Alicanto Cycle: Dreams of the Desert

by Richard Paez

Alicanto Cycle: Dreams of the Desert

veteris vestigia flammae – Virgil
“I feel once more the scars of the old flame”

Saltpeter (Axis Mundi)

We forge new weapons
     – the deadliest of all –
to avenge old wounds :

On this equatorial battleground
that splits our earth in two,
     under the vagrant sun
     that strips our world of shade
the only shadows cast
are our own –
     always directly beneath us.

     The war took my feet –
     I am the hobbling,
     imbalanced man
     between twigs
     I saved from the flames
          the tiny night I cast below me
          madrugada in motion
          is the closest this place knows
          to anything circadian


We brandish old weapons
     – the deadliest by far –
to honor new wounds :

On the sun-bleached borderland
that splits our world in two,
     under this lifeless light,
     translucent alabaster,
the only shadows cast
are our own –
     always underneath us.

     The river hasn't moved
     since our dead damned its flow.
     Summer ice
     awaits sublimation –
          how can this endless desert-day
          be so brilliant and so cold?


She came across the courtyard,
constellations in her hair:

     all the lights
     God ever dreamt of
     find themselves there.

She smiled at my compliments,
our throw-away affair:

     if all we ever have is moments
     then why in God's name should we care?

Atacama Giant

The stones here are soft
     softer than those
          our faces are carved from.

Our steps
     cause tremors;
each breath,
     death –
          (or should have).

We are War and Famine,
     Death and Pestilence –
Guerra y Inanición,
     Muerte y Contagio –

Yet our only victims
     are ourselves
the only sacrifices
     our own.

We were woken
     after aeons-sleep –
     forgotten auguries,
     preserved in sand,
     quietly counting
     moons and rains.

We were brought here
     to announce Apocalypse
     bring verdigris –

     but Apocalypse
     had already come.

The Detritus of Man (Menarche)

Mother, mother
the ocean smells like ink.

In those days, we bathed
     in iodine and salt
we learned
     how sand can flow
     like water –
like water:
     everything we know and are
     everything we ever were
     is water
everything we think we add –
     our blood, our oil
     pollutants and perversions
     messages in bottles
     all the detritus of man
she already has inside her,
     always had inside her:
     more gold can't be mined
     more iron can't be found
     in blood and earth combined –

to her,
all the dreams of man
are but a molecule

given enough time
     – man's aeon,
     her moment –
it all flows like water:
     we dream, make plans
     take our children to the shores
     we washed upon as children
     never dreaming, or knowing
     that those shores,
     those breakers and riptides
that ache-less flow
     dreamt of us long before
     the first amphibian took breath

Mother, mother
the ocean smells like ink.

Mother smiles,
saves chemistry lessons
     for another age
hangs our clothes
     on ocean-ward banisters
wishes us sweet dreams

out here in the desert,
our hands and feet
     – palms and souls –
are stained beyond recognition

::: consumption :::

She said she worried for me
because I burned so brightly.
I had no heart to tell her
that my brightness
was only due
to contrast.

Every time I eat, I die.
I starve myself daily
live on a liquid diet
because I fear
what comes with

     She said she worried for me
     I had no heart to tell her
     I starve myself daily
     because I fear


Author's Note: In memory of those who died for saltrock and guano.

Posted on 09/25/2009
Copyright © 2024 Richard Paez

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