White Flesh, Yellow Dust

A desert winter, next to water, hearing nothing
but the river and the muttered morse-code

of birds through leaves, a language
that swirls in my ear, like water.

Come summer, under a relentless sun

this wadi will crack open its thistled
silence as if silence

was all it could ever have known. Now,
in winter, the green dimples in wild

chamomile, white daisies
flooded with the fragrance of apples, only

not apples—something earthier,
baser, and bitter-smooth on my tongue. Monks

who for centuries knelt here, planted bed
after bed of chamomile, resting rough,

home-spun knees against grass
stained with the breath of vespers,

relaxing back on the scent said to expand
their prayers up and open

until they fill this blue arc
of sky. Now there is just stillness,

a silence not quiet, but alive
inside the muted grace of winter light. I

stoop in a chamomile cluster, taste one
flower, then another. They rest, white flesh

and yellow dust in my palm, dust
on my tongue, dust.

I haven’t heard a human voice for days,

have only gazed into the unlocked jaws
of caves that sweat the moisture of centuries,

and still cling to last night’s rain. And what holds
me? Once it was my mother’s body, me deep

inside, covered and smooth within secret waters
of my own. Once I arrived as fresh

as this spawned odor of decomposing leaves, algae,
tadpoles and mud. And now? Now

there is this just this desert with its branches
of aquifers that flower and feed

this river, this winter, this green, a green
so clear, so quiet I can hear it grow

and with each exhale feel the essence of what
might still be possible—a blessing,

an earth soft with new growth, so yellow, so blue,
so complicated into molecules, the air tastes of it.