Size / / /

Deserts sometimes dream of water.
Lost lakes gleam in the noon heat shimmer,
rippling faintly just above the ground --
the juniper sways in remnant currents,
remembers seaweed,
and impertinent fish.

You think you can feel it;
a cool breath chills your sweat,
and your cheek turns with the tide.
The lakes might have lived forever,
but drought came, water drained away,
and the fish crawled into stones to sleep.
You can find them still,
at Green River, in Wyoming,
where incandescent sand blew in on the west wind.

The corpses of lakes filled with camels,
with pronghorn antelope,
with the many wild dancers
for whom the desert was a keyhole,
through which they hastened out of the past,
water drying on their backs,
into the rejuvenated sun.

But on moonlit nights,
sky clear all the way up to the stars,
and coyotes strangely still,
the deserts sometimes dream of water,
and great fish swim, untroubled by the absent sun,
and scorn abandoned hooks,
their ancient scales shining with the moon.


Copyright © 2001 by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

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David C. Kopaska-Merkel is a geologist and poet from Virginia. His poetry and fiction have been published in venues such as Night Cry, Space and Time, Eldritch Tales, and The Magazine of Speculative Poetry. His latest chapbook is Results of a preliminary investigation of electrochemical properties of some organic matrices. For more information, visit David online.

David C. Kopaska-Merkel won the 2006 Rhysling Award for a collaboration with Kendall Evans, edits Dreams & Nightmares magazine, and has edited Star*Line and several Rhysling anthologies. His poems have appeared in Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, and elsewhere. A collection, Some Disassembly Required, winner of the 2023 Elgin Award, is available from him at
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