desert girl, a poem

by matt at shadow of iris

I didn’t know at first who’d done it
but out there in that desert
where no one ever goes anymore
someone had grown a terribly small
nearly impenetrable corral of cacti.

That was the year that I spent out there
living in an old, abandoned cabin
under the shadow of a tall cliff
that overhung ancient broken rocks;
I’d go out to that cacti corral each morning
and herd myself in through a small hole
that I’d found under the prickly needles;
then I would just sit there,
and wonder what it was all about,
who’d grown these cacti,
for what purpose.

Then one morning when I went out there
I’d found that each of the cacti had bloomed
into the most amazing shade of red,
a bleeding carmine that weeped yellow
across a pure azure sky,
a scene so surreal in its beauty
it lifted up my heart and crushed it.

She was there, sitting at the very center,
crossed legged, with her eyes half closed;
she wore the timeless attire of some forgotten era;
feathered accoutrements and green patterned beads:
she was young and pretty and lithe;
she puffed on a small slender reed pipe,
the whiffs of her smoke reached me
with the sweet incense of her breath.

I was there but not there,
and as for whether she saw me,
I suppose I’ll never know;
oh, I was desperate to speak with her,
but I couldn’t bear the thought
of intruding upon her in her quiet meditations
and subdued revelry;
she was gone the next day
and the blooms were nothing
but fallen petals that the wind was busy
scattering into emptiness.

Out of that entire entire year
that I spent out there in the desert,
it was she and her cactus blooms
that I will never forget
for as long as I live.

desert girl


“my brave quiet desert girl.
your slack limbs pendulated
like breathless storks
where we rested nude ..” – Jon Norman

“Something sweet and beautiful, the touch of this desert girl, rioted in his blood; his heart swelled in exquisite agony.” – Zane Grey

“Sometimes I almost think that you are being sardonic, lizard — until I remember that a desert girl would know little of such subtlety.” – Sharon Kendrick

“And, sweetest of all, the deep-breasted, free-limbed desert girl, whose unveiled beauty told its own tale of sun and moon and star-lit skies, and of the pleasures of love and laughter.” – Norma Lorimer

“Tis morn, and the slumbers that wrapt him are fled,
His path over the desert once more he must find;
But when will a canopy over him be spread,
Like the desert-girl Eden he’s leaving behind.” – Ninon

“The words of the poem would far better suit the case of some recently captured and enslaved desert girl, held as his mistress by some coarse, unfeeling, well-to-do citizen or petty governor.” – J. W. Redhouse


desert girl



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