A poet’s been spending hours online just scrolling Facebook,
hiding from her novels and half empty notebooks,
inflating a bouncy house cathedral puff huff puff
with stained glass windows of neon plastic wrap
and cotton candy stones that never dreamt of rose quartz.
She lets the battery die. The ferns guzzle water on her windowsill
opposite the neighbor’s box heavy with geraniums,
craning stems like giraffes with tongues wrapping around acacia.
A boy dribbles his soccer ball on the patio, shuffling across tiles,
erasing the scuffs of shifted furniture. He fakes out defenders
and shoots bap baff bap into the marked wall, lifting his arms
and calling goooool over chanting fans and his mother’s radio.
She smiles and shakes her head, a mist of Clorox finer
than perfume to cover parquet wax molding oranges,
she’s been scrubbing potatoes for dinner, rocks in a stream losing
their pits and muddy divots, her apron absorbing the sink’s splash.
We put lima beans in ziplocs with wet paper towels,
misted them each afternoon until roots crept from the bottoms
and sprouts emerged like dancers drawing themselves on stage.
Like a good scientist, I have been replicating for twenty years
in pots and plastic bottles and marmalade jars
until my apartment is a madwoman’s forrest.
Peach pits crack open and avocados dissolve in the dirt
and tomato seeds extend spider legs
and I grin every time like a six year old.
Important saints bless Chile with three-day weekends and I grace my students with the revelation of Hanukkah, a forty-eight year old Spaniard hadn’t heard of it, so I guess Franco realized what the inquisition started. Here I am Jewish, super Jewish, extranjera extraña, rara, there are nine other Jews in Santiago and I saw the first one (kippa, payot, and all) as he glided through a body scanner into the bank. Here I am more Jewish than in Virginia, my parents came to my elementary school to pantomime shamash etiquette and play dreidel with chocolate coins, and my classmates directed me to my future address in hell, with greater specificity each year. I tell my students that my family is hybrid, non-religious Jewish and Protestant, Hanukkah and Christmas, an increasingly normal oddity in my country, I teach starters “both,” ambos. We practice the “th” sound by putting our tongues between our teeth. I don’t teach them “neither,” neither bat mitzvah nor baptism, neither Christian nor Jewish enough, Jewish through my father so not really a Jew at all.
Night settles in with gauze to hide the stars and the moon slides out
as I light the bedroom window to be seen from the road.
It’s easy to wander out in the fields. The herd should drift back
by morning but the rebuilt fence ought to hold either way. Or else
I’ll be picking up chunks and bent headlights from between dashed lines.
She stands in doorways
leans into jambs.
No, she would not like a seat.
She’ll only be here for a minute
a quick question
but the conversations loop into knitting
and all that waits back home.
Her heels begin to throb.
that outlet doesn’t work,
don’t bother, use another
but only charge
one thing at a time
or you’ll blow the fuse,
the fridge and the washer
can’t be on together,
it’s an old building but
you’ve got two bedrooms
with this mattress here,
don’t open that window
or it won’t close again
and the oven doesn’t
work if it’s windy.
Mom dug and I nearly helped. Plastic trowel
in my seven year hands not turning much soil. Planting
was my magic step. The possibilities in wax paper packets
I ripped open and removed two seeds at a time.
Don’t crowd them but don’t let them get lonely.
Neat rows of squatting to poke holes drop seeds
and pat firm again again again to fill the raised box
claiming half the backyard. City concrete edged
the rental of those early years together.
There, before the new father
before we retreated my middle grade to the suburbs,
corner bars and neighbors’ eyes stayed open ‘til two am
but the daffodils out front never slept. Forsythia early,
iris late, tulips the whole time.
That first year Mom forgot
to mark the rows. Our thrill at the survival of each kind
a surprise until they reached teen age. I cheered their growth.
My affection without question or condition for the tangy earth
of early leaves as tomato stems grew hair and tight buds spread.
Pepper florets blushed as sunflowers out-stretched me
and the leaky hose hissed like a garter snake the cat didn’t care for.
One day Mom turned a leaf to expose
lemon-lime specks coursing the veins, dancing irregular
jigs around chewed holes and brown spots. Aphids.
I lifted my hand to squash them. Raise their blood a penance
for destroying even one leaf on my darling. But she held
my wrist. No. And we spent the afternoon catching ladybugs.