You teach me about pomegranates.
The one your sister gave us
before we flew back across the continent.
Tough-skinned, unwilling to yield,
opened only by those willing to delve deeper.
Red trickles down your fingers
as you pop the seeds
from their spongey beds.
First I take your fingers into my mouth
and then the seeds, sucking,
savoring their tartness.
It is still warm where your sister lives
but here we've put the garden to bed,
buried the stalks and leaves,
cut the crops into pieces
manageable by worms.
Life infused seed and seedling, gave us
peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, corn, squash --
Now we've dug their graves, with cliffs of dirt
the height of our knees.
Pulled them up by the roots and laid them to rest
in the netherworld, returning their treasures to the soil,
covering the friends that had nourished us,
leaving naked burial mounds.
And I thought of Persephone, Queen of the Underworld,
six months beneath the snows, six in the sun,
her mother Demeter spreading wild fecundity
in summer heat.
Persephone, who ate pomegranate seeds,
the blood on her hands
condemning her to winter darkness.
I know better now.
I know better, because beneath the snow
our compost is steaming.
There's churning life burning up those dead leaves,
a bacchanalia turning moldy rinds to soil.
There's Persephone's sticky heat
sweet with pomegranate juice,
her belly holding hot promise of spring.
She's not dead. She's got work to do.
We paint each other with red fingers,
spill multitudes of bloody seeds into an enamelled bowl.
Our mouths fill with tartness
as we roll them around with our tongues,
as we lick the stains off each other's skin
and paint anew, learning Persephone's code
in the bubbling heat of winter.
...Excerpt published in We'Moon '04, Mother Tongue Ink, 2004.
That people love their work, who work a drill
Or run a lathe, sounds alien to some
Who see in them "the robots they've become":
Automatons bent to assembly's will.
And some are that, who welcome programmed steel,
Greet automation heralded as Change --
But others feel an intimate exchange,
The tiniest components but a field
As varied as a single breed of snail,
With textures, contours hidden from all eyes
Save those communing daily half their lives
With parts they know like totems. They have nailed
That one philosophy, have made the grade
Who see in work their lives, and love their trade.
...Harvard Business Review, July-August 1986.
When water's worth surpasses that of gold
and breathing freely brings the keenest joy,
and all the waste that we have bought and sold
no longer find a place in our employ—
when we have learned that war is over land
and all that nature yields to let us live,
be it savannah, mountainside, or sand—
when we have learned that something's got to give
and what we've got to give becomes our fear,
accustomed to the task of wanting more
and wanting new, discarding every year
the very goods that we had craved before—
when we have given up economies
that run neither to logic nor to scale,
and blue chip stocks are worthless next to trees,
and we must be sustainable or fail—
when we become endangered as the beasts
whose DNA we treasure in our vaults
for times when our plundering will cease,
and finger-pointing, faulting upon faults
will come to rest at last upon us all—
when then we take responsibility
and stop, and listen to our bloodbeat call
and slow the progress of sterility—
then we will learn the wisdom of the grass
that knows the wind that carries every song
that tells of how our nature must surpass
the artifice we thought would make us strong—
when even ants are teachers and we take
the time to hear their sermons on the mound,
and we will walk the long way for the sake
of coaxing one more lake to stay around—
then no one needs to walk the path alone
as bound together, we behold our worth
and come at last to our ancestral home
as creatures nurturing this good, green earth.
...First place, "The Save Our Earth Award," NFSPS Inc. 45th Annual Contest, 2004.
Published: Encore (2004); FSPA Anthology 24 (2006).