By Josephine Miles
When with the skin you do acknowledge drought,
The dry in the voice, the lightness of feet, the fine
Flake of the heat at every level line;
When with the hand you learn to touch without
Surprise the spine for the leaf, the prickled petal,
The stone scorched in the shine, and the wood brittle;
Then where the pipe drips and the fronds sprout
And the foot-square forest of clover blooms in sand,
You will lean and watch, but never touch with your hand.
Adonis, "Desert" from Selected Poems, translated by Khaled Mattawa. Copyright © 2010 by Adonis. Reprinted by permission of Yale University Press.
Source: Selected Poems (Yale University Press, 2017-10-31)
Josephine Miles was born in Chicago but spent most of her life in California. She developed rheumatoid arthritis at a young age and was often confined to a wheelchair, which she claimed allowed her time to write. Not only a skilled poet, Miles was also a brilliant scholar; she spent her career teaching at the University of California, Berkeley, and was the first woman to earn tenure in the English Department.
More By This Poet
On Inhabiting an Orange
All our roads go nowhere.
Maps are curled
To keep the pavement definitely
On the world.
All our footsteps, set to make
Lapse into arcs in deference
All our journeys nearing Space
Skirt it with care,
Shying at the distances
Present in air.
Blithely travel-stained and worn,
More Poems about Nature
What Women Are Made Of
We are all ventricle, spine, lung, larynx, and gut.
Clavicle and nape, what lies forked in an open palm;
we are follicle and temple. We are ankle, arch,
sole. Pore and rib, pelvis and root
and tongue. We are wishbone and gland and molar
Of Tribulation, these are They,
Denoted by the White.
— Emily Dickinson
in the split geode
a Santa’s grotto
every surface —
like sea urchins’ —
in the doorways
sleepers from the womb
to make of anything succulent