Saturday, August 9, 2008

El Infierno

To acknowledge the current intense heat, I thought to post a heat poem. Couldn't come up with one.  And now I'm reflecting why there is not a lot of edifying art born out the experience of extreme temperatures. Off the top of my head, all I can come up with is the crossing the desert episode in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom by T. E. Lawrence. The best nature poets seem to confine themselves to north of the 40th latitude where they roam misty wetlands in gumboots. In celebrated literature the focus is dire cold, as in To Build a Fire, Into Thin Air, and the Ur-Chronicle of subzero horror, The Worst Journey in the World. This Heat Art Deficit is odd, given that many more people live in the hot zones of civilization as the polar ones and that, without a doubt, heat is as lethal as cold. A couple of years ago I was hiking the Modesto Canyon in West Texas at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute in early June. We climbed down into the canyon around 10 a.m with water bottles. By the time we climbed back out around 11:30 a.m, the sun was high in the sky. The sun and the heat were brutal. We were only about a mile from the visitor center. On the way back, I had to stop and huddle under the pathetic shade of small shrubs. I was very afraid that I might not be able to get back. Nausea and dizziness ensued; the signs of heat stroke.
In the past few days I've found two dead whitewing doves on my driveway. No signs of cat violence: just dead birds. When I was turning my compost pile, I smelled the distinct odor of some decomposing mammal wafting my way.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't really find any heat poems either, but came across this famous one while I was looking:

Wild Geese
by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild gees, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting-
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Well, my point exactly. MO briefly namechecks the desert and then goes on to embroider upon rain, mountains, and rivers!

Anonymous said...

I suppose we could look to Cormac McCarthy as our literary representative of the west and its harsh landscapes. And I believe there's a history of Arabic poetry, which surely takes the desert as its subject, but I don't know any examples. Then there's Georgia O'Keefe, who celebrated the desert landscape.

Still, let's hope we get some rain soon to put aside all these depressing thoughts about deserts here in Austin.

Libby at Aurora Primavera said...

Pam, I have steadfastly refused to read Cormac; intuitively feeling I'll loathe his violence and machoism. Guess I should try. Love O'Keefe, but I don't get any heat; just pretty from her work. I agree that if there's Heat art out there it's with the Middle Eastern nations. I have read Palace Walk, one of Naguib Mafouz's books. The heat is a background aspect; taken for granted and not explored.

cotedetexas said...

God, it's hot! And we have so much humidity in HOuston that Austin doesn't get. It's really HOT!!!!!!!!!!!!

thank for the comment too!!