San Gorgonio Pass
Camouflagic, friable, earthy but non-Earthly; not null
of flora, if odd, if dreamlike, rugged and squat as pioneers:
yucca and creosote, brittlebush, blackbrush, juniper—
what survives on so little in this brutal terrain, and will.
From beyond the mountains, through the Pass,
the wind advances, pouring into the basin of Coachella,
as through a mortar lip, the smog of L.A.,
murking the air, obscuring the San Andreas
Fault, raised and bumpy like a spine on the valley floor.
We have to ask: Is that it? Unimpressive if a hill.
Shouldn’t faults be deep down, unreachable?
Here, on Keys View, a sign explains the world’s
tearing itself apart, plates colliding, sideswiping each
other so, that if we returned here three million years’
hence, we’d be 100 miles from where we’re
standing now. Difficult to fathom time’s reach,
the inconstancy of earth—which to us seems fixed—
except in temblors. Boom! we hear suddenly, and feel
(only a blast from the county’s Marine base pealing
through the air), but we do wonder whether it’s
the sound of the ground beginning to rock.
If so, better to be in the desert, I think, nothing above
us, except the Joshua trees, at their cool remove,
not needing much, stock-still as the shocked
seers of a miracle—as I recall the words of a TV seismologist:
It’s not quakes that kill us; it’s our shit that kills us.