The landscape’s a crumpled page of desert mountains: At its foothills,
civilization licks like a toddler divorcing ice cream
from the ridge of a cone. A vanguard of geologists measures layers
with low-tech lasers, samples soil, scans with a sculptor’s eyes
the strata of rock. These aren’t the badlands,
though even badlands aren’t bad, just dry-witted victims to erosion,
& aren’t we all? Haven’t we felt weather stripping us of our veneer
like piranhas separating the cow’s striated flesh from bone?
Freshwater wells are excavated, ore excised, plutonium pilfered.
Streams race orange, red, & yellow, like a psychedelic nation’s flag,
bubble acidic, retreat into a slim sliver to be sucked back underground.
Houses pop up like fungi after a rainstorm,
like cops after the anonymous phone call. Pipes are laid labyrinthine
to acclimate the cookie-cutter residences,
to shepherd potable water like liquid sheep, these wet dreams
uncountable. We pave roads through sandstone temples,
through granite altars, though a sense of rawness gets preserved,
an escape from the glittering smog of urban life. Yet we sacrifice
the fox & grouse, the rattlesnake & vole, squeeze water from rock,
then leave its pulverized shell. Its cascade of cracks. Its broken back.