Desert Varnish

Tonight finds father and daughter on a windswept mesa
with nowhere to hide, scrub brush growing to knee height
right in the path of an oncoming storm.
She looks to the mountains in the east
long purged of their pink watermelon glow
her father hunts for petroglyphs and lighting
breaks the sky in two
then three
then four
and the two hold their breath and count until the thunder comes.

He swore he could see something in the carvings.
Something that would tell him what the people who left them behind
(the petroglyphs that is)
what they were thinking.
He says he wants to know if they were trying to leave a mark
a memory, something behind for the future to hold.
But what he really wants to know
is who will remember him once he dies.

Summer nights haven’t brought the rain
and dry lightning cracks again, rolling thunder down
from the north, no stars all the way out here.
For stars, for peace, for rain
you have to cross the mountains, go east
and until then you have to coat your throat with dust
feel the thunder shake your bones
pretend you aren’t waiting on a cleansing rain.

Sometimes the wind out on the mesas
blows so loudly you can hear
the songs people left behind.
When you sit on long dormant volcanoes
turn your face to where the sun will inevitably rise tomorrow
spread out your arms as wide as they can go
let the lighting edge closer to you, breathe the storm into your bones
and you will know –more than ever –
what they were thinking when they carved the petroglyphs.

Bella Pori


Bella Pori is a law student and poet in Brooklyn, New York. Her poetry can be found in HCE Review, Alternating Current, and FEELINGS, among others.

Her political writing can be found on

© 2018