My eyes burned in the thick incense
rising from mildewed vases
on old cement graves.
During Mass, I stood beside mother,
staring at the small black-and-white, oval portraits
of my grandparents,
wondering if I should mimic their smiles.
The priest's prayers echoed from afar.
In the distance, the west was ablaze,
birds rose and tumbled in the sky.
There's sorrow here, I thought,
feeling the wings of a grasshopper
scratching the inside of my toes.
I looked down to see him
jump into a hole in the soil,
a flash of green
in the newly cut grass.
Their footsteps faded behind me
as I approached the familiar road.
Someone hung a tree snake
on the barbed-wire fence.
I stabbed its mangled head
with a stick
and tossed it onto the ground,
its wet body dusted yellow.
The branch above me rustled,
and I jumped back suddenly,
afraid to look up.
In the distance,
the house stood in dying light.
I turned to see them coming down the road,
and ran home, exhilarated.
Rain trickles from ancient leaves and branches.
To the end of the earth,
In the trees,
a monkey suckles its child,
idly turning to the sound of intruders.
A hunter ascends a tree
and falls to his death
on a bed of moss-covered stone,
gaping for breath,
staring numbly for the last time
at the mournful sky.
And the orchid's sweet fragrance
slips through the air
still luring men
to narrow paths.
Even the lakes will dry.
On baked clay
fish will lie, motionless,
among webs of weeds.
No poem we write
shall not be forgotten.
I lean toward you
for a kiss of recognition.
Say you love me
beneath this peaceful sky,
this wondrous time.
I prefer these breezy mornings,
cool enough for me to stand outside
in the fog that has yet lifted.
In the branches and leaves drooping with dew
the birds are rousing from sleep
calling each other in the thin light.
The rows of trees in the distance
are shadows of a coming season.
Rain Brings a Voice
I wonder if rain, too,
has reached you.
I wonder if you
can hear its music,
quiet as I am,
standing with the door open
to gaze at the street
rain brings the voice of my beloved.
I pressed my face against her neck
to avoid the blinding sunlight
and felt the sweat that soaked her shirt.
Near an abandoned field
with grass tall as my head,
withering in the dry season,
we stopped under a large tree,
and she lowered me onto the ground.
I felt the heat of the soil through my sandals.
"Mother," I almost whispered,
"are we there?"
She gazed down the winding road,
where the wind swept dust
and dried leaves,
her eyes deep and thoughtful.
Then, the silence between us was interminable
like the silence when I sometimes stand before her
while she is asleep.
From the shadows of pregnant trees
the songbird sings his song,
a trilling chord in the sultry afternoon.
Sunlight dances on the winding path.
Far away, the familiar hut stoops in silence.
I quicken my pace,
seeing above the horizon
gray clouds rolling in.
He stops as I pass under him,
going faster still.
I look up and say,
what do songbirds do
in afternoons like this?
Something in the ground
sparkles like diamonds
in the brilliant, scorching light.
Our arms glittered with sweat
as we made our way toward the shade.
At the foot of the tree,
the ants' meal is a grasshopper.
We squinted, turning toward the north,
where the clouds floated idly,
above the stagnant hills and valleys.
You spat onto the ground,
a cool puddle for the gnats in the hot, dry earth.
I watched a bird in the distance
jumping from branch to branch
I could die today.