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The Sahara


All deserts are one tribe, from the beginning
of time, but Arabia, Syria, Gobi —
they're only ripples of the vast Sahara
wave that roared its satanic spite.

The Red Sea heaves, and the Persian Gulf,
and Pamir stands thick with snow,
but Sahara's sand-floods
run straight to green Siberia.

Not in dense forests, not on huge oceans,
but only in the desert, only the desert,
do you need no other men, meet no others,
and love only sun and wind.

The sun bends from its blue heights,
bends down its young girl's face,
and the golden dunes
are like rivers of spilled sun.

Porphyry palaces in the cliffs, and purple towers,
and palms and fountains on guard:
sun-painted mirages
on glassy air-mirrors.

And at evening, violet shadows
painted in the sand, under
cliffs and under bushes, painted
as if on a smooth gold board.

And at a sign from the sky
desert music rings out;
limestone, bursting with flames, spills
and scatters into dark-red dust.

Rock peaks gleam, and dark between them,
below them, dry stone rivers
sleep. The Sahara: only a wave-tossed
stormy sea ?

Look closer: the eternal glory of sand
reflects celestial flames:
the sky — where clouds curl into sleep,
where rainbows drift: the Sahara is like the sky.

Wind, wild wind, is the second lord
of the desert, rushing
like an Indian stallion down
ravines and over high hills —

And sand rings and sings, and climbs to its feet,
knowing its master.
The air darkens, the sun's eye narrows
like a pomegranate center.

Dust whirlwinds swell
like ancient, monstrous palm trees,
bend, sway, move in the darkness
as if never intending to fall,

Wandering till the end of time,
more and more awesome,
serpent heads disappear in clouds,
terrible grey snake-heads.

Then one of them lags, falters,
falls in a heap of sand,
tripping on a camel
bellowing in terror.

And like new mountains they all lie down
on the flat, smooth plain,
and the hot, dry desert wind blows
to the sea, seeding trouble, stupefying.

And a caravan mills around, the guid
poking the sand with his stick, frightened,
hunting a once-familiar spring
but not finding it.

And horses neigh, in green oases,
and Himalayan nard scents the air
under palm trees — islands as rare in an ocean
of fire as spots on a black leopard.

But howling, too, deafening howls
as spears glitter and burnooses blow —
for the Tibbusi to the east
hate the Tuaregs to the west.

And as they fight for a palm grove,
or a camel, or a slave girl,
sand sweeps in and covers
Tibesti, covers Murzuk, covers Gadames —

Desert winds respect
nothing, pull down
walls, bury gardens, poison
pools with snow-white salt.

And perhaps, in a hundred, two hundred
years, wild packs of sand-wolves
from the burning young Sahara
will rush at our old, green world,

Fill the Mediterranean,
fill Paris, and Moscow, fill Athens —
and we, bedouins on camels,
will believe in heavenly fires.

And then, in the end, when ships
from Mars dock on earth
all they'll see is an ocean of gold,
all, and they'll call it: Sahara.

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