Category Archives: Mexican Desert

Mina Loy: Mexican Desert

Very much reminded of Cormac McCarthy.

Very minimal language here to evoke so much more. She uses “belching” wut we see the smoke and we can even see and hear distance with her use of ghost-wail, a smoky, far-off beast lumbering towards us. How do we know the train is headed for us? She evokes sound again with “rattling wooden tail” 3-2-1, as if it’s getting closer to us. And her use of jazz-band, a cacophony of sound, but also rhythmic. And the sounds blends into the scenery as we imagine a band of light over the horizon as the sun sets.

Her use of the word “set” is very strategic. We have three lines, but not necessarily three sentences. They work on their own and together and in pairs. The mounts set (sit), set pinnacles (set is almost like a verb here, like the mountains are waiting for something), set under as if this was all placed here by a higher power (heaven). But heaven evokes hell (alien, hot, ferocious isolation). Even “row” does not just mean in a line but also as in a struggle.

Vegetable is a wonderful word to use here because we almost feel as if there is something alive here, but she “cripples” it with the very next word. Any hope is quickly lost, life cannot survive in this desert. “Thrust” conjures up an image of a mother bird feeding her chicks, their mouths agape, waiting, but she evokes a sense that nothing here will ever be nourished. The life that is here is twisted (“stump-fingered”, and “hunch-back”), and can barely stay alive.

The final line is wonderful. “Belabour” isn’t just the work it takes to stay alive in this terrible landscape, but also be labor, be work, everything here is struggling and life is just work to not die.  “Cinders of twilight ….” evokes a hearth dying out, the sun having set and the four dots can almost seem like stars rising in the sky as night comes and with its own set of terrors we can’t even comprehend because the poem ends, life has run out perhaps. Hope is lost.

This is one of the most beautiful poems I have ever read!