What Was Once an Ocean for Agha Shahid Ali

by Jim Davis

I wander through honey mustard hills, weave
through marching brambles, groaning

as your literary army stretches its roots,
threatening to live and breathe.

I pierce the cracked plates of earth with rods,
stretch a cord from one to another.

Draped over the reach of cord, a woven blanket.
Threads of yellow and ochre, blended

with crimson sun, shield me throughout
storms in summer heat, navigating the plains,

rolling across the blustery ocean of sand.
The blue truth of night is rising.

The moon’s alchemy has turned the desert to water
as you said it would.

Waves crash through dark hours, which I endure

by candlelight while you, the moon,

teach me the grace and depravity,
of Evanescence, of the wind.

And as I breathe your lesson I see you,
a frock of black hair, an imaginary white beard

cascading down the waterfall of your chest,
over your beating, crimson heart,

as if seeing you for the first time,

in the most familiar, most grateful of ways.

You are the mountains and the desert.
You are the salutatory cactus and flower.

You are the red beads of wax
staining yellowed pages

as the sun rises
over what was once an ocean.