No man was ever buried by the desert.
It takes years to cover a dead camel.
Men rest on top like a crust, bones
in their biplanes, a red and white stripe
of cloth, wings worn to a mirror.
For fifty years, you’ve looked up
at any sound. Collected dew
from the blue tent at dawn,
your back a dune’s downward face,
at night the sky like pierced tin
behind which there is a fire,
voices. Shake loose. You need
to keep your eyes clean. There is
nothing to sleep with your back to.
No man builds here. No man
compels the desert to crest,
it blinds, clings, gold coins
reflect in the desert’s crease, where
no man has heard women breathing.
In the stories, the women are
only vectors, not originators;
they have four shadows, worn
like jewels. Shoulders like rinds
of fruit, lips like insects, like wild
grasses. Women flicker in and out.
There is nothing to cover
your mouth with. No man
has seen the things that women
carry. The desert’s mind.
Heavy bowls of water.
• • •
The environment of dad is an environment
of edges. You pull your shoulders back
and go down the mountain for him.
Your feet like down-tilting beasts. Strip the light
from the man and from his mouth comes a sharp sword.
The speech of dad is that speech
for which the man-price is paid. You’ll kill
to start the tally. Down the mountainside
carrying a water can, one tooth knocked out
by the body of dad. The white city slides.
Some and many men are struck down for looking.
The doors open with a pneumatic hush.
It is permitted to send a messenger for broken
limbs and you are the messenger of dad,
for he dare not go himself.