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My Mistress, the Desert

(Bob Nolan)

 

Listen while Bob Nolan recites his epic verse

 

Now I don’t think that I was the first,

nor will I be the last to refer to the desert as a beautiful woman,

a very beautiful and tricky woman.

Not malicious now, mind you,

but just enough to keep your mind where it belongs—on her,

and that’s good

because you just don’t go running around out there like a,

like a starry-eyed kid.

You’ve got to know where you’re at, every moment you’re out there

and she demands it and that’s good.

So, I’d like you to meet my mistress, The Desert.

I passed this way some fifty-odd years ago

and my mistress was wearing wild lupines in her bound-up hair

and nothing much more than a spider web elsewhere.

(You see, it does get warm out there.)

Well, I was just fourteen years old at the time

and to say that I fell in love with her would not be quite right—

I crash-landed, head over heels in love with her and she laughed at me!

She laughed at me when she saw me blushing, and she said,

“Well, what do you know? Today I have me a boy, a mere blushing boy.”

And I said, “Dammit, I am not blushing.

It’s just that that damn sun could burn a person something fierce out here.”

And she says, “Ha, ha. Now don’t you kid me, my boy,”

and she keeps calling me her “boy” like I’m an adolescent kid,

which, of course, I really am,

but she’s breaking my heart

and I find out later that is just exactly what I needed.

And she knew it, God bless her, she knew it.

She made a desert man out of me in two short lessons

 and that was just the beginning—

the beginning of a long line of rendezvous

that stretched across a long line of years.

And just recently, not too long ago,

I went back out there just to check on her and nothing had changed

except my mistress was wearing fire penstemons in her bound-up hair

and had completely forgotten the spider web elsewhere.

(You see, sometimes it gets warmer than others out there.)

Well, she laughs at me again

only this time she laughs because she sees I no longer blush

and she says, “Well, what do you know.

Today I have me a man, a real man.”

And I say, “Now don’t you get too damn smart, my dear.

I’m out here to meet a woman, a real woman.”

And she gives me a look with those flashing eyes,

reaches up and takes the penstemons from her bound-up hair

and shakes it loose till it covers her there.

Then she parts her hair, just a teensy wee, peeks out and says to me,

“My dear, your woman’s in here,”

and indeed she was through all these years.

But I don’t know, as I, as I sit here this afternoon,

I think I shall never go back again.

She’s no longer there, I am told but I…know…different.

It’s just that it’s colder now out there,

and still, I know I will go back

 for I’ve already told the pilot who will take me there

to make the flight

in the still of night,

and scatter my ashes in a long, straight line

so my mistress can find me there.

And she’ll smile at me with eyes grown soft through the passing years,

and she’ll say,

 “Well, what do you know? My boy is home to stay,”

and she’ll take the wild flowers from her bound-up hair

and shake it loose till it covers us both

and it’s warm again out there.

 

NB: Recitation by Bob Nolan, a week before his death.

 

 

 

 

More about this song.

      For permission to record Bob Nolan's music or publish his poetry, contact: The Songwriter’s Guild of America