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Desert Mornings: Poems from the Coachella Valley by Lucy Wilson


Desert Mornings: Poems from the Coachella Valley

Lucy Wilson

Transcendent Zero Press (2018)

Reviewed by Casey Dorman


Lucy Wilson’s new collection,Desert Mornings: Poems from the Coachella Valley is about the desert, about the sun—rising, setting and warming—and about the natural world and the point of view of a human experiencing it. The lines from the opening poem prepare us for the keen observations and the sense of wonder that pervade the book.

Pre-dawn shadow world gives way

to eastern glow and birds in flight;

towering pine trees and regal palms shimmer 

shimmer in reflected light.


On the surface of the swimming pool

local mountains and distant skies

repeat this morning ritual 

mirrored in my eyes.


The hopefulness of nature and the repetition of each day are reflected in the renewal of spirit that they engender. The poem, “Morning Prayer” captures this beautifully. “Deep breath / clean slate / new leaf / fresh start.” But not all things in the desert are simple and benign. In “Animals or Angels?” the hawk communes with a statue of Buddha, then flies off “to catch finches for breakfast / leaving a trail of bird bones and feathers.”  In “Things I Have Learned Since Moving to the Desert,” we learn that winters are cold and wet and that sandstorms, called “Haboobs” can cover the patio furniture with silt, and “Some desert insects are so big they qualify as small monsters.” The poem “Nocturne” is about the terror of nighttime, “Coyotes / red eyes aglow / drool drifting from bared teeth:” The poet tells us “I am grateful for the seven-foot wall between us.” 

Wilson is attuned to the effects of light on the colors of the desert and weaves her observations into her poems: In “Meditations on a Theme: Salute to the Sun” she says, “Below my terrace / east-facing flowers / fill with light / turning yellow to gold / and pink to deepest coral.”

Desert Mornings is a collection of poetic observations of nature from a human point of view. It s a mixture of the beautiful and the frightening, as nature presents itself to us, with the beautiful winning out in the end, as in the poet’s final lesson in “Things I Have Learned Since Moving to the Desert,” that “night arrives early. / The desert night sky is heavy with stars like diamonds / on an old woman’s hands.” 

The poems are about nature and its life, but they are also about the failure and dangers of humans, and several of them have the flavor of social commentary.  They are a critique of “Greed at the heart of ‘progress’ / those who brush off others’ pain like dandruff” and of  ”hypocrites and haters” as she describes them in the poem, “Enemies of Empathy.” In “Another Way” she wonders, “If men carried their offspring beneath their hearts /for three quarters of a year / would there be so many pointless wars, / would we let our children live in fear?” In “Living with the Past” she declares that “Using religion, nationhood, / racial and ethnic differences / to justify murder and mayhem / is the fast train to Perdition.” 

This is a collection that reflects upon nature and upon human nature, finally, as in the book’s final poem, “Inner Light,” recognizing their similarity. As it affirms the beauty of the desert and the sun, it affirms, in an echo of the Beatles (not the only one in the book), called “All we Need” that “Love is the answer that everyone seeks.” The dark, sometimes ugly underside of nature and of humanity is confronted and, with regard to the latter, called out with a plea for something better. It is a hopeful book and a beautiful book. The reader will approach nature with a more observant eye after seeing the richness the author gleans from her surroundings. It’s well worth reading.  

A note about the style of the presentation: The cover and design are elegant and interspersed between the poems are snippets of poetic or literary works that emphasize the points addressed by the author’s own poems. These range from Shakespeare, to Rumi to Nietzsche to Mary Shelley. All in all, Desert Mornings: Poems from the Coachella Valley is a book with the power to inspire.



Reader Comments (1)

This magnificent collection of poems, so aptly and astutely described by the reviewer, brings one into a the sounds, smells, and overall feel of a new desert day. Bravo!

January 25, 2019 | Unregistered CommenterChristopher Chapple

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