On being grateful in a shroud of dust

On being grateful in a shroud of dust
I awaken to a shroud of dust

A sun hangs low and wan
Weakly luminous
Its light dispersed
By an atmosphere
Still, unmoving
Thick with particles

Korla is not a pretty city
Not even for China
Brick and weathered concrete
Ubiquitous white tile

Unprettier still
In this apocalyptic light
Empty morning streets
Scant signs of life
Eeriness crawls up my skin

I remember yesterday
Bright sunshine
And the headwind
Into which I pedaled
And pedaled
And pedaled
Exhaustingly pedaled

The sun was falling
In unpretty Korla
Just as I arrived
Even as too did the sand

Thankful for the dump truck
Onto which I’d grabbed
Pulling me alongside
Kilometer after kilometer
Biceps burning
Intention resolute

Else I’d be camped
Somewhere in the desert
Sand in my mouth
My nose
My eyes

Restless night avoided
No tent walls rippled
No tent poles buckled
No tent pegs pulled loose
No sand, no dust
Getting into everything

Instead I slumbered
Fast and sound
Bathed and well fed
Clean sheets and fluffy pillows
Air, conditioned and filtered

Awakening to scenes of apocalypse
Outside my window
Rather than weathering one
At night in the desert

I see the beauty
In this unpretty town

Reminded again
Of the smiling face
In a side view mirror
Kilometer after kilometer
Thank you, too
Kind driver

Xinjiang Autonomous Region, China

Taken during travels, 1998

This post is my second response to Sandstorm, this week’s edition of Jennifer Nichole Wells’ wonderful photo prompts, One Word Photo Challenge. The first response, also set on the edge of China’s massive Taklamakan Desert, is Ming Sha Shan