Moorish plasterwork from Granada's Alhambra Palace



for Giuliano Capecelatro





Do not rush

into a desert night

Shield your eyes

against these stars


Recall the North—

decades demanded

simply to hint

at spruce or ice


Move a hand slowly here

The wide-eyed lizard

beside your pen

has seen a ghost





I have packed

the wrong books

into this desert—


of northern gods

who rage and sweat

in their dark fur


Here, a languid demon

only nods

toward the courtyard


and the smallest of ants

silently removes

a dying cricket


from the hot

white stone





As the shard

works its way

through stone

up into the sun

you will rise

from night’s matrix


Today, you will brush

centuries of earth

from a fragment

of thought, reveal

an ancient potter’s

perfect green and blue


Later, in the heat

you will obsess

over white,

then sleep

without closing your eyes





I would never thrive here

but I might survive

as a fragment, of course,

as a shard


something once fashioned

by a strong brown hand

then aged in sand,

sturdy and simple—


or as a scavenger

whose rare cry

might be heard at dusk

in deference, in homage, to all


something that small: the slave

of a slave, shadow of a shadow

who worships among cactus

trusts to thorns


and begins each night with please





Too much history here

I cannot sleep


Cold lightning

to the west

over the Sierra Nevada


startles the centuries

awake and back

into hunger—


Huge black horses

trample winter’s

garden again




dark matter

made flesh






by some fierce new god

striking the old mountains


exhumed by his storm

I sit up

after centuries


abraded but amazed

to feel

desert wind again


I have survived all

I was meant

to placate or reveal


And am now pure—

art and in anyone’s service


Though born in Norway, Erling Friis-Baastad was raised in the U.S. and has spent most of his adult life in the Yukon Territory, Canada. His poems have appeared in a number of chapbooks and collections, as well as many literary journals and anthologies. His most recent collection is Wood Spoken: New and Selected Poems (Harbour, 2005). The Andalusia poems were written while in residence at Fundación Valparaíso in Mojácar, Spain. The suite will be part of a new collection of poetry entitled Fossil Light.

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