Spring 2024

A Sonoran Packrat

By Miles Waggener

       built its nest where my worried shadow kept

unmoving to the side so I

could peer into its snags & snares

       in relentless sunlight I’d stepped out to
breathe some arid distance

       & walk a desert living a desert’s ancient life
at the edge of asphalt despair & roads

          where my mother lived in her duplex
in late dementia’s weathers
              at times lucid saying I never dreamed my one little life would
              ever have so many things

to forget other times frightened clutching an empty purse or asking me if

her friend was staying for lunch

that friend somewhere in our empty rooms
              if I turned my back on her

for a 30-minute walk would I find her
       fallen or soiled in her chair or trying to open the front door?

lifetimes of self-sufficiency of privacy have
come to an end

       in the gravel easement snarls of cactus barbs
horned ocotillo bits
          cholla anything loose & sharp
that could pierce & stick me

       made a home in untidy perimeters with a need & fear I couldn’t

come near
    worlds of calcified tangles & claims—woven soon-to-be

          abandoned or not-finished—something inhospitable
          & still a refuge

to the side there were piles of thorny exit passages
       false escapes
             what I needed was

             an elaborate system
to stay safe to protect us how

did it work? where was the door? had I to lift my shadow

up from its edge

to leave its thorny heart & go back where? I never dreamed my one little life

would ever have so many things there in the heat of the desert day

an animal slept beneath us

Miles Waggener is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Superstition Freeway, published by The Word Works. His new poems appear or are forthcoming in Nomadartx, Sugar House Review, Action-Spectacle, and Plume Poetry. He teaches at the University of Nebraska Omaha, where he directs the writing program.

Spring 2024