The capon was payment for services rendered.
Mom made a soup of it and invited
the brother of the girl treated to dinner.
He had brought the bird, neck wrung, feathered corpse
dipped in boiling water and stripped down. We each
were served dumplings and a cut of meat—
something rarer since the Contra uprising.
We picked our way through a soup we’d devoured
the year before in Rome, Georgia where chickens
were not birds that strutted about someone’s yard.
While he, who would live with us in Costa Rica
to escape Sandinista conscription,
he who would teach me soccer, who one night
would walk into my sister’s room like he had
into his own sister’s room on so many nights,
upon finishing, sucked the cartilage off
the leg and cracked the bone with his teeth.
Like Clouds Along the Blue Ridge
Today we drove up to Graveyard Fields.
We had promised our daughter blueberries
and waterfalls. It might have been the way
the clouds came in, hanging close to the mountain,
the crisp air, the gold of the mushroom caps,
so similar to the orange of poison dart frogs,
the people stooped over working the berry patch,
or how she kept saying:
I can already taste the pie.
But I was in Costa Rica, that mountain home
we stayed at once or twice, where milk was fresh
from the cow, water drawn up from a spring,
where my sister and her friends would spend
the morning picking wild strawberries,
the afternoon, baking them into pies.
And that for me was Costa Rica, cool,
green mountains, wild strawberry pies,
games of kick the can in extinct volcanoes,
hide and seek among the fog and pines.
Coffee pickers working the hills near Tilarán.
I missed him when he left without saying
How was I to know what happened?
Mom and dad gone to a prayer vigil.
I should have protected her, but she did not
wake me. We who shared everything.
It comes in swift, this sadness, like clouds
along the Blue Ridge. And it does not matter
whether my daughter and I are happily
picking blueberries on a mountain slope,
already tasting the pie, feeling the pop
of the skin, the rush of juice. It comes in.
But We, We Were a Revillagigedo
The ocean is studded with islands,
not like a string of pearls on a girl’s neck,
beads, chosen for symmetry and color,
each following the other in succession,
rising and falling with her breath.
Not studded either but seeded like the rug
in my mother’s room when my sister and I
tugged at her strand of irregular pearls
until the string snapped and nacre flew across
the room, landing in archipelagos
or setting down alone among the tufts.
The world is full of islands, each a miracle
bobbing in the stream, some like Bermuda,
Bouvet, stand alone exposed to hurricanes,
but we, we were a Revillagigedo.
Under the Cashew Tree
Do you remember when we learned
hielo was pronounced like yellow?
Mamá, we want some yellow in our Squirt.
We need some yellow for our water.
We spent our days under the cashew tree,
air pungent with the smell of rotting
marañón. Its sweetness so foreign
to our tongues we could not bear it.
Mom and dad inside sharing gospel stories
and we under the tree, exchanging languages.
Telling children, Say Do, twice, Repeat P, twice.
Then falling on the pavement laughing.
return to poetry