Poet, novelist, and popular young adult author Benjamin Alire Sáenz writes to the core truth of life’s ever-shifting memories. In poems set along the border between the United States and Mexico, Sáenz presents the contrast between the desert’s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics, mirroring humanity’s capacity for both generosity and cruelty. In his numbered series “Meditation on Living in the Desert,” Sáenz turns to memory, heritage, and a host of literary progenitors as he directly confronts matters of faith, civil rights, and contemporary politics—always with the unrelenting moral urge to speak truth and take action. These are brave and furious poems; unflinching and visionary, they demand our full attention.
Meditation on Living in the Desert, No. 2
I love the sand, the heat, the arid nights.
I am in love with plants that can survive the droughts.
I am also in love with air-conditioning.
I refuse to recycle.
I am helping to make the entire world into a desert.
I live in the desert. I want everyone else to live in one, too.
When all the trees have disappeared, we can all read Robert Frost poems and feel sad.
“A former Catholic priest, this poet creates prayerful verse that is at once mystical and utterly human.” —Washington Post
“With his sixth collection, Sáenz bursts forth as a major American poet, one with an oracular ear to the ground for what moves people today and also an eye for the larger questions in which today’s concerns are embedded… Reading [Sáenz] is like listening to a gifted storyteller, for whom every digression is a path to meaning.” —Booklist, starred review
“In poems set along the border, Sáenz reports his feelings—indeed, rage—about a variety of sociopolitical topics, including immigration.” —Library Journal
“Seeking reconciliation in a life filled with ruin, the poet only arrives at the truth… There is no performative lament that encumbers Sáenz’s poetic searching, only a gesture towards the transfigurative act of redefining one’s own terms.” —Texas Books in Review