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
Every being alive or dead
Has a spirit tree
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
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.