WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE / PETROGLYPHS / by q@quintanwikswo.com

While we were communing with this and the other 21,000 petroglyphs, the U.S. military started dropping bombs and firing missiles.. Practice makes perfect. Deserts here, deserts there, deserts deserts everywhere. The impact makes the chest hurt.

Up on the top of the mountain, it feels as though we are the aliens...whoever "we" are. On certain nights, it's possible to see lasers shooting down drones in war games along the range. At all times, we can gaze out above El Paso and Ciudad Juarez, the sites of femicide mass graves.

Above the sex-trafficked children smuggled over and dumped, half-dead, and the Costco stores where later I bought them diapers.

Above the strongholds and resistance sites of Apache and other Nations, because this is a terrain of genocide and colonialist crimes against humanity – oh, our idealistic vision of the United States that leaves fields of bodies in our wake.

And above the atomic bomb, the white light blasts and shadows of millions of invoked peoples. The concept of testing – practicing – rehearsing deaths of oneself and others.

From the peak I look out across so many years of my life, intermittent, passing along, my friends and almost-family and others – beloved and unbeloved - whose paths crossed and recrossed mine, all of us drawn from the many crevasses of this sad, beautiful, epic, and deeply influential vista. Who are the aliens. Who.

Heading down the mountain from the Apache Point observatory, one enters the Air Force Base and White Sands Missile Testing Range. All the shops have stacks of flyers on suicide prevention. Then another explosion rattles the glass and the holiday grocery shopping continues. Again, my field of internal vision narrows and widens with faces, names, and loves I've known within these and other deaths. The all-times-of-day telephone calls and interventions just off the base, the safe house rescues of girlfriends and wives, yet never enough antennae outstretched to soldiers with guns to their own heads, or the heads of others. I have loved both sides. Or is it all sides.

The pain is immense, here, across centuries, and much of it surrounds the ignorance, arrogance of a young nation who still just cannot figure out where to point our guns.

It seems we can't stop killing ourselves and each other, and meanwhile my brain tried to wrap itself around the fact that just the night before, I watched 10,000 new galaxies get discovered and mapped from the mountains overlooking this cradle of ancient humanity, aka the missile testing range, aka ground zero for the atomic bomb testing. 

The petroglyphs are exquisite and tender, following the contours of the rocks, the occlusions of the sun amidst the landscape, faces directed towards the cosmos or the desert wanderer. We went looking for them, but we had to leave quickly because the explosions, too close for comfort, were beginning to hurt too much.