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The Desert, a prose poem by Jared Carter

The Desert
by Jared Carter

      Prolonged exposure to extremes of sun and heat can cause madness, even death, yet there is said to exist one group of nomads who roam the desert unceasingly. Of its members, who have never been studied, only one thing is known.
      Before leaving each campsite, they mix quantities of sand with colors extracted from native wildflowers, and spread out a series of vast, intricate diagrams. Such patterns are obscured by the wind within minutes after the tribesmen ride away.      

      The purpose of these designs is unclear. Thought to be prehistoric in origin, they have never been sketched or photographed. Over the years, the wish to examine them has lured a number of expeditions onto the desert. Their fate is uncertain, for none has ever returned.      
      Certain adventurers are reported to have withstood the heat and the mirages until they have stumbled across dunes streaked with faint colors. Of these, a few are alleged to have survived, and to have pushed on into even more inhospitable regions.      
      According to legend, perhaps once each century an explorer manages to come face to face with the nomads – if indeed it can be assumed that such wanderers even exist. It is far more likely that all those who venture upon the desert perish without exception.
Bio: Jared Carter’s sixth collection, Darkened Rooms of Summer, was published in 2014 by the University of Nebraska Press. He lives in Indianapolis.