Happy December

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.

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Though I’ve Never Seen Them

I’ve heard the North Dakota mountains shine purple
and oversee the plain now more full of people
than since Columbus. The Water Protectors hold their lines

opposite dogs on weak leashes. Armored trucks stocked
with automatic rifles and mace to sear a four state fire.
The police brandish handcuffs sold in every size
and thick markers to number the arms of Protectors,
to scrawl below the bruises purple from rubber bullets.

I’m far less brave. Having only marched on Sunday,
slept in the curves of my Virginia mountains and mourned
with their the headless sisters—West Virginia and Tennessee
bled empty for coal to burn down river until the water runs tan.
The promised jobs as short-lived as their workers, they meet
faster disposal than leaf litter kindling in late Autumn.

Here below the equator, a range tied to Dakota backbone,
these Andes wear a memory linked to my Appalachians.
Of the northern warriors’ endurance I speak to these hills.
Their peaks blinded by Santiago’s smog, obscured the way

all news back home is a hair piece, a pants suit,
two lapels fixed with flag pins polished by scandal. But one
occupied office is nothing when tap water burns with a match,
sinkholes don’t care who wears a crown or a pill box hat
or baseball cap. We cannot call the president if our lips dry out.

photo via Standing Rock Rising
photo via Standing Rock Rising

Orchid

Bathroom fruit fly buzzes
through the cracked door,
lazy up zig, zagging down
out again to the bedroom.

A magnet vibrating
over scratched wood
toward the orchid
struggling at a slant.

Blotches spread
across the pot,
pod by pod withers—
tight inch-long almonds.

If you lose the pods,
leaves might grow a little longer
but the epidendrum is doomed.

Skittish fruit fly settles,
dainty stardust in mote,
spying jungle soil
in Virginia summer.