,

Year of Dust and Rain / Alan Cunningham

“ “No, the moon is a desert”. This was the poet’s reply, to judge by the last card put down on the table: the bald circumference of the Ace of Coins. “From this arid sphere every discourse and every poem sets forth; and every journey through forests, battles, treasures, banquets, bedchambers, brings us back here, to the center of an empty horizon.” ”

from The Castle of Crossed Destinies, Italo Calvino.

1

a rested vision 
of a hardened 
desert space

and a cemetery
of a type

perhaps contorted

with scented headstones

and of 
placement there

inspired by an obsession
for something other
than one’s heart

a premonition
as to beginning

a commitment
to some land

that functions only
or is it mainly
as enclosure

or in contrast to a life

it had been taken
very practically

and preparation had been made
for travel

inoculation

application for current 
paperwork

and some purchasing
of items 
thought required

a painted bowl
some milk 
the sugared artefacts
of weathered trees

no flight was made

the empty space 
was true all right

any dream 
was off the mark

it had been thoughts
of an outside identity

masking blood
and heart

that had been left 
without
sufficient water

and a burial
of a need
for substitution

that was desired

and yet
a state 
of being 

desert 

it still entices 

unmodulated sky 
a lesser watered air 

the dust 

and some knowledge 

beginning not in mind 

but with deficiencies
in pleasure

that being there some time 
requires 
not only 
an exuberance of spirit
but also
sacrifice 
of an ability for sustenance 

and

belittlement of time

abandon

with some certainty
with haste

what feelings 
most unsettle
your composure 

amongst the muddied 
heat

a need to know
where thirst 
will be
best satisfied

or where 
a sweetness

coloured green and orange

grows well

nostalgia for 
the taste of salt

the body stands 
within
an area 

unfamiliar 
with the principle of 
over flow 
and also that 
of over growth

make do 
with loneliness 
of sorts 
in terms of livelihood 
and botany

and revel 
in 
the knowledge 
of the end
of having water 
in one’s heart

revel in an unfulfilling 
state 

of constant dehydration

to be without
some water 
in one’s heart
does not 
require 
that anything 
be felt 

neither sadness 
nor despair

nor done

apart from starting thinking
apart from searching for 
a cacophonous song
to rouse the blood instead 

like dust 
an absence asks
for nothing

like constant rain
as yet another type of lack 
it irritates

although 
a mood 
will not grow kinder 
in conjunction with 
its reappearance

for then
one finds oneself
constrained 
into
some other
state
of being 

in which 
it is much easier

to finally 
dishonour
one’s
affairs

the sacrifice 
in thought 
one needs to make 

is not
in plans for 
company

no

nor even thoughts of access 
to
clean 
and flowing water

purified 
by the macerated twigs of certain trees
by pomegranate rind
and milk

no

nor even cooling food

sliced up tomato
or cucumber
contrasted with sharp cheese

it is a giving over
of a different kind

one must allow 
to disappear 
the thought
of precious bodies 
in some danger

a twisting of the foot
ignored

a stumbled move
neglected 

perhaps resulting 
in default of fear 
but not of tenderness

a thought one carried 
in one’s heart 
when forced to cross
the threshold 

from 
abundance 
into 
dust

leave it 
at your feet

that crumpled bottle
jostling with bloodied water 

and breath 
the air
of almost lifeless places

for there 
peace will be made
with dust

and lack of moisture

it is strange
the glory held for water
rain 
and damp

when dryness
dust 
and heat
are more refreshing 
to ones need 
for certainty

upon awakening 
the air is 
silent
new
and cold 

and there is 
little moisture 
on the ground 

but nothing much 
that it could bond to 

for the dust
would soak it up
and still be dust

this is the fear that water has 
of dryness

that it will be absorbed

it is a fear most have 
some knowledge of
and 
within the desert 

that old fear 
is brought 
into the light
near every morning 

as

upon awakening
it is recalled 
that all the moisture 
in one’s body 
is to be drawn 
into the dust 
that very day

and if one will 
survive

must be replaced 
by careful 
dedication to 
the ground 
one rested on
the night before

not only dedication to the ground
but knowledge of it too

the knowledge one consumes 
upon observance of 
a desert scene 
for generations

a thousand years

this is a model 
of consumption 
one might battle caution for

watch as every 
dawn
emerges 

and the sun beats
down 
on dust 

dust
ground out
from lack 
of water 

and from 
wind
that still erodes

and gains in force
with every distant 
tide

in a desert 
shall you try 
to find me

hiding there
most likely

from what some think
is life

it is 
however
a bad selection in your judgments
to think the desert void of life

but it is common though
to think this way

and they should now forgive themselves

those who linger in politeness
waiting only 
for discovery of gold

the dust 
and heat 
and need 
to look much closer 
make most who pass through
think this way

or rather 
then confirm
their thoughts
on solitude 

and lack of 
easy water 

as thoughts
it would be better 
to misplace

8  

to watch 
how water 
percolates
beneath the 
desert ground

one has to understand 
the need 
for architecture 

for entertaining 
enclosed space

one has to watch 
the dust 
and wind
envelope channels 
dug 
between the air 
and darkest ground

and wait
with heated breath

sit crookedly

approach an awkwardness
towards your thoughts 
of better self

don’t listen to a sound
the wind creates

but wait 
as all discomfort 
in the gap 
between 
each action you forget 
and then remember as enacted
erodes 
as well

the way
the matter 
that now
constitutes
this desert

has eroded
from some larger form

and will erode 
much further 
in 
due time

until

it comes to make up 
nothing
and then disappears 
from view

watch 
this matter 
as it disappears

and you will learn 
how water 
can be drunk

in desert space
not everything requires 
an answer

this is the result 
of dryness

solutions were made
for 
damper worlds

the desert cannot ask 
for your forgiveness

it is immune to worry 
and is indifferent 
to all thoughts 
of compromise

it asks instead for you 
to not equivocate

but rather 
choose the loss 
that will be made for you

knowing well that loss is nothing 
to be feared
within the desert

it is the state of being dust

10

any broken thing 
that might yet start 
to symbolise 

another broken thing
within the desert

is made
somehow invisible

eroded by 
the heat 
and by the sun

anything unnoticed 
in the desert space
becomes unfit to 
quickly categorise

interrogates decisions 
made by goats and snakes
based on errant logic 
and connections

and then reverts itself to 
liking only feeling 

feelings such as 
being either famished 
or defeated
underneath a total radiance
of sky

the space outside
this meaning
or all the space corralled inside
defeats the concept 
of glad boundaries

then provokes
a new desire

a radiation of identity 
or
a constant fighting back 

such combat is avoidable
in the area of space
becoming dust

once entered into
an avoidance 
is the only thing worth promising

and the route through such a promise 
developed over centuries

can offer
strategies
for grace 

in understanding 
how to rend a price 
available to almost all 
from endless dust

11

dust is still navigable
one only need look up

dust 
and dryness
can be endured

if one submits 
to the idea 
of holy ground

knowledgeable
of the water 
underneath 

and the lack of boundary
between
oneself
and the want of prayers 
for easy types 
of strategies 

enabling heavy thoughts 
of separate growth

12

in a desert
one will never see
reflection 
of the figure 
one might wish to be

the saviour 
or the heroine

there is no excess liquid for reflection 

one must suffice with
only superficial waters

and there is nothing to be fixed or saved
save 
for what is cloying 
in one’s head

no figure
good for substitution

the desert humbles
fantasy 
if it is desert proper

dry

forgoing water

water beautifies and swells

it is the perfect vehicle for transmission
of a theology

it amplifies our selfish dreams 

Alan Cunningham is a writer and filmmaker. Previous work includes Count from Zero to One Hundred (2013) and Sangar (2019). Originally from Ireland, he is now based in London. Website: www.alanmcunningham.com

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