Image of shelter


Place of Miracles
(EconoLodge, Ridgecrest, Calif.)

To get here, drive past a hundred miles of sagebrush and dirt,
of scrub and dry washes, past rutted tracks to lonely houses

with metal cisterns, past the silent airport and the trailer parks,
until you reach a grid of fenced-in homes and boarded-up bars

and unused lots near a lake that is only a dotted line on the map,
empty of all but the memory of water. Hand your credit card

to the woman whose kitchen you see through the open door
behind the counter, the old woman whose face the desert air

has wizened, whose words evaporated long ago. Find your room,
with its thinly-quilted bedspread, its tiny bar of plain soap,

its modest stack of white towels. Instead of clicking through
the cable channels, listen for the sounds carried in the walls:

The man blowing his nose, the person whistling -- they too
will know. Undress and prepare. When you turn on the shower,

water will gush forth in Biblical torrents, pounding the tiles,
the plastic curtain, your shoulders -- a miraculous wealth

of fresh desert water spraying over you, roiling in the tub,
and then flooding down the drain, lost, in another instant.

February, 2001

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