Thursday, December 6, 2012

Two Poems by Diana Woodcock


On the northern culmination

of Dukhan’s anticline, beside

the discovery well drilled 1938-

39, I take my time gazing out

over the Gulf of Salawa to Saudi,

thoughts drifting from oil and

gasfields, eyes happy to follow

the elongate fold abruptly rising

from flat plains. Disturbed by

the sight of field installations

and pipeline mazes, I search

in Diyab on the flanks further south

for Selenite gypsum crystals among

acacias and scrubs, grazing camels

and Spiny-tailed lizards.

On the anticline’s eastern flank,

amid terraces and limestone table

mountains, I dig with spade, pick

hammer, axe. And I vow I won’t

relax till I hold one in my hand.

I ignore hydrocarbons and Jurassic

reservoirs, sour wet gas

and tarmats—all well and good

in their own way. I’ll take translucent

Selenite crystals any day.

You’ll say I’ve stayed too long in the hot sun, wandered too far alone in the desert, but I swear I hear the sidra tree speak loud and clear. Its words spilling out as a kind of enabling rhyme, epitaphs as telling as photographs, quick as life. Of what does it speak, you ask? A mysterious mix, submissiveness and rebellion. Of the human spirit’s need to be meek and receptive to truth, to stop lording it over Nature, to remember even as we live out our time in the sun, the darkness is waiting for everyone. It speaks of zaman,* of life’s brevity, the sanctity of every part of it, creation’s oneness, possibility of harmony, heaven on earth. It says no matter what, choose nonaggression, love, the unswept path; let the silence of autumn’s crescent moon seep into your heart; and never forget that pork barrel politics, not nature, was at the root of the disaster (scandal) called Katrina. The sidra tree calls to mind there’ve always been trading systems—Roman and Mogul empires, Chinese dynasties—but these did not lead to the ultimate travesties of today’s global powers. In its shade, I listen many hours as it speaks of man’s turn from the earth—governments’ ecocidal policies, consumerist lifestyles, the roots of anthropocentrism and the view of nature as a threat, earth nothing more than a vale of tears as we make our way to the Holy City . The sidra advises trail the camels as they graze sparse desert scrub, and stand forlorn beside dried-up wadis, waiting for winter rains. Don’t mourn, the sidra warns, the ephemeral nature of desert flowers, the parched cracked earth. Remember the universe is expanding all the while you, camels and Persian nightingale are waiting here wishing for rain. And at last, the sidra speaks of a joyful peace that can be found only in solitude and silence. Then just like that, it ceases speaking, silence reigns, and I could wonder if I’d heard all this at all. Or was it only the whisper of the shamal? Its voice, direct and unadorned, has in effect torn me from my comfort zone. Ah, the sidra tree has completely seduced me with its sweet, honest words, its stance of leaning in to listen, to weep with me—with a sweep of its branches skyward—for the whole world.
Diana Woodcock’s first full-length collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders—just nominated for a Kate Tufts Discovery Award—won the 2010 Vernice Quebodeaux International Poetry Prize for Women and was published by Little Red Tree Publishing in 2011. Her chapbooks are In the Shade of the Sidra Tree (Finishing Line Press), Mandala (Foothills Publishing), and Travels of a Gwai Lo—the title poem of which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has been teaching at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar since 2004. Prior to that, she lived and worked in Tibet , Macau and Thailand .

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