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We drove to the dunes in Yuma just to watch
The light cross the sand,
The wing of a hawk’s shadow
Left behind: all that plum-breasted dark,
And in the middle the uprooted spokes
Of a dry music, white petals bending
And unbending in our heads like bells
On the collars of horses crossing
The river: there is the nomad’s anger
to contend with, an old woman sprinkling
Pepper on a leg of lamb, a sprig of mint
In an outdoor kitchen. This is not the Holy Land,
Not the scarred face of Tripoli—it is, I think,
A true dream before the countenance
Of a barefoot dancer pausing
Above her fallen dress, the soul
Moonward in its ease—we look
At the birdcage grown out of the first
Dune flower curled up for sleep.
Look, the good star through
The drifting winds, bright, and no beast,
No eyes burning in the dust, no envy
In the dream’s knowledge of forever.
"Dune Primrose" is dedicated to the memory of Ian Fletcher, and was first published in Essays & Poems: In Memory of Ian Fletcher, 1920-1988. English Literature in Transition, Special Series Number 4, edited by Robert Langenfeld (University of North Carolina, Dept. of English, 1990). The poem later appeared in Savard's 1993 collection, Trumpeter (Carnegie Mellon University Press). It is used with permission here.
Floral background image: Oenothera deltoides ssp. deltoides, Birdcage Evening Primrose, a plant found only in Western North America. Photo by Barry Breckling from Southwest Environmental Information Network.