Luanne Castle lives in Arizona, next to a wash that wildlife use as a thoroughfare. She has published two full-length poetry collections, Rooted and Winged (Finishing Line 2022), a Book Excellence Award Winner, and Doll God (Kelsay 2015), which won the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award for Poetry. Her chapbooks are Our Wolves (Alien Buddha 2023) and Kin Types (Finishing Line 2017), a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award. Luanne’s Pushcart and Best of the Net-nominated poetry and prose have appeared in Copper Nickel, American Journal of Poetry, Pleiades, River Teeth, TAB, Verse Daily, Saranac Review, and other journals.
A Wash is Not a Riverbed
From overhead see a route
on an intuitive map. Scriven in earth, etched with blood and spoor.
The route is wash.
The wash is map.
A kingsnake slides its stripes
across the arroyo
in the way that a T is crossed to finish the planet. It tastes the chemical scent of its prey.
The stubbling of grasses amid stones optimistic in the hollow. We wish for custom monsoons
a steady large-drop rain and little wind.
Who lives in the ranch house along the wash with the sleeping javelina out front?
Will they bang a hammer on steel pots?
Down the wash the large dog growled and backed off from the herd bearing down
on her, clacking their teeth.
Roman cries fill the arena.
This wash travels quite a distance but is always just outside my door.
Nightfall in brown arrives.
Not the blue-black of a cricket’s wing, but brown as if the earth rose up
and claimed the air.
Static in the sky chokes out
the moon and stars.
Through the brindled bushes and trees, the wind huffs and beats
down each leaf which clings with its death grip, suffocated by sand.
When the gusts move on, creosote climbs out of its early graves.
Let it rain for ten minutes and the wet wash rushes with petticoats splashing.
Sweetness is base sentimentality here. Rabbits and quail flee
the locomotive hauling contaminated water and trash.
The aftermath matters.
Hold still for the empty container of creek, the metonym, mold. A fossil functions better than insect
providing for its votaries
a fruitful path.