Moses' feathery devils out of sand
sway melting westward: bleak old-virgin land
dreaming of children - tree, and hearth, and jet
of the tame shadowed fountain - casts them out
like a nun's dream of man. They will be sown
a terrible abstinence upon limbs of stone,
the red infertile trunks and rocky thighs
absorbing their own seed.
What lands are these?
Not Adam's earth; nor is this wind the fire
of breath creating gratified desire.
Still where the viper swims in sand, the pearly
scorpion stiffens, and the flat-mouthed surly
lizards are - here, looking towards the waste,
we know more bare an impotence than dust
or the dry ant-clean spectres that are born
of it, or venom of the scale and horn.
Over my bed there fumes a scented stick
- the circumcision of the catholic
- to me an image of this desert, poured
in sterile fire to cense a fruitless lord.
It grew of Adam's earth, a race that fell:
the sick and fleshy richness of the Nile.