Speak Desert to Me

Speak Desert to me -
a tongue ancient and forgotten -
a language of nomads who cross the depths of the earth
from the border of the wasteland
to the oasis on the edge of the abyss.

Speak Desert to me -
the language of the rod and the staff,
the language of fear, whose syllables are engraved still
on my quivering flesh.
A secret tongue, somewhere alive.

You are a gnawing burn in my skin,
a comforter in the freezing cold.
Be the spike for my shaking tent
Stop us from drowning in the swirls of sand.
Already my eyes are blinded.

Your footsteps were lost
where there is neither "dew nor rain"*
and a sandstorm from far away is coming upon us -
a wave of dust erases the horizon.
We'll be ground to nothing soon.
Speak Desert to me
And I'll call to you from far away.

How will we guide our cry in this wilderness?
My voice must travel
from the border of the desert -- a sea, once,
that evaporated, disappeared, a long time ago
How will we guide our cry from the boundary
that was once a shore,
and now is smothered by dunes of oblivion?
How much water we once had!
A river used to gush for us both -
and all that is left now are
Dry bones, a fleeting shadow, a bush of thorns.

Speak Desert to me -
Like the echo of a whale whose mouth, filled with sand,
heaves a last dusty breath as
he strikes his tail,
and still sings.

• See Samuel II 1:21)

Translated by Miriyam Glazer

Prof. Miriyam Glazer‘s most recent book is Psalms of the Jewish Liturgy: A Guide to their Beauty, Power & Meaning (Aviv Press, 2009). She is Professor of Literature at American Jewish University in Los Angeles, and an ordained rabbi.

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