Excerpt from The Bannisters
The desert would be an ocean were it able to withhold
its judgment on wavelet after sand-wavelet
and suspend itself over its own floor.
It’s not only death’s a Great Leveller.
The desert has its own version of spume,
its own version of spindrift—
that flurry of grains by the wavelet-crest.
My email somehow ended up in your spam.
I hope you know it was only a rough draft.
Though it may be twelve thousand years old, the creosote,
it’s not the pitch Noah used, in the Flood,
to keep his tanker afloat.
Then there’s that other desert plant for which to flower
is to signal distress—to send up a distress flare.
Paul Muldoon was born in County Armagh in 1951. He now lives in New York. A former radio and television producer for the BBC in Belfast, he has taught at Princeton University for more than thirty years. He is the author of thirteen collections of poetry including, most recently, Frolic and Detour (2019). Among his awards are the 1972 Eric Gregory Award, the 1980 Sir Geoffrey Faber Memorial Award, the 1994 T. S. Eliot Prize, the 1997 Irish Times Poetry Prize, the 2003 Pulitzer Prize, the 2003 Griffin International Prize for Poetry, the 2004 American Ireland Fund Literary Award, the 2004 Shakespeare Prize, the 2006 European Prize for Poetry, the 2015 Pigott Poetry Prize, and the 2017 Queens Gold Medal for Poetry. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Literature and a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.