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MARIGOLD  REDEMPTION

 

 

golden amber, the burnt orange of sad 

sunsets, of maples mourning in the autumn,

the hue of harvest sacred to so many. 

in hindustan the saffron-colored garlands 

festoon the groom,  bless the bride and 

augur new life. in veracruz,  las cruces, 

a thousand other blended  aztec-catholic 

places, they fire-whisper bienvenidos to

the souls of the dead,  gracing graves, 

giving memory-joy to mausoleums, and

strewn on hallowed grounds as delicate 

flames of remembrance, each fragile 

petal helping a lost soul find his way. 

marigolds – sprites of resurrection, 

harbingers of the mystery that comes 

after death. their subtle scent an incense 

which baptizes our images of the nearly

forgotten dead, uncertain, waiting 

hopefully on the ofrenda to be invited 

home – to rejoin the living with string, 

flower petals, words that recall the mass 

and the raucous old tunes sung to the 

strum of guitars. the color orange means 

the yearning of decades – on both sides --

is finally met with mercy and sighs of

the soul. it is said that in the land of the

dead the hurts from life don’t end until

they are healed by we who still live.  

they move forward fueled only by our 

forgiveness, our loss of pride - a small 

price to pay for the riches of reconciling 

with our haunted past; to wipe away dust

and weep with joy after so very long. 

and so it is with the living.

marigolds mean redemption. let me 

breathe their scent and wear them about 

my neck, in my hair, against my temples,

all the days of my life. 

__________
 

WHAT HAPPENED AFTER PERU

 

 

you shivered when we crossed 

the equator to lima, the night el macho

hissed “maricóns” at us in mira flores, 

on the slow train to aguas calientes,

kneeling at the temple of the sun, hiking 

huayna picchu, and finally home

in the city of angels... 

 

trembling in the airport chaos you

touched my wrist, croaked adios, and

grabbed your cab to rush back to weho. 

what you desperately needed was 

hidden inside the mattress in your flat.

 

so long we had dreamed of peru!  but 

not to watch you sweat-shake through 

the quechua, refuse food and mutter

incantations no one could grasp. i 

watched you stumble on ancient stone 

foundations, then lost you in a montage 

of crosses, ghosts, llamas in the mist, 

the mercado, the ruins... you said the

strangeness was devouring you. 

 

back in los angeles you didn’t answer

your phone. i got the call from your

brother. you had finally filled the void 

inside by overfilling it with songs 

of poppies and hymns of coca leaves. 

 

the cuzco woman with the mummified

skin, the fedora and the smoldering cigar

understood.  i know what you whispered 

to her. i know what she handed you in 

exchange. you always found such people 

wherever you went. but never yourself. 

 

i miss you but where you had to go i 

could not follow. even to think of it

makes me shiver.

VOICE IN THE WHIRLWIND

 

I can’t say what It was, or Who, but 

that It hummed and buzzed in the frantic 

exhalations of flying insects which flit 

about me in the tense, waiting air.

 

It creaked in the obesely wet heaviness 

of maple branches straining so heavy they

defied bicep and spine to halt their chaos

as they groaned and dropped. I heard It 

 

whispering in the panicked barking of hounds

and the ferocious flutter of fleeing bird wings.

It said softly Face this, you must face this.

Staring at the amber-yellow storm clouds,

 

my breath heaving, I answered  I can’t!

Even then a distant howl from beyond sight 

rumbled into ripeness, earthquake-loud, 

to keep Its promise of destruction and despair. 

 

It bellowed louder. Face this! But how?

To confront The Storm is paralyzing -- a thing

of dread, a gnawing that eats into your gut like

a murder of crows fighting over carrion; 

 

like the awakened wind that chews on land 

and farm and hope and then spits them out. 

The Twister finally emerged  from the clouds,

carrying anger, whirling, screaming the words

 

Face this, it is what you were made to endure!

I could not listen for the breaking glass, the trees 

shrieking, the sirens and the deafening roar of 

the beating of my barely teen-age heart.  Never! 

 

Defiant, I ran inside, hid under a table, becoming

Jonah. “Don’t see me,” I prayed lest the house fall

from His wrath. But it didn’t. I slowly stood, my

pulse racing, I faced Him. And myself. I came out. 

___________

KIN OF BAOBABS

 

 

They say

Every being alive or dead

Has a spirit tree

 

Gnarled, smooth

Trunks which are the skeletons

Branches which are phalanges

 

Infested or resistant

Sap for blood, lichen skin

Leafy camouflage to hide behind

 

Subject to arboreal visits

From parasites, bromeliads

Some symbiotic 

 

Others predatory.

Every tree is different

Some welcome the building of nests

 

Others, bark-clenched, eschew

The arias of birds, some nourish

Manifesting acorns, peaches, dates.

 

Others prefer poison invoking

Sharp needles and the howling winds 

To keep life distant.

 

My tree cannot tell

If it’s oak or pine, my tree

Lacks eyes, wisdom, sometimes heart.

 

But even at its worst it

Provides shade and air even when

Kindness is against its nature.

 

The ugliest trees are lovely.

It matters not we might dry and crack.

We are kin to baobabs.