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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.


September 1934


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)

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Poet Bio

Josephine Miles
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. See More By This Poet

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