Ward Mountain, Goshute Ancestral Land

In the weeks before I leave, I drive up the canyon road before sunset
to park at the south trailhead. I am here to memorize.
Rises and dips, cracks in earth where water

collects and dries, spots of shade
made through juniper branches, distant hills
folded like bolts of blue, green and purple cloth.

In a story I read, one of three friends fakes her death
in calm waters to disappear from failed confidences.
Every departure a death with mourners and celebrants.

As a child I walked another desert trepidatious of space and rattlesnakes.
I hoped and feared a body would appear in the next gully or on the far side
of an unfinished wall. My mother fed her hungry spirit with mysteries,

paperbacks and TV. My father studied horror, brought me along
to cool downtown cinemas on summer days when sweat
pooled on every skin and people we passed on iron stoops

drank deeply from forties. I learned early that life can be stolen
by apathy and avarice. On the mountain, eyes shut to feel
contours beneath my feet, I backtrack to repeat what I have seen,

commit it to my fallible mind. My felt hat catches wind
off the piñon
like breath. A spin of the wrist lets it go and I chase
after. A good trail
ends where it begins.

Alexa Mergen

Listen to Alexa reading ‘Loop’ (1:55)


Alexa Mergen lives on a boat in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta of California. Her poems have been published in Claw & Blossom, Turtle Island Quarterly, Virginia Quarterly Review and other journals.

© text and audio 2020