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high desert journal

the

by Richard Kempa Every day Grandma sat in her chair by the window

and complained how the swallows built their nests right under the eaves. “Look at those birds with

their dirty britches,” she’d say. I wanted more than anything to please her; I was, after all, wooing her

granddaugher, and while I did not ask her consent,

I craved her blessing. And so every day I’d get up on a ladder and clean the shit and feathers from the window. That helped, but not enough; still she 2

complained about the swallows.


One afternoon when she went into town I

figured I’d surprise her, so I got out the broom and climbed up there, and beat at the nests until they cartwheeled down. Then came the hard part, for

which I wasn’t prepared – to get rid of the bald little babies flopping around on the lawn. The thought

that I was doing it for her made it easier to smack

them with a shovel and scoop the whole mess over into the tallgrass, and I admit I felt a manly rush as I did this: I was a regular ranch hand taking care of business, not some soft city poet.

In the evening when Grandma shuffled over to her chair, she asked at once,“Where are the swallows?” I said with a smile, “Grandma, I took care of them for you.”

“What do you mean took care of them?” she asked, and there was something in her voice that made my heart beat faster. “What about the babies?”

“But Grandma,” I said, “I thought you wanted …” I

stopped, seeing how she cocked her head to peer up under the eaves, and how her shoulders slumped when she saw the nests were gone. She sat there

for a long time without speaking, not napping like she always does, and when dusk came and there

were no swallows veering and darting outside her window, bringing back insects for their babies, we grew completely miserable, I the killer, she

accomplice, watching the light retreat across the empty fields into the big sky. <hdj >

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fiction&nonfiction

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Andrea Clark Mason. Off the Grid Debra Magpie Earling. The Lost Journals of Sacajewea Eileen O’Keeffe McVicker & Barbara Scot. Child of Steens Mountain Jackie Shannon Hollis. On their Best Behvior Seth Walker. The Final Battle of Falconry’s Grand Old Man Ken Reid. Closing the Interval

art&photography

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James Thompson. The Vanishing Landscape John Divola. Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert Eric Graham. Paintings Stephanie Wilde. The Enemies of Love: Sweet Grace Judith Cunningham. Paintings

poetry

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Richard Kempa. The Swallows Michael Sykes. The Case of the Missing Tooth Steve Coughlin. The Idaho Poem Sid Miller. Crater Lake Robert Gail. Festus Pamela Steele. Swimming for Mission

reviews 47 Kyla Merwin Cheney. Review of Radiant Days 47 Samantha Loza. Review of We’re in Trouble

on the cover 4

Cartography from the Vanishing Landscape by James Thompson Hand-colored intaglio print on paper. 7 x 7 inches. Page 20

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high desert journal

dogs my car Photographs and essay by John Divola The desert is not empty. However, it is vacant enough to bestow a certain weight to whatever is present. This is an extraordinary place, the unobstructed view to the horizon, the quality of the light, and that smell after it rains. Add this to a heightened awareness of your own presence and the desert can take on an existential quality. Dogs Chasing My Car in the Desert was published as a companion

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And itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s quiet. Once, having climbed to the top of a very large hill to photograph, I was startled by the sound of the wind moving under the

book to the artistâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s book

wings of a bird as it flew by. Hundreds of feet below and half a mile away a

Isolated Houses and is limited to

dog spotted me and started barking like it had just caught me climbing the

1,000 casebound copies.

back fence. No one sneaks up on a dog in the desert. A dog can hear your

Available from Nazraeli Press:

car coming for several miles and will see you coming almost as far away.

www.nazraeli.com

By the time you arrive he has developed a level of anticipation. From 1995 to 1998, I was working on a series of photographs of isolated houses in the desert at the east-end of the Morongo Valley in Southern California. As I meandered through the desert, a dog would occasionally chase my car. Sometime in 1996, I began to bring along a 35mm camera essay continues on page 28

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chasing in the desert

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Profile for High Desert Journal

HIgh Desert Journal #7  

The best literature and art of the interior West.

HIgh Desert Journal #7  

The best literature and art of the interior West.

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