“Desert Cell” by Steve Myers

Steve Myers


Three days we’d driven the southwest desert up and down
but hadn’t seen one roadrunner till this afternoon,

on Corona Drive behind the Walmart, skittering
under a Chevy that was up on blocks, half-hopping,

half-fluttering onto an adobe wall, less bird
than shabby scrap of one, which we took to be a sign

we were finally onto something way more genuine
than Taos, or uptown Sedona, as spiritual as

Hollywood Boulevard or Atlantic City, shop
after shop of Kokopelli and the same brown tees.

Tonight, the roadhouse, and the famous cheeseburger—
6.95, a buck extra for your slather

of green chili, another .50 for your square
of American. When a waitress vacuum-packed in black

showed up, I asked her for something local, an IPA,
and she suggested a Marble, “the Rock Solid Beer,”

then wondered if I’d take a Red instead, if they’d
run out of the other. You couldn’t keep your eyes from

wandering: The King, radiant in black velvet and hung
as he was in his younger days; a simmering

Marilyn above the nippled, red leatherette
upholstery. Fires near Bowie, Arizona, were threatening

a three-year experiment in silent meditation
by Buddhists there, trying to bring world peace through prayer,

according to a reporter on the TV screen—
the holy homing moth-to-flame again; Their cells,

wrote Merton of the Desert Fathers, were the furnace
of Babylon in which … they found themselves with Christ,

and just then you could understand: when the waitress returned
with a burger oozing juices over a flawless bun,

a mountain of skin-on fries and a couple longnecks,
one “on the house,” you could practically hear the Sweet

Inspirations singing There’ll Be Peace in the Valley
For Me, O Lord; it was like you’d died and gone to

Santa Fe, where the brewery’s upscale tap room
looks on the Cathedral Basilica de San Francisco

to the east, north on the still snow-stippled peaks
of the Sangre de Cristo.

from Rattle #45, Fall 2014
Tribute to Poets of Faith


Steve Myers: “My father, a natural storyteller, taught me to read. He also was supervisor of the Methodist Church Sunday School in our town. Since I was a child, I’ve moved between these two worlds, literary and spiritual, exploring at various points of intersection. Went to college a religion major, emerged an English major. Headed for grad school in English, abruptly swerved and completed a Master of Divinity degree, was ordained, then earned the PhD in English. Along the way moved to Presbyterianism, then Anglicanism. Have taught literature for 25 years at a Roman Catholic university. I’d summarize my poetic preoccupations as ‘language, landscape, and the idea of God,’ if the extraordinary Charles Wright hadn’t already beat me to it.”

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