Plumbaginaceae and Gentianaceae Come into the saline habitat not to escape your own species, but to encounter them and Gaia as well, all things full of Her – each dewdrop a holy anointing of Sea lavender and Lesser centaury. In salines along the coasts, on beaches and sabkha edges, that halophytic low shrub – Qataf, the natives named it – thriving, its fleshy leaves secreting salts, its miniscule flowers housed in a naked terminal panicle, blooming March till May. In moist habitats, the annual glabrous herb, Branched centaury, stiff-stemmed, the whole of it a lax flat-topped cluster of inflorescence, naturalized weed. You will need no sweeter place to lie down once stars appear. You, with your dusty feet, could entrust yourself to a peaceful sleep there among Sea lavender and Lesser centaury. You would awaken into joy and reunion, free from the idolatry of money and rampant greed. Finally flourishing in, of all places, the desert’s heart – fertile ground producing not only growth and blossoming of leadworts and gentians, but your own rebirth. You would disappear to spurt into something new that masters your earthly form as you pour yourself out like a stream. Stay till the dawn’s crest swallows the moon. Romantic love a deceiver, you turn now and forever after to the brown earth that’s graced you with a second birth. On sun-drenched salines beside irrigation canals full of bully common mynahs, melodious white-cheeked bulbuls, ubiquitous quarreling sparrows drinking and eating their fill, pray for the children of this land as they inhale petroleum’s by-products more deadly than the banned elixir of fine spirits and wine. Ask Sea lavender and Lesser centaury to save them.
Diana Woodcock is the author of seven chapbooks and four poetry collections, most recently Facing Aridity, published in 2021 as a finalist for the 2020 Prism Prize for Climate Literature (Homebound Publications/Wayfarer Books). Forthcoming in 2023 is Holy Sparks (a finalist for the 2020 Paraclete Press Poetry Award). Recipient of the 2011 Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Poetry Prize for Women for her debut collection, Swaying on the Elephant’s Shoulders, her work appears in Best New Poets 2008 and has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. Currently teaching at VCUarts Qatar, she holds a PhD in Creative Writing from Lancaster University, where her research was an inquiry into the role of poetry in the search for an environmental ethic.