Poetry Feature: On the Dry Sea of Sonora

June 2, 2020

Saguaro National Park, 2012. Photo Joe Parks. CC BY 2.0.

Everything the shadow of a wall can’t cure

pays profits to

the sun.


Take this man Jaime and his wife Rosa

handing off their two young ones

like duffels;


crossing themselves

as they cross La Frontera…Adiós…adiós…

Vaya con Dios…


See how their faces turn

to the small-craft warnings of Sonora;

man and woman adrift

in a lifeboat

made of coyote promises.


Walking north with two day’s water

for a five-day journey,

the sun rises

over the range of javalina,


bears down like

the wrath of the Aztec God;

offers no solace.  These rigors


the wildcat takes in stride

and will gnaw the bones

of los pobres 


when the sky and sand change places

as plodding droops to crawling

on the dry sea of Sonora.


El sol…el sol, there is nothing but

the skin-splitting sun as man and woman

follow their only god; a single shade tree



from the rippling horizon.


Under the anger of noon,

the rattler recoils

and the distant mountains spin

like folk dancers.


Beef jerky gone, weak water,

until there’s nothing

but the thought of torn nails

from family timbers; the lack


of legal papers, saying they are counted

among lives worth living.


Man and woman will gamble survival

in one world

against the scant means of another,



for work their empty hands ache

to reach.  At night

their niños cry like dark-eyed mice.




Under a bruised sky, the sun drops

behind the mountains;

a double chain of footprints

comes to an end


and hope’s votive candle

is blown out across Sonora.


Lollie Butler is a Fellow in Literature, granted by the Arizona Commission for the Arts. After earning an MFA from the University of Arizona, she taught Creative Writing to women inmates of the Arizona State Prison, and won several awards including a fellowship from The Arizona Commission for the Arts.  She was awarded Tucson Citizen of the Year in 2003 for her work with refugees. Her poetry and prose are published widely. Lollie lives in Tucson with various wild creatures of the desert.