Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

Greg Thielen: As the World Burns

At this very moment, as my pen inks this page, the entire Western United States is scorching. Death Valley recorded a high of 140 Fahrenheit. In Palm Desert, California, my current residence, a news reporter placed a thermometer on a child’s playground swing. It registered 165. I grew up in the southwestern desert. In Tempe, Arizona, long before the US 60, when there were still cotton fields. I know the sting of a summer swing well, but 165 ? 

After dotting that question mark, I look up. Outside my cabin windows are the great mountains and landscape that surround Henry’s Lake in Idaho. And a haze. A haze I used to associate with Phoenix, after the great concrete gods came and shat upon the desert where my dad pointed out to me, when I wasn’t even in kindergarten yet, my first Gila monster. But this Henry’s Lake haze is from wildfires. 

The West is scorching. Nature has a fever. Lakes Mead and Powell will no longer have enough water to power the humans’, no, the devolved’s, addictions to comfort and distraction. Already I see the beginnings of Southwestern climate refugees. I am currently asking questions of locals, during my travels North, regarding the price of land and cabin. And I see their faces, time and again, the same faces Mary and Joseph saw when they were turned away, time and time again, until a woman birthed a helpless god in a cave. That, perhaps, should be each and every one of us. Giving birth to the god of our one true self within, even amidst all the denial and ignorance that makes one turn away. After I recognize that ancient expression on all of the people I propose the land question to, more often than not is they explain how the 1% among us, the billionaire class, have already bought up the land and made it affordable only for their poor dear millionaire friends. I politely thank them and move on. Like so many others before me and presently, others with much more dire life situations other than the fact that Vegas will no longer be able to light up their city. Slot machines for humans, sugar cubes for rats. 

I’m with Mary, Joseph, and the weak god they birthed. Keep walking. Look at the lilies of the field. They do not sow. They do not reap. But your Heavenly Father (the Universe, if you prefer) clothes them in a beauty greater than all of Solomon’s wealth. Then I feel the billionaire’s glare from his telescope, up there, that big cabin in the aspen grove, who was so kind to allow me to stay here a few days, wondering of my definition of “a few”.  Don’t worry one percent. I’m going to keep walking. I’m going to birth a god. 


Copyright 2021 Greg Thielen.

Greg Thielen lives and writes in Palm Desert, California.

Joshua Tree National Park

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