The desert swallows voices.
Each particle of sand
hoards a piece away,
each particle athirst.
And a grain of sand has no mouth.
It speaks with its body
one tiny message,
word ever the same.
When the wind comes,
it strives to flight, arcs
through the air and
looks all about, shouting
rumors of birds, in its grainy voice:
‘birds! birds!’


Aaron  is an American writer and translator living in China. His awards include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and the PEN Texas Literary Award for Poetry. Aaron's works have appeared in Mid-American Review, Cream City Review, Cimarron Review, Nimrod and other journals. 

This poem began in the silence of the Gobi desert.  Its irrationality and immediacy to the physical world show an influence of Ch'an Buddhism on me. It is also part of my quest, inspired by the pith of Chinese characters, to find words and images that can bear the weight of entire poems.  They should radiate rather than encapsulate, achieve not closure but opening.  Technically, the poem seeks an otherworldly absurd after the fashion of Chuang Tzu.  I find the particular absurdity of this poem basic to human nature and beautiful.