On writing, on deserts

When writing the desert, my recipe is this: Write the heat and caliche and pigweed. The radio static and the country bar. The yipping of coyotes on a cold night. Write neon sunsets over wide streets and the smell of creosote, plucked from the stem and made into salve. Write cactus fruit spilling out their seed, and a monsoon circling the city like a dog. Make poetry from sand and lizard bones. Old bedsprings abandoned in the arroyo. A child on a ladder, measuring a dying agave in the evening light.

The writers in this issue know the desert as nuanced and extreme—both muse and deathtrap, shapeshifter and tomb, a walking meditation and a political bargaining chip. The people you will find in the desert are just as complicated. Some are already home, anchored by a long root sunk below the brush and dirt. Others come and go, trading the desert for places with fog and maple trees and snow. Still others are forced—by climate, or war, or men in air-conditioned rooms making laws—to traverse the desert in a cruel migratory roulette.