Growing Up in the Desert in the Age of Water Coolers

Melissa Rendlen

Once a summer the evening news
fried an egg on a car hood.
Humidity crept up,
made water coolers useless,
homes turned to saunas.
Two weeks in August,
a trip to the Pacific,
a motel near the beach.
Our car un-airconditioned,
we were put to bed at eight,
asleep by midnight, up at three,
a pre dawn trek across the desert.
My brother and I bundled
in the back seat,
slept.

Our old Pontiac crept
through the dark desert,
the sky filled with the milky way.
We made our way up mountain passes
strewn with boulders,
then down to the Colorado.
We reached Needles at dawn
in time for gas and breakfast,
sleep forgotten, replaced
with anticipation.

By eleven
the smell of the ocean,
then a beautiful sunlit blue
sparkled to the horizon.

Over days I became
the crash of waves,
the salt, the water,
awakened.