View from the Window Seat

To get from Phoenix anywhere, you fly over so much open country. First the mountains that ring The Valley, then the desert floor. Later, you come to the edge of a mountain range, or a river, and it’s as if someone has put down a line and a sign, “Build here.”

TownedgeHouses start, not gradually, but crammed together. You don’t know the town, you don’t know why it was a good place to build. First there is nothing, then a town, then nothing again.

Suddenly, below, there is a bald spot scraped onto the ground. The earth is gone, but not replaced with anything. Then there is a big hole. Being from the desert you think, “kiva?”, but the echo is more likely “copper mine.”


A pool of water too turquoise to be real, or even a pool, shows up. Don’t swim in it, your bones will dissolve and sink. Once the shaft mine gives out, there’s still copper to be had in strip mining. Mining might bring jobs, but it doesn’t bring life. With it, a rectangle of land that looks like a white and black backgammon board. Sludge fields, geometrically precise.

Someone has to do this digging, scratching, leaching. So there are homes. Build together, as if for comfort.

townThen comes the lace of roads meant to be another town, before the copper gave out. The trace of where roads might have been, where houses aren’t. What you see is a tattooed earth, scarified without meaning and abandoned.

There is not enough rain to start the grass growing over this. It will take years till the dust blows over it and we forget the dream of copper.

–Quinn McDonald wonders what she’s looking at, in an airplane and on the ground.