the desert does not love you back, but it

sees you, dunes hunched in watchful wake,

brooding and clenching a hold of my heart and

eating it. there are stains on the sky from my fingers

sticky with the juice of dates and aloe, there are

burn marks on my wasteland from where the sun

has blistered and bled. god is the silence like

sandpaper, teaching me to thirst, taking the untamed form

of the mountains and teaching me that

i am the wilderness.

photos by the author (2022) | Wahiba Sands desert region, Oman
photos by the author (2022) | Wahiba Sands, Oman

Poet’s Note

I wrote this poem while in the desert of Oman, having traversed gravelly giants and remote expanses of bare-breasted earth to sit in the shadow of perpetually reshapen sand-dunes. It amazed me that my human ancestors lived in places so hard on your skin. All these invisible lives that led up to mine being here. I felt aged, as though I had walked through histories, in and out of myself. I had so little sense of this earth existing before entering it. It is a land as brutal as it is magical, in heat and isolation and hostilities: the golden resin of frankincense, the dates and rosewater coffee, bananas and spices, camels and red-woven rugs, life against all odds. It carved into me. I still wear the scars of its thorn brushes, its blisters, its sunburn. Momentary traces of being made permanent in skin and in memory. “No man can live this life and emerge unchanged,” Wilfred Thesiger wrote in Arabian Sands. “He will forever carry, however faint, the imprint of the desert.”