Writing the Forbidden

by Mary Sojourner on February 10, 2012

I am a spy from the ephemeral and ravaged border.
I stepped out of a mirage on the horizon between 29 Palms and Cadiz. The dust on my hair and shoulders caught first light. This corolla was not visible to me. Because I was alone, it was visible to no one.
You moved toward me from the base of a mountain, a mountain that extends a thousand feet or more down into the radiant playa. You were a shadow, the absence of your light not visible to you.
We met, a fusion of the invisible. The shock wave rippled out. Out and further out. There was damage and dislocation. Beyond our ken.
When the air stilled, there was nothing left but fused sand, brilliant as the shards of beer bottles the local kids smash in furious celebration.

No one is free of the forbidden. We are forbidden to speak of it. No one will ever grow old in America. No one will ever carve an arc that leaves the mind in a wheelchair. No one will stop pretending the Western Lands are a frontier for our experiments, for our ceaseless insistence on Fun. No one will double over in the pain and horror of seeing clearly.

The Western Lands welcome you. Look. Out Here you can see for miles. You can begin again. And again. We modern humans are eternal. We will not die. Nothing has been lost.

We do not speak of it. In the huge silence, death moves toward us. We are too busy to notice. We are too busy to know that in our busy-ness, we race to meet the end of everything. We carry what we do not notice with us — toward extinction.

The bulldozer crawls across the high desert sand. The horned toad is slower. Metal and flesh. Months later, we unlock the door of our new “Dream Home” and walk across the bones and carapaces of those we have refused to know.

Welcome to the forbidden.


Hoodoo is dedicated to the dead. Horned Toad. Illusions. William S. Burroughs: “Desperation is the raw material of drastic change. Only those who can leave behind everything they have ever believed in can hope to escape.” Welcome to the Western Lands.

Sojourner is the author of “Bonelight: Ruin and Grace and the New Southwest,” “Delicate: Stories,” “Solace: Rituals of Loss and Desire,” “Going Through Ghosts” and, most recently, “She Bets Her Life: A True Story of Gambling Addiction.” She lives in Flagstaff. “What matters now is that I am returned from exile to my home in the desert mountains. What matters now is that I write with a razor. What matters now is that I'm alive.”

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