Twenty years ago, writer-director Anthony Minghella’s adaptation of Michael Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient was released to a firestorm of critical and financial success. 

Eighteen awards and a litany of “Best Of” celebrations later, the film has been cemented into the cultural lexicon. A shorthand for wartime lovers and a meditation on the mysterious power of memory, much has been made of The English Patient‘s vivid sensory pleasures and its layered tale of fateful romance. Today, on the anniversary of its theatrical debut, we celebrate the film’s poetic flourishes with a poem dedicated to its haunting desert landscape.

“Evocations from The English Patient

Smells of shadows in bedouin desert.

Shifting dunes, shifting love, shifting trust.

Orchard plums from moist gardens-by-the-sea.

Vascular sizoods profound with oasis promises.

Mapless continents, tribeless nations, a desert without winds.

Fire organs playing gyges music, tempting thieves.

Morphined memories of the roar of jealous planes biting harmattan dust.

Condensed milk sandwiches during a picnic inside the Cathedral of Sheba.

Lover bombs in unmined countryside–unexploded space.

Parrot puppets in exorbitant markets, lost amidst betrayals.

Summoning lovers by dynamite music from ancient pianos.

Pregnant swimmers through wadis alit with fire and ghosts.

Hungarian counting stars over sifting sands, missing rhythmic heartbeats of the faraway lover, under a sieved moon. MM