch,
head red as a carpet in Hollywood, chatters with his mate about
mosquito meals and black-fly-bacon for breakfast.
I turn and watch a jackrabbit facing west, somnolent on his haunches,
the dark tips of his ears catching the first warm rays angling across
the desert, when a raven plunges to him, dives to within a foot of his head,
catches the rabbit staring off, and the rabbit jumps, or—more accurately—
jigs, startles, his four jackrabbit feet spraddling in the air, straight
out to the sides, before he reconnects with the earth and bounds
into the Cliffrose and Saltbush.
At Macy’s, this week, in Los Angeles, fur coats are 30 % off.
First night in Joshua Tree, the stars shift counter-clockwise around Polaris—
Capella, Cassiopeia, and Ursa Major—but also
stars and clusters I haven’t yet learned, 3/4 hydrogen, 1/4 helium
thrown from God’s bag, 6000 visible above the Lost Horse Cabin on
any given night. But only 119 miles away
in Los Angeles, the burning wattage of the city pollutes a ground-up whitewash,
as if the people who worship concrete
have painted the sky as nothing.
I’ve heard aspiring actors, aspiring directors, and aspiring producers talk about what
they’ve gained by moving to Los Angeles.
Cap Rock, walking barefoot back to my car, Cholla spines in the sand and I shuffle
my feet to scuff the spines so they won’t stick.
A coyote yips in front of me, and I try to translate
his yawping whoops,
March Madness, the basketball experts say, would you take Kentucky or the field?
And I say this is the field, right?
Open desert at 4000 feet through the Lost Horse Valley? The coyote
in front of me still, luring me further into the desert, to a pile
of stones I don’t recognize. I follow his yowls for a mile, but
he stays in front of me until
when coming around a corner to a jamble of orange monzogranite, he’s
in front of me, sitting like a domesticated dog, and I say,
“What was your trick, Trickster?”
But he says, “With them, I didn’t have to. Not at all. People,
they just tricked themselves.”
Finally, An Ode to the Red Carpet Itself:
How did you get this job, not a green or blue carpet. Purple
is a royal color and could be the carpet of choice for
stars to stumble across, bubbly and buzzing from limo shots, or
almost stars—the nearly famous—hoping for interviews, cameras, microphones,
anything to reflect their own silicon-enhanced images.
Our president is orange but he was once on that reality show where he always said, “You’re fired!” so emphatically that he must be able to
be a boss
win a game
lead a nation
which is synonymous with
starring in a movie?
If you want to catch a raccoon near a desert spring, drive three-inch nails, angled down,
into a two-pound coffee can, then place something shiny in the bottom:
a silver dollar
a small mirror.
The raccoon, masked and striped as if he’s dressed for a special occasion
will grasp the sparkling object in his small dark hand and he won’t let go, not even after
he discovers that he can’t remove his fist from the trap. Never will this raccoon relinquish the shiny piece of something that he is holding even if he realizes that he
has been caught out in the open, looking like a fool.
Peter Brown Hoffmeister is a poet and fiction writer, and a former Writer-In-Residence of Joshua Tree National Park. His most recent novels include This Is the Part Where You Laugh (Knopf, Random House) and Graphic the Valley (Tyrus Books, Simon & Schuster). His next novel, Too Shattered for Mending, will be released by Knopf in September 2017.
Photo credit: Steve Collis via a Creative Commons license.