Promised Land by Min Straussman

The thing is, I expected to start at the beginning and go to the end, but that wasn’t the way it worked out at all. As it happened, I woke up under a bush about a third of the way through events. The inciting incident was over. How had I arrived at this point in the timeline?

The desert stretched out for miles in every direction. I stood up, brushed myself off, and looked for the future. I stared off into the distance, thinking maybe I would find it past the horizon. I had forgotten that the future is simply a conjugation of being.

I had read stories of my mythical ancestors wandering the desert along time, but I didn’t expect that I would wind up there myself. I had believed this sort of thing was behind us—the excess of hours, the sand scrubbing everything smooth, the hermaphroditic flowers (Tamarix gallica) falling from the sky at regular intervals. Manna sounds an awful lot like “man up”.

I vagabonded, peering at the few birds flying overhead to see if their auguries were good.

One morning, splayed out on the sand dune, gasping for breath, I realized what it was that held me there—the misconception that one goes ahead to the future. Bearded vultures circled while the sun hit me with a slow, steady rhythm. The star and the sand had much to say to one another. I screamed at the rocks, “The future is only a movement toward existence!”

The cries of a hoopoe and a crow cracked the silence from the west. A woodpecker and a magpie echoed from the east. Thus, the word went out, and I went for a walk, tracking the signs. I found the muddy, looping creeks and followed them to the past, to the present, and back again, as more birds gathered overhead.

I think I almost see the outline of the future. Mirage or not, the being that is to come shimmers in the heat, waves.

Now, I throw out chicken feed and watch the hens dance so hard grass cuttings fall to the ground in sheaves. I push my sandals into hot sand. It’s only a matter of time.

Min Straussman is an essayist, poet, translator, and educator living in Paris. Since 2017, he has been a regular contributor to Dictionary[dot]com where he writes about etymology and language. His work has also been published in Impossible Worlds, Hey Alma, and beestung, and he has a book forthcoming on Paris, Walter Benjamin, and the connections between kabbalah and the urban environment. He is fascinated by the fragmented, the esoteric, and all things related to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can find his work at or on Twitter @mintherose.