Drawn along a thread of perfume
that binds an orange tree to the acacia
the sphinx moth has awakened
and its eye is a searchlight through time.
It will come
while we are looking away
with its stained glass wings
spread open to the light. We know
it is close; we have marked on the calendar
the date it is due, and now all
that remains is to look
for the miracle
in a time of despair. It will come
as a heartbeat flying
between late afternoon's glow
and the full moon. It will be
a book with two pages
that opens once in a lifetime
revealing its secret to the vigilant
for whom the days
melt at a touch
and there are no boundaries
to the desert
in the hourglass.

With wings of silk and a velvet mask
he hangs in a recess
until the dark is thick enough to stir
then the blood flows faster
to his ears
and they open to receive the music
made by stars. He's a memory
that can't find a way
back into the mind. Imagine a wolf's heart
shrunken to fit
inside a tiny breast; imagine
a flame as a tooth. When you wake up
in the small hours
thirsty for light
and reach for the switch he'll be there,
he'll be silence
with an edge so sharp
it cuts. Imagine navigating
fear with a map you can touch
but not see; imagine
your reflection flying
from the mirror
and never coming back.


The mantis lands on a fingerprint
whose whorls are a map
of the spirit world.
It is never expected
but always welcome
like a tap on the shoulder
from someone long
lost who has waited
for a warm night to return
all alone as a flake
of green light
that weighs less than hope.


In winter the word
moves in shadow with one foot
placed hard on the earth
and the next just a light
gesture following. In spring
it's a flash
with a sword cutting through it
leaving half for an afterthought
when wildflowers fade.
There's a buzz
in the middle of summer
like a mouthful of bees
when the heat is a sting
with six letters
until rain falls
from a thunderclap
and an echo flows from the d
to the t. A desert
might be sand and stars,
it might be the space
where we fill in details
from the blue on a lizard's neck
to the phainopepla's crest
and the hook in the name
where it ends in a thorn.

Starting from the low hill
and the ridge that runs before it
the light flows streamward first
to where the current is fast
then edges higher
up the greening slope
that turns to volcanic shadow
in a curve and a thumb
against a sky the colour
of the year's first heat. Mesquite,
saguaro, gravel and cholla
dip and rise to a thrasher's
two-note call. The line sweeps
toward another peak, scarred
by erosion, smoothed by wind and water,
and resting on the darkness
of ancient rock and acquifers.
The vegetation thins
on the outcrop whose three
humps are stark,
dry and buckled where the stream
washes beneath them
over stones with old faces
before it disappears
among cottonwoods
while a wide escarpment pushes back
in a stroke of rock
against the universe.

      David Chorlton 2010