The trees of the eastern forest,
ash, oak, sugar maple,
bend with the wind,
their leaves catch the Gregorian chants
from the morning’s mass.
Incense mingles with bright air
and the simmering sap
steaming on the stove.
He likes this time,
when he can lie among the leaves,
rehearsing his lessons, the cities and prophets
of India, Persia — the East.
He can hear the bells pealing through the valley,
ringing out notes he does not know yet.
The song bounces off rugged rocks,
and sends leaves flying
around the stone tower
where the bells live.
feet clambering over roots and stones,
heart chasing the leaves,
he runs to the tower
where the ladder stands.
White pine, strong and straight
with rungs of sweet birch,
a Pentecost calls him to climb above his texts
and learn the music of sitar, pipa, oud.
My bamboo rake scratches the cement,
landing place for the fallen maple leaves,
gathers the strays into a weightless cone of russet.
Inside, your kitchen knife chops sweet orange carrots,
gold potatoes, garden-fresh parsley,
Your soda bread bakes in the oven.
A rock gets swept in among the leaves.
I toss it clattering against the ivy covered wall,
stone against stone.
I see a new bloom crowning the aloe cactus,
And a single white gardenia peeks from waxy leaves.
Do you remember that February in Lyon
we crossed the bridge between the old city and the new?
Do you remember the marionette show,
the brème bordelière,
the olives vertes?
Yes, we will go this winter to Barcelona,
walk the streets of the Gothic quarter
weightless and bold,
We will cross into another weather,
eat oranges, burn with russet flames.
They pass in front of me,
seeking a sign
from the other
of being seen.
hewn of hard labor,
cotton, heat, hurt.
graceful steps now.
The shoes fit now
The feet remember the no-shoes time,
walking on the hard red earth,
Earth of his grandmother,
of her grandmother,
She of a different place,
a different crossing,
And she who sang
“Praise the Lord of All Hope!”
The feet remember the shoes’ time.
Marching on the hard grey streets.
Streets of his father,
He of a different time,
He who sang
“We shall overcome!”
The eyes —
He does not see them in the other
as they cross in the street.
His eyes ask
“Do you not see me?”