Stand by Me

We wanted to follow
railroad tracks and sleep
under stars, maybe cook
up hot dogs without
a strict parent seeing
us wipe the grease
on our jeans. This
was 1986 when Polo
shirts were everything, not
following dreams or watching
morning deer, or thinking
about writing, or what
friendship could mean. But
Stand by Me let
in a little light
so we could remember
who we really are.

Tree Talks About Dancing

They worry about me in pounding wind,
that I might collapse, my weight crushing
fence, roof, windshield. It never crosses
their mind that I might be dancing, green
leaves, trunk, thump-shaking, swaying.
That this is my journey song, while roots
hold tight. Air my music, feel it move, groove,
and yes, one day I will topple this glory.

Paraguayan Heaven

Sitting shotgun in a truck, 3 of us squeezed in the front (Cayo, Ernesto, Me), no seat belts, sipping yerba mate. I’m speaking Spanish, asking questions about recycling plastic and filtering water with chlorine. Cayo drives, points his finger up at the windshield, motioning to each vehicle we pass on the two lane Caazapa highway. Yvaga, he says, cielo, heaven. That’s where you will go when you die, his finger silently communicates. Watching this ritual I see the other drivers smiling at us, their fingers also pointing upward, telling us the same thing.

Cayo asks me about California. The Paraguayan campo has no cable TV, no CNN, no movie theaters. He doesn’t question me about celebrities or our president, he asks about the land, trees, animals, what the air smells like, feels like. I tell him about non-native eucalyptus trees, how they suck water out of the earth, take nourishment away from other plants. He understands. The conversation is easy, like the cumulus clouds that float like cotton above us.

Ernesto speaks and at first I think I comprehend, the cadence sounds the same, but then I’m lost in a time before Spanish, before South American roads. I close my eyes for a few seconds, a lightness takes over. I’m hearing a Guarani language not of an evangelizing church or of plundering capitalism, but of a people, a community. A few minutes later we slow down, pick up a hitchhiker, normal in this part of Paraguay. I see the guy sitting in the truck bed, a large heavy sack between his legs. A man on a journey, we both watch the road, I look out the front, he looks out the back.

When the Roses at 7-Eleven Spoke

We sit in this white bucket, usually once a year to
rest on the counter near lottery tickets and cash
register. In warm water, spayed, our thorns are gone,
left somewhere in Ecuador, swept off the floor,
before they packed us tight to fly far away, then taken
in trucks all over paved roads into rectangular buildings
where fluorescent lights are always on. We watch them
buy beer, cigarettes, some stare at us in wonder that we
have petals, red color, were once alive. They touch,
fondle, rustle our leaves, remembering a moment
with us, that wasn’t us. Others grab us, a dozen at a time,
the number of true love, when money doesn’t matter at all.
Days go by and we start to droop, no one smiles anymore,
wilted, jilted, until one day, they just throw us away.

When The Glass Water Bottle Spoke

I see all the plastic bottles filled and shiny,
pasted labels over clear water within. I’ve

never been jealous of that crinkle sound,
sad little ache after the last drop is gone.

Always wondered what disposable meant,
dented, crushed, twisted, one on top of the

next, in bins, trashcans, on streets. Others
tossed off boats, or tide taken away from sand

into sea. Gulped by curious pelicans hungry
for more than digestive death.

Me, I like lips that touch my rim again and
again, tender sips when I’m brimming with cool

life-giving liquid. But I’m a romantic, I believe
in everlasting love, that you will want me forever.

Girl Reads Civil War Poem

This poem is called Maggots,
Samantha stands in front of the

classroom with a sly smile. Her
piece inspired by historic conflict,

skips Gettysburg, Antietam, and
all the words of war. No rebel yell,

or regiments, she leaves nurse
descriptions and widow tears for

other poems to divulge. Starts
at the end, she speaks her black

beginning, maggots chewing,
spewing flesh of men without faces,

corpses all in their places for the feast.
She maintains throughout, that nature

intended such death, that it was all
meant to be. Not for North or South,

but for the legless larva to probe
darkness, with their bloody glee.

North Pond Hermit

they say he broke
into dozens of homes
to steal calories, for
each winter he had

to survive Maine woods
under sleeping bag after
sleeping bag, wake himself
at 2am some freezing

nights just to move
around and live, not
die of frozen heart
stoppage of blood like

how time stood still
his twenty seven years
alone in trees listening
to the chickadees, chickadees

he listened more than
the rest of us
who were warm watching
M*A*S*H reruns, wondering when

the next war would
begin, but he never
even looked at his
own reflection, didn’t witness

the changing of human
events, his were the
seasons, and the thieving
moments late at night

so he could stay
alone forever, however long
that might be, but
one evening he was

caught and it all
ended, his silent solitude
had to speak again
sad, no longer free

Kentucky Fireflies

All is stillness in Kentucky woods
where fireflies flicker, earthen stars,
one, then another and another.
With my son, we get to sit and stare
together into glowing darkness,
watch floating journeys. He clicks our
flashlight to say hello, then asks me
to stay close before summer slumber.
Breathing softens, he falls asleep.
I lie next to him for many minutes,
let life be at ease. With dawn there
will be another day, but for now this
is all, this is everything.