In a Desert Place

They showed me the golden tent where you lay sleeping and
I walked across the glittering crystal sand my bare
feet stinging with the grit of it and the small insects biting my
face, feeling the last heat before the night darkens and
myriad stars, colder than the air would become, appeared to
scatter the sky like strings of gems lying on purple velvet.
Small fires blazed amber outside the tents and the dark hued
men sat smoking, the heavy scent mingling with perfumes
of rose and cedarwood, attar and incense flowing from the
dark interiors whence women brought forth pots of stone
fragrant with cumin and cardamon aromatic and cooking
on curling flames. They watched me, I was a stranger but
I think they knew who once I may have been, yet none
put out a hand to stay or question me but let me pass and
I hurried through the gazing eyes and whispering voices
towards your tent, set far back and apart at the desert’s edge.
I raised the heavy curtain, silken, draping, and saw inside
deep crimson hangings, emerald cushions, blue and purple
screens clothing the walls and a sharp and odorous perfume
from a thousand jasmine petals drowsing the air. Your
couch was strewn with flowers, and she lay pale and
shimmering within the circle of your arms, her lips
apart, seeking your mouth. Your eye turned as the chill
air drafted the braziers. You saw me, you knew who stood
without, who had come seeking you. I turned, stumbling
on weakened legs. I moved away into the secret desert night,
blind, unseeing, unmade, into the waste, the breadth,
the span, the desolate emptiness, of an unknown world.


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