You are standing next to summer cacti
at the rim of a long dead oasis,
coughing in its ruins.
Your hands reach for a rotting palm
to steady your wandering equilibrium.
You have to squint,
your eyes are sandblasted
redder than the desert sunset,
your face is an open wound.
Your tongue lies dead,
a fuzzy caterpiller
in the dry cocoon of your cheeks.
Your limbs are hard, stiff,
burning with their swelling.
Your last chance was the train on Tuesday
leaving St. Louis for the golden west.
The canteen flashes in the forgotten distance,
discarded for the wavering liquidity
of a sun-drenched mirage.