Cookout, Fourth of July 2021

By Peter Halstead

You who bring the light to us
by your rash endeavors you
who by your nature catch
the white and distant beaches
shimmering as sunsets were
back then and clever as the world
once was bright as time
rushing through the mounding sea
to crystallize
the leap and feel
of waves around whose
sounds the haze designs
a reel of summer days

where the ripples intervene
on the edges of the arid land
in a trance of sun
whose molten chandelier
tints the ancient hedges
when the muezzin chants
the evening prayer
where even air
is lost to words

through which the glaze
shimmers on the cast
iron trefoil screen
a collage in strokes of green
and chloroplast
that dodges streaks
the amber screens that
camouflage in thawb batiks
a photographer’s mistake
in any case a chic mirage

of evening jade
where burning spice
scents the billowing cascade
of Bedouin tents
that blend
the undulating shade
and swirls of sand
with faded skies
where a velvet band
of charcoal lies

in between
the scirocco and the dream
glyphs of desert heat
the monsoon steam
with close-up jets
of endless moonlit river cliffs
riffling dreams of Wadi Rumm
seared by the khamseen.

What earth began
our fires end
spring’s repeating calls
that bloom again
now transfigured
by its latent jewels
that rise or fall
in the whirlpool
of our grill’s
ungainly catalyzer.

In sabka and wadi
overrun with dunes
gardens sing
and misty djinns
resurrect tagines
from flame and shade
of our body’s
stainless escapade

where the broken valleys
of the earth
whose raging human curse
screams down through lips of stone
in the sandstorm’s winding birth
whose granite fingerprints
burst our whirling strands of rhyme
in the alleys of the moon
and slow our labyrinth
of ascension and decline

braid arabesques
like the fire’s faces
above the desert’s floating haze
whose endless spaces
pinwheel and rain
sand devils from the blur of gas
where memory saves
for last the dazzling
oven of the night, and unsure
bursts of sunspot limbs
basted on the phosphor’s
overflowing whims

bend the pyroclastic
flares whipping up
against the script
of magma’s undulating seas
weld the slip and speed
of clouds’ celestial plinths
with our own astronomies
drifting wrecked
around the dust
the saffron frieze
and fuse the stoking dusk
of slag and spark
with loss and grief and dark
with sparklers on the summer breeze
and finally just
sheet lightning
in the park.

September 2nd, 2021
October 10th–22nd, 2021