David Chorlton

David Chorlton

Desert Baroque


While sleeping in their cells

the Fathers threw off the sheets

to roll from dream to dream

with transatlantic salt gleaming

on their unwashed skins


and their faith preserved in the frost

of the other world.

They pledged their skulls to this land

with tranquility in its thorns,

redesigned the sky

to accommodate a god

who spoke to them in Latin


and hung bells to give the wind

a Latin voice, but it licked the metal

and carried a bitter taste

into canyons too deep

to convert. They built shadows


with mud, carved them

for birds to nest in the scrolls

they engraved in the clouds

into which they disappeared


at the end of the looping script

in their letters, subsequently rolled

to resemble their bones

and carried away on a tired horse.


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.