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Shambhavi Singh, “Maati 7 “(detail) (2017), acrylic on canvas on board, 13.5” x 89.5” (in four parts) (image courtesy the artist and Talwar Gallery, New York | New Delhi)

THE DESERT

To think of a large country
spoiled
by its intractable people

men mostly   dense as cookies

A country
divided by black rivers

white birds on ice

wings recalling

people on the other side   floating, careless
somehow eternal

The lake was on fire

Burning pyres   hydrocephalous

We walked into the wind   the wind was bright lime
steppe fires were suspended
from gallows

Frogs with blinking throats
on top of each other, moving

their arms   to show each other, these are my wigs

And rabbits   a white grasshopper
hopping backwards

water buffaloes   where rapias formed.

a brown braid
hanging from a fence   flower of lice

someone offered to a cave

devotions, or
two spirits, in the cell

pushing through
strep   red hot, at first

then effigies
of someone sleeping, dreaming,

Mourning
is a practical matter

an alibi

When the enormous white fish
ate the cockroach, the dog
next door
started barking.

The bodies rose
from the mud   swung their hair around
swung their redolent faces

I said no   took the fish
that was offered

*   *   *

Brandon Shimoda’s recent books are Evening Oracle (Letter Machine Editions) and its sequel, The Desert, forthcoming in 2018 from The Song Cave. His work has appeared in Hyperallergic once before — in an essay on the photographic legacy of Japanese American incarceration. He lives in the desert.

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