Dryness. Wadis and runnels stark.
Beside them, one desert lark linking
sky and earth, quenching its thirst
at the thorny salt wort, singing
in the language of longing,
igniting the listener’s desire.
The lark, in full light, takes flight,
and you the wandering pilgrim—
watching, rootless and wingless—
wax envious. Somberness, another
kind of darkness, envelopes you.
In the hilly terrain, southwestern region,
massive ridges and elevations with low-
lying long runnels create wadis Galal,
Dhiab, Al-Jah with their flora—
Pennisetum divisum forming phytogenic
mounds in the main channels, their shrubs—
Acacia ehrenbergiana and Lycium shawii,
their special feature: fine sediments cracking
after drying, or rolling—in the main channels—
into thin clay crusts like Pepperidge Farm’s
Pirouette rolled wafers.
Long runnels: one type dissecting desert
pavement on limestone Miocene ridgetops;
another lying at low levels between elevated
hamala ridges; the third draining the plateau
(every pilgrim should know)—their downstreams
meandering westward. Stones and gravel,
angular fragments, rock detritus.
Then, short narrow runnels dissecting
the ridges’ gentle slopes, and runnels cutting
backwards (pilgrim, come up close)—
confined to the Miocene ridges, result of
erosion and disintegration—fine rock detritus
on which grow Acacia ehrenbergiana
and Pennisetum divisum, and on the wind-
deposited sand, Panicum turgidum.
These wadis and runnels like the Spirit’s
messengers offering hope, encouraging
patience and faith—word become runnel
through which life-giving water eventually
will flow across this span of arid land
that you, dear pilgrim, feel you’ve known
forever. Peace be to dry, expectant
wadis and runnels winding through desolate
yet ultimately blessed space.
~ Diana Woodcock
Since receiving an M.F.A. degree in Creative Writing in 2004, Diana Woodcock has been teaching writing courses at Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar. Previously, she spent nearly eight years working in Tibet, Macau, and on the Thai-Cambodian border. She is a PhD candidate/Creative Writing (distance learning) at Lancaster University.