Sunday, January 17, 2016

Four Desert Poems


It was the Lord, our God, who brought us and our ancestors up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.—Joshua 24:17

You depart for the desert in darkness,
The way lit by the moon.
Rocks and scrub touched by chalk,
Brush lightly dusted white…
The planet is luminously radioactive.
Mountains cut out by scissors
Press black polygons against the sky.
Gradually, gloaming
Restores pink flush to the land,
Turning the moon into a faint watermark.

Noontime unsheathes his sword,
Slaying the day.
No animals peep in this slow broil,
Not a twitch of the ear,
Not a blink from a paralytic.
Traveling inside an oven, you wear a hat,
Swig ice water frozen the day before,
Keep delirium at bay like an anxious patient.
The wind lies in a coma.
Oxygen is too weak to rise.

Twilight is adding pigments to oil,
Deepening blue,
Doing arithmetic,
Red times orange.
Tiny denizens stir as if readying for school.
Dusk makes a promise:
He says the mountains hold deep wells and caves,
Cool as beds freshly made.
He speaks not to deceive but to encourage.
Waiting is a long walk to freedom, a motionless journey.

The world is…

The world is a waterless white expanse.
Abandoned cities stand as termite mounds,
Hubs of gulley networks lined with salt.

Beetles make homes where no humans roam.
Scorpions tiptoeing track tiny dimples.
Lizards scurry about as if electrocuted.

The wind whistles through honeycomb ruins.
Tiny tornadoes raise their fists.
Hot dust puffs like gun smoke.

We walk among windswept dunes of ash.
We quarry for light and dig for springs.
We tap at stones and ask for mercy.
We water ourselves to water the world.


I am struck down by the warrior sun in the desert.
I am a string attempting to stand.
I cannot move my legs—
They are stones hammered into the earth.
I cannot lift my arms—
They are branches felled by a storm.
I am a house unable to move,
A hoary salt bed cooked entirely dry.
Depletion is my abrupt affliction.
I am a well filled at bottom with sand.
I long for a jug of sweet water,
For a bundle of fresh steaming bread
To bring life to my legs, hope to my heart—
Who will bring me wherewithal for my journey?

The ocean is a desert…

The ocean is a desert:
No water to drink,
No trees to rest,
No animals to ride.

The gull that glides
Above the waves
Is the faraway condor
Surveying the sand;

They are in their element.
We find no home
In the sea any more than
We sleep in the clouds.

Desert sunset at Kings Creek Station, Northern Territory, Australia


  1. Photo link:


  2. Credits - original publications:

    “The Desert,” Triggerfish Critical Review (December 26, 2014)

    “The world is…,” Blue Heron Review, Issue 3 (Winter 2015)

    “Elijah,” Marathon, Issue 7 (February 2015)

    “The ocean is a desert…,” Written River, Volume 2, Issue 5 (Winter 2014-15), page 37