Black Rock Desert

Anders Villani


The sun, just-blown glass, rises

over bear-fur mountains. Flint, steel,

brass, and copper filament mountains.

His bed on the alkali flats warms.


This is the day her bicycle will be stolen

and her miniskirt will be gold chiffon;

this is the day her camping stove will melt

the hem from below, as she lights a firecracker.


Was the alkali dust here filigreed

so finely by rattlesnake drifts, or the fingertips

of the little wan girl

he saw, yesterday, wearing her father’s—or her

brother’s—boots like bear feet


or anvils—or has he, perhaps, slept lightly

and heavily enough to be the artist?

It would explain his bloodied fingers.

Petrified fern leaf inside the envelope

in his front left pocket, from Montana,


which he has half a mind to eat. Which

Nevadan ghost town was it where an ounce

of gold once bought a loaf of bread, a straight razor shave?

This is the day he will learn.


Anders Villani was born in Melbourne. On receiving his MFA from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program, he was awarded the Delbanco Thesis Prize. In 2015, he was shortlisted in the Noel Rowe Award for a first book of poems by an Australian writer. He lives in Ann Arbor.

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