by Garrett Flagg

A giant skull of hematite,
a massive dune,
gigantic translucent fingers 
jutting to a cloudless sky
clasped in prayer:

A monastery.

Travelers find it
when thirst dulls the mind,
its compass
pointing anywhere.

I trudge on up and slide down
every third step—
eventually arriving
at the mouth of the skull.

Two massive incisors beckon
like doors; I lean 
and push myself in.

Incense and smoke,
pews inhabited by prayers.

I kneel, bow, make a cross.

Look.  A dove says to look:
under the skin,
past tissue and vein,
deeper than blood,
past bone,
into the throbbing.

All my travels arrive at this point.

Shame. The done
that cannot be undone.
The faceless mirror.

Shame.  A magnet
that draws me to an oasis
hidden in a ravine,
where a spring once flowed.

It is sun-bleached,
a disarticulated jumble
of femurs, digits, and ribs.

I lift rocks, 
dig where the sand
is darker, looking
for a seep.

All my life I’ve gambled
for a drink and found
in false water
mirage enough
for a spit.

I have sought myself
in the shiniest glints
by jostle and grab,
stepped on and stepping on,
burrowing for shade,
stealing the sun.

And now this,
this futile meander
into the bite 
of the viper.

everything I’ve done
is a gasp 
soaked in sweat.

And so I lay myself in fever,
face up, arms spread out
beneath the night’s
deep blanket.

Is there nothing
but running toward and from,
running into the arms
of one more promise,
one more betrayal
I call home?

How have I come 
to this hole, to this lonely tree
charred black?

I will hang my tattered clothes
upon that tree and ask
for a star.

Is there not one for me?
Not one? Are we not 
of substance the same?

Hot, violent, extreme.
Who is this orphan scream 
in the vast, celestial womb?

I will draw a map,
kneeling in the sand.
I will gather up 
by nerve and muscle,
these bones.

A retired educator, Garrett Flagg devotes his time to drawing, painting, photography, poetry and pickleball. He has traveled widely and published poetry in a variety of journals, including: Third Wind, Cream City Review, Greensboro Review, South Florida Review, McGuffin, etc. He lives in North Carolina and maintains a Facebook website called SeedROOT: YWrite.

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