Waterless Places


A reed shaken by the wind,
my finger bends when a storm
summons my pen, clouds calling,
‘Sinner, sin again…’ so I
listen, defiling night skies
with an ink black eyes threaten
with angst to reprint on my
blankest face, tears we think hide
                    this thirst waterless places
                    guide relentlessly, camels
                    toeing grains of flame as sand
                    takes from heaven’s mouth what tongues
                    profane when baptizers cry,
                    this crucible existence
                    alight with prophecies and
                    lies my finger makes happen,
                    breaking open lips and scrolls,
                    bread taking from rituals


what hunger brings them, people
blind and leprous, flickering
sighs of a lingering past
life my words burn into flesh,
this painful brand remembrance
impresses, these editions
of us from which we tear our
Selves, suffering infamy
shamelessly until bruised souls
                    meet their amanuenses
                    and we speak, our wounds holes time
                    and space worm their cruel way
                    through, continuing evil’s
                    tradition as fatalism
                    eats its victims, those faithful
                    and obeisant multitudes,
                    this desert’s dark arteries
                    whose hearts choose to keep from view


what truth my verse loosens, my
use of allusion the fruit
the vine poisons to tempt them,
heritage what binds us, shared
lineage with its withered
limbs spoiling this agèd yet
ageless vintage we drink when
we cavort with artifice
and caravan with demons,
                    trafficking with regret on
                    bitter journeys royal routes
                    spice with doubt, knowing its kiss
                    when sunlight wears an eclipse,
                    memories licking parched throats
                    to let us know warmth’s wetness,
                    to remind us of mercy
                    in eternity’s wasteland,
                    where even love’s injustice


finds an oasis among
desiccated corpses, bleached
bones, and heat-scorched bulrushes
whispering of crushed empires
and failed conquests, here I roam,
ready to greet destiny
on its march from history
to exile, vultures seeking
by harsh wind a chronicler
                    to wash from their legacies
                    what lost wars have cost them, this
                    tribute my own debt demands
                    I caution enemies and
                    friends against, since temptation
                    yielded begets mortal hands
                    a task without completion,
                    this charting of the path from
                    the garden to damnation.