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Meeting Places: Part IV


Wadis

cross like latitude lines over and under
the eight lane highway that connects
Muscat to Dubai. The road dips down
to accommodate some projected flow
that seems to me more than imagined.

This parched country is filled with rocks
rounded to the smoothness of skin,
covering the dry riverbeds, spewing
from the mountains, clawed out,
the final stroke of a vengeful god
in his vast memorial to water.

There hasn’t been a drop of rain in six months.

Some wadis have soccer goals, built
on the abandoned dreams of rushing rivers.
Heaps of debris, remnants of camp outs,
swerve in circles, radiating plastic
and paper and cans over the roadway.

The Bedouin chose not to waste their wealth
of sun-stained corridor, so camels spill down
the lifeless arteries of wadis cum racetracks
kicking clouds of dust into the riders’ eyes.
Camels run the wadi races, but spectators drive.

Cloth-carved Omanis line the high wadi-banks,
following the contrails of phantom currents
from the windows of Toyota Datsuns, frantic
as a clutch of electric rabbits at the dog track.
The race has no turns, no circles, just speed

and victory, declared before the confluence
of the wadi and the highway and the median
marked with peppermint posts, hammered
into the cracked earth, warning us to turn
around when the floods come. A bad joke,
the paranoia of a Sheikh who couldn’t swim.
They were barber poles in the land of the bald.

But the desert kills those who don’t respect it.
And the rain rolled in, for two days. Finally,
I understood what drove Noah to start counting.
On the third day, we too, were moving, two by two
behind the hazard lights, whispered like Hail Mary’s

into the rush of water. We made it through
a handful of floods between home and school.
Some were less lucky. A dozen families
drove in and rose up, loaded into instant rivers
firing four-door torpedoes out to sea.

In Oman all water meets sand,
but all sand does not meet water.


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