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Desert

by Annie Boutelle


And Magdalene, after seven wasted
years and dizzying hours of watching
their blindness, heads to the desert,
and this new space is a bowl God has
made for her, and sand can be prayer,
and stars eyes, and what can not be
undone, skinned, turned inside out?
Wind is her lover, the slim moon
her torch, scorpions her servants
with their wily calm, their armor—
she longs for such armor. Here each
thing shifts and slides, and nothing
can be counted, or counted upon,
the sun rules everything, even
the cave, and she has never known
such heat, its blast another kind
of God, one not to be tackled—
if this is a kiln, what mad potter
placed her here, and can sweat be
tears? her nakedness slick and proud,
can it be armor? and nothing left
between her and what comes close.

Annie Boutelle is the founder of the Poetry Center at Smith College and teaches in the English Department there. She has published poems in various journals, including The Georgia Review, The Hudson Review, and Poetry.  Her first book of poems is Becoming Bone: Poems on the Life of Celia Thaxter from the University of Arkansas Press.  Her second, Nest of Thistles, won the 2005 Samuel French Morse Prize from Northeastern University Press. She will be the Grace Hazard Conkling Poet in Residence at Smith College for 2009–11. (8/2009)


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