Journal of Writing & Environment

After two years of pushing back the desert,

I stopped sweeping the patio. These days

I need to know intimately each grain of sand

that blows my way and settles awhile.

Hoping sand will smooth out all rough edges

so I might become pliant as a dune,

learn the art of surrender. Five years here,

no longer feeling destitute when driving through

ghost towns, past abandoned farms—

rejoicing that lizard and gazelle have taken back

what’s theirs. Oryx, oryx running free


across the desert to the sea, what I’d give

to see it back in its natural habitat.

Curse the hunters who made a sport of driving it

to extinction. First thing to understand:

desert sand is at once both set and turbulent,

permanent yet astir.  Easy in the midst of it to doubt

body’s buoyancy. Christened by desert sand,

I assume the role of woman minstrel arousing

mystical love—devote myself to dhikr,*

become ascetic as sand stirs a longing for purity

from discord’s pollution. Kneaded by gritty


granules, heart’s joy merges with grief.

Water of life fills my bowl as I read poets

and saints of Shiraz, recall the wise words

of the Wizard of Oz.  Sometimes I dream of rain

and sitting in orange groves. Awakening,

Arabian wind tossing sand at my window,

I envision flakes of snow. Arising in peace, I know

the laws of karma, retribution, sowing, reaping

will right all wrongs in the end, as the sand

continues smoothing out rough edges,

taking back what belongs to the desert.




*recollection of God, in the Sufi tradition