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Ellen Meloy Grant for Desert Writers–Deadline, Jan. 15 2013

by Patricia | 1.03.13

pictographs mountain bighorns3

I received my annual notice that the Ellen Meloy Grant for Desert Writers is seeking applicants. The deadline for grant applications is January 15. The grant funds only desert-themed, literary creative nonfiction. No fiction, children’s literature, or poetry will be considered.

To read the details, click here.You might want to take a look at past recipients to see if you recognize any names. The fund especially seeks applications from writers who can demonstrate they’re on a productive, desert-writing trajectory, on their way to charting a “deep map of place”.

Several years ago, I attended a writing workshop in Torrey, Utah, that Ellen led. Unlike some I’ve attended, this workshop ran on laughter and warmhearted guidance. Ellen was totally approachable and turned her wide-open attention to you and your writing at your slightest movement. I returned home from the workshop energized, comforted, and with a new poem in tote. I’ve posted it on WIZ before, but for anyone interested, here it is again.

Desert Gramarye*

(for Ellen Meloy)

It’s like the old Tarzan movies:
White hunters find their way barred
By skulls on sticks.

The Park Service has erected
A pavilion on the rim.
Beware, it says.
Quicksand.  Flash floods.
How to Resuscitate Lightning Strike Victims
One warning tells.
It pretends helpful information,
But it is another white skull.

On a sideboard, the complete caveat—
A man pierced all through with sticks.
We are loath to look on it, but do:
It alone rates five full skulls.

Thirty-five-year-old male, it says.
Not enough water.
Disoriented.  Delirious.
Collapsed.  Convulsions.
Core body temperature one-hundred-and-eight degrees
In an air-conditioned ambulance.
Expected to recover, but—
Suffered liver and brain damage.

I don’t understand.
Did he recover, or didn’t he?
Ah—that is not the point of the skulls.

In the old Tarzan movies
The skulls, the shrunken heads,
The bad juju, B’wana,
They mean, this could happen.
To you.
We hope.
The tribe that inhabits these parts—
The fierce Park Service—
They maintain all hearts of darkness
Beating in these wilderness.
No doubt they know already
We are here.  B’wana,
They have much bad juju.

Yes.  I can see that,
And I wonder what I have brought with me
To ward off potent spells flung at the feet
In the first few steps of a journey.

I breathe:
Flash Flood.  Come.
We have met many times and parted
Always on good terms.
I would like to see you again,
Old friend, Flash Flood.

Quicksand.  Come.
We are no strangers.
You caught me by my ankles,
Then retracted your claws;
I remember
Your tongue’s rasp.
Perhaps we shall wrestle again,
Mud panther,
Quicksand.

Lightning—
You I am not so sure about.
When your gray matter thunders
And your synapses
Fire between heaven and earth,
Let me not be found in those corridors.
Fall elsewhere, flash elsewhere, Lightning,
And I will tell all
Of blue quarrels bolting cloud to cloud,
Of electrokenetic harpoons
Havocking lone junipers.

Thus I shoulder my pack
And pass by all skulls,
Speaking soft words
Of relation.

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*”Gramarye” is the old spelling for “grammar,” meaning a primer.  But it is also an old word for “magic.”

Originally published in Irreantum (Summer 2003): 20-21.

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