A Move More Permanent
Invisible in the everyday view of my myopic mind,
The breezes blow palm fronds into
Paintbrush-stiff attention on the edges of I-95.
So rarely now do I look up
And see the lemon twist of sunlight in the trees
That I’m shocked my eyes still recognize color.
We used to see every sign
Of the tropics as we drove up and down the highway
On the way to work in a climate of permanent vacation.
I wanted to leave so badly.
Every drop of sweat,
Every warm-skinned, after-sun red shoulder,
Every cold look from an unaffected passerby,
It all made me forget the palms.
I forgot them all at once,
A hurricane washing away all feelings
Of gratitude for this section of earth.
It was in the cards to abandon it
Altogether. A swift exit from a heated
Fever dream of a place.
A place I’d convinced myself
I didn’t belong to, a canal I became trapped in
With walls too high to climb.
It didn’t embrace me like I needed embraced.
The grass cut when it should have kissed,
The water bared teeth when it should have borne comfort,
The terrain lay flat when it should have rolled skyward.
This was no ancestral homeland for me.
But nowhere was, really, and now
I have to stay, circumstances forcing me
To embrace new gods to worship.
Seeing the loam like I saw red clay,
Seeing the bromeliads like I saw birches,
Seeing the ocean like I saw the Ohio.
Let me pray
At the cemetery of the Everglades,
I, myself, an invasive species,
Like blood in my rituals.
The lakeshore is empty
Like your breath,
Caged lungs pinched
By the fresh bite of cold.
No signal, no perception,
The only gaze internal,
And still you wonder
How you look in this light.
Your only rouge comes from
Chilly chapped cheeks,
Your lashes are only lifted
By the curling clear air.
You become aware
of the clothes against your skin,
The nakedness underneath.
Before your gaze wanders
Too far from the ground,
Too far into the sky,
Too far from your flesh,
The sensual scratch of your sweater
Tugs you down to the Earth,
Sending a wave from your head
To your feet, suddenly aware
Of the reality of yourself, alone.
No longer a mirror to the world,
You become your world.
A snail so high on the wall
So easily could I pluck it
And cast it down at the start, the edge
Where wall meets sidewalk meets grime.
How long did it have to scale?
What percentage of its life has been spent chasing
Where lichen may not even grow?
I chastise myself for ever considering
Quashing its ascent with the gentle grip
of my giant fingers.
The same giant fingers that, when smaller,
Gripped hundreds of snail shells tightly,
Gently placing them in a plastic cage
Meant for butterflies
And watching their short climb
Toward the sun
Until the half-moon of the cage eased
Them back downward,
Toward the twigs and leaves I had provided.
From this memory comes another,
This time I dream of snails.
Quickly, their giant single-feet pace toward me,
Suck onto my skin, crawling ever closer
To my face, my mouth forming a half-moon scream.
I turn away from the snail on the wall
And I pluck
Nothing from its place.