Our guide walked briskly, her feet
acquainted with the rocky
trails, while ours stumbled over
the uneven dirt. She took us
beyond the jumping cholla,
their spines straining to tear
our shirts, and knelt briefly
before the skeletal remains
of a Joshua tree. When the heat
had parched enough empathy
into our pale backs, she led us to
a makeshift altar in the shadows
of boulders—a pair of shoes with missing
soles, a dusty lizard curled up
on top of a black t-shirt, and a backpack,
impossibly small, with a faded cartoon
donkey embroidered on the front pouch.  
There are stories better left here—yet
further on, she plucked a blue hair
comb with broken teeth and cracked
rhinestones from the rocks, and cradled
it in her palm like an offering.


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