The Next Thing That Love Demands

In the moment we wake up, lost
and alone, choking on desert sand,
we understand: we can go home again.
We wait to move until the cool of night
when animals come out to hunt and play.
Wind has erased every trace of our old
steps from the dunes. We look to the stars,
follow their compass toward morning.
We lap up dew from desert grasses.
We sleep in the shadow of red rocks,
lazy vultures spiraling high above.
We track pigeons and doves for miles.
Just as our throats begin to burn with despair,
the straight line of a wild bee leads to a well.
Here by yellow primroses we swill down life.
Here we soothe our parched skin and soak
our clothes, preparing to carry on. Here we fill
goatskin bags with water and shimmy up
tall palms to pick sweet dates, gifts to slake
the thirst of those we love but left so long ago.
Now we know how desperate a body can be
for even a sip to swallow. Now we know
how a spirit can rejoice to find in desolation
what keeps it alive. It is here, in wilderness,
where we learn to do the next thing that love
demands. It is here where our wandering guides
us back to the home we left but did not lose.


Play notes: I jotted down the title for this poem on my recent retreat in the woods. I can't remember where the words came from—I don't think that I dreamed them up, but I can't locate their source anywhere. I had no idea what the poem would be about. It led me into the desert, of all places!


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