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James Doyle

Desert


Each cactus was a miniature brewery,
kneading sunlight into a milky paste
for lizards and snakes. Half the desert
woke every morning with a hangover,
the dunes themselves staggering forward
into first light. It was a landscape
that called in sick to the office every
day and spent the freed-up hours lounging
on its back, watching skies as if tomorrow
were as far away as death is intimate
and today. This was the country where holiday
was stripped of its baubles and handed
barren to you each morning, the only place
in the world to offer me the choice
of ghost or flesh, to walk without shadow
behind the sun or to blot the sand, a mistake
only night could erase. When I settled here,
I wanted to be like all the winding creatures
who taunt space. I was careful never
to fit myself anywhere that measure
might flood. Now, after twenty years, all
the waters have receded. Rust no longer
scours every pore, love no longer varnishes
my eyes. Nothing was darker than the sight
I tamed with unvarying fire. Now I see everything
I want to see through my transparent skin. Now
that I can finally live no place in this world
or the next, joy will fill me up like heat.

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