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The Atacama – A Desert

by Charlotte Jones

Deep in the rain shadow,

vast and forbidding,

this terrain has banished

the fountains of life

for centuries,

leaving desolate landscapes

not even a mosquito can enjoy.


Yet life rumbles

beneath the surface,

evidenced by Láscar's steam.

The land folds and undulates

like lovers locked

in the slow-motion act of creation

driven by the hot

magma of desire.


To walk in the footsteps

of the ancient Incas

is to absorb the sacred,

the worship of sun

and mountains.


Carried away

by violent winds,

specs of sand

reach escape velocity,

add another paver

to the Milky Way,

creating a pathway to

enlightenment.

*

The Matador

He fancies himself a cowboy, a gaucho, brave and unruly, galloping across the grassy plains, the rippling strength of the horse's raw muscles between his thighs. He cuts and corners, skillful in his ability to herd the cattle into the valley between the massive mountains. If not a cowboy, then a bush pilot, delivering the mail to remote tribes, buzzing the runway to clear it of vicuñas before he lands, taking risks flying at high altitude in stormy weather. If not a pilot, a boat captain, navigating the vast seas by starlight, taking on the great white whales. At a minimum, he's a Casanova, a man all the ladies find irresistible—and he loves the women—finds the nerve to flirt with the moms while picking up his son at the elementary school, tries to suppress his fantasies while making a dinner of black beans and rice. Once he puts his son to bed, he dons his suit of lights, his gold and magenta dress cape, twirls the red muleta and braces himself to face the snorting, the fury, the inevitable charge from his wife when she walks through the front door, home from work.

*

The River Between Us

I long to traverse

all that divides us,

so I search for the solid stones

in the raging river,

footholds on a perilous journey,

my effort to bridge the gap

of separate continents,

different cultures,

languages, ages, children,

two radically different lives.


With fear I take one tentative step

at a time on these slippery rocks,

rocks of common interests,

bonds of shared experience,

not knowing if I will ever

reach you on the other side,

ever watchful of the dangerous currents

that might sweep me away.


If only I were a condor,

I could soar on the thermals of hope,

land softly by your side.


*

If Only I Could Love You in Spanish

Roll the "r" in your name

off the tip of my tongue

while your eyelashes graze my cheek,


Read to you Neruda's love sonnets

while camping in the high plains

of the Atacama,


Taste mango as it drips from your lips,

the night stars singing us lullabies.


I want to love you in Spanish,

but my limited language keeps me

as far away from you

as Alpha Crucis is from Gamma Crucis,

the bottom and top of the Southern Cross.


So I have to ask,

Do you think you could ever love me in English?

Wrap your arms around this smoldering volcano,

tame the hot lava of desire I feel for you?


No matter the answer,

whisper to me in any language,

I will understand.


***

Charlotte Jones writes poetry and flash fiction in Houston, TX.  Her work has appeared in over eighty literary and commercial magazines including The Bellevue Literary Review, Nerve Cowboy and Barbaric Yawp which nominated her for a Pushcart PrizeWhen not writing, she loves to golf, sing, play the piano and travel, most recently venturing to the Atacama Desert in Chile and hiking the Salkantay Trail in Peru.




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