Ripe plums and the hibiscus
are their swag and nothing
can withstand their slash and wheel.
Like the machine gun and the spiteful neighbor
they repeat and repeat again—
no fist or curse can quell them.
They spend their winters in the earth
and hibernate during the sifting storms,
and what they dream
and what faith moves them
as they awaken I just begin to guess.
There is no legend of this amber shrapnel,
no myth of their beginning.
The late winter days weaken, settling cool
and harmless over the fields.
And then one afternoon
this legion captures the sunlight,
fencing with the hummingbirds they can
kill with a single touch, securing the honeysuckle
without will or theory. When I half-believe
in reincarnation I see how little it takes
to be reborn as these citizens
who rise out of dark stone, and rage.
I broke the ground this afternoon,
heat just coming on, the shadows
without a trace of breeze.
Rooflines and junipers—this was
like the first afternoon ever,
an enduring harbor
for ease and a gardener’s faith.
But their hoarded spite found me,
knew me through my clothing,
x-rayed my serenity and dismissed it.
the hillside, the many sycamores
hovered mute behind their swarm.
Now try to forgive, says the harm
they needle, the ink-pain tattoo,
the slap-stun alphabet in their timeless
afterlife of scorn.
About the Author
Michael Cadnum lives in Albany, California. His thirty-fifth book, the novel Seize the Storm, was published in 2012 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.