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Sample Poems by Diana Woodcock

Seduced into the Desert

I will seduce my love, lead her into the desert, and speak to her heart. ~ Hosea 2:16

Seduced and led as surely as if shackled
and noosed, I've wound up in the desert.
But don't get me wrong-this is no wailing song.
Far from it this call for celebration

acknowledging the soul's penetration
by earth's beauty, creation's oneness-
caught up in the rhythm and flow
of desert seasons, sparseness, apparent

emptiness opening wide the spirit
to scarcity, hunger, thirst.
No place for the faint-hearted
as inborn, biophilic needs awaken,

and I-shaken out of complacency-
seek out the secretive ones, follow
footprints and body indentations
across the sand. The desert becomes

pure gift once I let the sidra tree
speak to me. I'm a goner-
the dunes singing, shamal wind
whittling the rim of the Inland Sea.

I watch and wait for a chance to
participate in synthesis-a guest
trying my best not to be invasive
in this far from empty desert.

Desert Dweller Now

Back to square one again.
Soul seeking that ray of darkness*-
pure faith-listening for the never-
ending wordless tune hope sings.**

Like a snail that's lost its shell,
skin's turned tan from hot desert
sun and wind. Dreams all have
scattered over Arabian Gulf waters.

I have no Mt. Tanakami, as the ancient
poets had, no monkey's perch such as
Basho rigged-platform among
pines, no nest in a cherry-apple tree,

Hsu Ch'uan-style. Desert dweller
for a while, longing for the mountain's
steep slopes, empty hills, drip of the
spring to keep me company.

One takes a chance-leaves behind all
pseudo virtues and vices. Follows the trail
of exotic spices in a new direction hoping
to make a connection with sand and camels,

stolen girls from far away sold
as slaves, grandmothers who only raise
batolas*** to kiss grandchildren.
When the desert wind brushes sand

like a silk shayla across my face,
I laugh-hear myself ask,
What's to fear? I'm here now,
senescent yet being born again.

*St. John of the Cross
**Emily Dickinson
***face masks worn by many Arabian women

First Thing You Must Do

Upon arrival: seek them out.
Learn to identify them

in scrub, on limb.
Call them by name.

Distinguish between residents,
passage migrants, winter

visitors. Check out their
histories: range extenders;

escapees; fortunate ones
released from captivity.

They'll be your lifeline here.
Surrounded by desert-

waste ground, endless shades
of brown-suddenly, if

lucky, you'll spot a sulphur-
crested cockatoo or a streaked

weaver, and your heart will leap
the desert's ties.

If it fails to do so, you'll
know it's turned to stone,

and you've lost all hope of
the desert becoming home.

Choosing a Desert

When you decide the time has come
for a move to the desert, consider this one:
peninsula with Arabian Gulf waters on three
sides, an inland sea, flamingos in the shallows,
songs of that Persian nightingale-the white-
cheeked bulbul-pure magical

incantations, the sidra tree spreading
its branches like arms raised in praise.
In the silence and solitude, you'll learn
to love your neighbor for who he is-not
what he claims to be. In this harsh place,
you'll find within yourself the grace of

gentleness. Sea lavender will draw you
to saline flats you might otherwise avoid,
moorhen and crakes to sewage lagoons hidden
by tall green reeds. You'll grow so accustomed
to arid flat tan terrain till you'll feel like an alien
in lush mountains and rain. You'll settle in,

but once in a while the cloud-moving wind
will stir the chords of vagabondage, and you'll long
for a mountain stream and the woodsong.
You'll thirst for rain-day-long rain, rain that
drenches dreams all night. You'll miss birches
and mushrooms, though there's a seamlessness

in all this barrenness-a sand-brown transience
that shouldn't be missed: gently rippling quiet inlets,
springtime with desert hyacinths blossoming,
season of mists when desert scrub drips with moisture.
This is the place to enter the cloister of your own
design-take all the time you need to simply be.

The Arabian Peninsula

Arabian Gulf's western coast midway,
an oil flare-shaped peninsula
chiseled by wind and sea.

Golden-brown of arid desert, pale cream
of coastal salt flats, here and there the green
of farms and date palm plantations.

On three sides a sea prompting the first
question: how can it be that seamlessly
blue-green? Could windblown sand alone

hone limestone into giant mushrooms
and spindly pinnacles? How exactly
do green forests of mangroves

attract greater flamingos in droves?
As for the dunes-crescent-shaped barchans
fifty meters high, long undulating seifs

marching southward ahead of the shamal
to a tidal lagoon marking
the southern border-is it all

by Someone's divine order?
Taking my time, I traverse this coast,
determined to make the most

of desert living. The shamal blows me
away with the dunes- haunts and uplifts,
implants a grain to stop my watch

at the present moment. I kneel
beside the gulf, a Slender-billed gull's
wings shadowing me.

Hakeem's Farm

Two hours' drive from Doha,
heading cross-desert northwest,
his family farm sprawls hidden
behind brick walls-waterfalls
music to the ears after the silent
shifting of sand. In this desert land,
I often dream of rain, but I always
awaken to the same blue sky, relentless
sun. On his farm, three camels come
to nuzzle me. There are peacocks,
ostriches, Arabian horses, ducks
and reems, deer from Australia,
cattle, goats, sheep. No pigs, of course.

My father started with nothing,
Hakeem proudly beems. Now he owns
six businesses in town. We sit down
to a feast-fresh fish from the Arabian Gulf,
vegetables and lamb from the farm.
I could understand if they'd known
we were coming, but here we sit unexpectedly.
I hear the ducks squabbling on the pond,
feel the nuzzling of the camels lingering on.
Always a strange sensation: awareness
of the making of a memory.

Just a few friendly words exchanged
at Zubara Fort. Come see my farm-
you are welcome, he had smiled, this young
man who had studied five years in Tucson,
then returned to his Bedouin roots.
Such hospitality in the desert: strangers
welcomed as if emissaries of God-a gift
that in the West has all but died. Money
can't buy happiness-how many have tried?
But at least in the middle of a desert a farm
that thrives and a feast fit for Allah.