Palm Springs Infernal
Noon comes on like a sweat on the face,
hot on rocks at the trail where
I have found myself squinting
at the distant hill, trying to escape
the mid-century modern neighborhood.
We love mountains because we like to see our land
travel so high, block the sky from devouring us
with space, more of the known, less of the other—
and okay, yeah, we like mountains because
to climb is to conquer, land rising up
like the curves of a woman’s hip,
breast answering the question of all shapes.
This is where the billionaires came to drink
themselves into prepositions: Betty on the phone,
Bob on the golf course, Elvis at his Honeymoon Hideaway
just 20 yards from this trailhead, Elvis in all darkness for days,
Elvis staggering out for the first time in weeks,
to the edge of this neighborhood, his breath sloshing out
like whiskey flung off a bedside table,
thousands of miles from Tupelo, hungover,
skin fizzing, gold chains stinging, hands bloated,
mind unsound, mind buzzing,
asking the question of all shapes:
how to move, how to be alone.
The distant hill, a home
like the hair of his woman.
He doesn’t want to climb it
as much as to find a way inside it,
where there is nothing,
and there is no noon.
An ocean rolls its gray work over and over.
Here, a woman and a man inhale and exhale,
and practice: the man wades a kayak into the water,
and the woman inside it paddles to the line
that never vanishes. The man,
hands on his hips at the shore,
grows smaller and smaller. Out there
she sees turtles eat many jellyfish in one gulp.
Dolphins slap the surface with their tails.
She turns and waves
usher her back on their skirts.
The man grows larger and larger.
He is relieved. In practice,
she always returns. In practice, he
never vanishes from the shore.
Mallory Bass is from Jackson, Mississippi. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from St. Mary's College of California, and has been a fellow at Vermont Studio Center, Community of Writers, and Tin House. Her work has appeared in She Explores, Portico Jackson Magazine, and Reservoir Lit, among others. She lives in Los Angeles with her dog, Hoka.
Rory Doyle is a working photographer based in Cleveland, Mississippi in the rural Mississippi Delta.
Doyle is a 2018 Mississippi Visual Artist Fellow through the Mississippi Arts Commission and National Endowment for the Arts for his ongoing project on African American cowboys and cowgirls, "Delta Hill Riders." Doyle won the 16th Annual Smithsonian Photo Contest with the project, which was announced in April 2019. Later that month, Doyle was awarded the Southern Prize from South Arts organization. The work was featured in the Half King Photo Series in New York and The Print Space Gallery in London before opening at the Delta Arts Alliance in February 2019. He was also recognized for the project by winning the 2019 Zeiss Photography Award, and the photojournalism category at the 2018 Eye Em Awards in Berlin, Germany.