They always say to me, can you
smell the magnolias, the jasmine
honeysuckle and hydrangea

the roses, French lavender, budding
azaleas or the lilacs. But flowers
represent the exotic, tropical

longed after intangibles I've read about
to escape my hometown diaspora.
I have no natural association, no

connection, no memory of these
frail foreign forms of alien wildlife.
Desert living often prevents

that sort of thing - living. Breathing.
In my hometown, not even cacti grow.
I can tell you instead

how the desert smells after it rains
that single day of the year. Two
if we're lucky. But no more. Just

a brief, beautiful, intoxicating day.
I can warn you not to breathe deep
of the dust devils and tumbleweeds

as they invade your nostrils, they
bring along more than just smell
and sense but also sand and dust. And

yes. In the desert, there is a difference.
I can tell you of smog and haze, of frenzy
and heat. I can tell you of

consumer culture, culture consuming you.
I can tell you of aridity -
environmental, cultural, social.

Believe me, nothing grows in the desert.
So don't expect me to tell
you of pretty, green, delicate things.
Don't expect those from me.

About the Poet

Shelly Holder was born and raised in California's Mojave Desert. An only child, her parents joke about her dog being in actuality a younger brother. Whether this is an insult to Shelly or to the dog will never be known. Shelly currently splits her time between CA and Virginia, where she is studying for a BA in English/Creative Writing. Feel free to check out her website at for more information and random tidbits.