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Dust devil.

On this dry earth, forgiveness glides like a cloud shadow passing over a desert schoolyard erasing the ragged shade thrown by the palm frond ramada-- the almost-moist kiss of coolness on a day so hot the tetherball hangs sticky and soft at the end of its rope. The girl on the fringe for dodgeball stops, raises her face to the blessing of this tempered sun, soothing, welcome, nearly wet in a place where water's always holy. The whole world's lifted grain by grain, each point sharpened then pointed here, now. Gritty wind picks up, whipped wind whirls-- all the boys corral their faces in the crooks of their elbows all the girls squat on parched heels holding skirts down to shield slick calves from mean sand stings. Dust lifts itself up to the sky. The girl rinses her eyes, blinking above the drinking fountain's leaping arc, turns and is chosen--Blindfolded, she's twirled, told You're It, then left to stumble dizzy, hands outstretched toward the sound of breathing just out of reach, the child knowing everyone else is running, everyone else can see . . . The sun's back out. Her closed eyelids glow red as veined petals of tulips held to light, tulips she swiped from the flickering altar at the feet of the Virgin Our Mother of Sorrows, forced blossoms, waxy offerings lifted from someone'e else's God on a dare.

Peggy Shumaker's new book, Wings Moist from the Other World, appears this fall from the Pitt Poetry Series. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
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Author:Shumaker, Peggy
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
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