The Exiles

WE reached the ancient desert,
There sat down;
The group of us sat down.
We were a band of exiles
Left behind
By others who went on ahead
To reach a happier time.
For us the gourd tree did not grow,
There was no raven in the sun,
Nor any crow.
We prayed
As if the tiger in our midst
With yellow eye
Were tiger sent from God,
And we could pray.
The tiger stretched his stripes
Out in the sun,
The jackals fawned on him,
He did not make them run.
There was one in the heat
Cried out that we could beat
A stone to make the water run,
And so outwit the sun.
The tiger showed no haste;
There was no stone or stick
In all that waste;
Nothing at all to beat
Except the tiger in the heat.

That night the stars came out,
And Arab dead, in hosts,
Came to claim our ghosts,
Wrapped round in burnooses,
Wrapped round in burnooses
As if in shrouds.