B still makes Japanese pancakes—egg, flour, water.
She says every culture has a meal like that—two or three ingredients,
a scrounging-in-the-cupboards kind of meal. I think about New Orleans crawfish boils,
how proud everyone is when they eat the whole bug, not just etouffee tail or claw meat,
the whole bottom feeder, ditch dweller nibbling flesh in underwater drifts like snow;
B says they have more flavor. I never had a taste for it, the hundreds laid out on a wet wood
picnic table on weeks-old newspaper with brightly cobbled corn, stumps of sausage, squeezed orb of lemon and black-spotted potatoes, red bugs with the head still attached, nothing wasted, nothing
wasted, not even the unread newspaper soaking up juice. What we eat becomes a habit.
I can't look in their eyes. Unblinking amber beads, loose claws, under the wide mouth of sky.
The Banana Tree on Deslonde Street
The early freeze froze
bananas over, those bound
cryogenically by my window
now. We have been assured:
A clump of bananas hung
well past garden yield will fall
and burst in all its rottenness
to bread. And bread breaks
easy and thus the body of Christ.
What I mean is: there is a god
who casts ripened fruit into the dirt,
and if you assure me, here,
that each breath we breathe does
not further poison the air, I
will not meet your bovine eyes.
But admit the road will brim
for rainy season and then recede:
my feet will drop like ripe bananas
one, and then the other, on the
chilly floor towards morning.
Bring the storm, please, bring the rain.
A kettle whistles, ginger tea
moisture curls under shut doors.
I have placed apple candles in every
room and the dog winds in circles
like a watch, nose to haunch, nose
to haunch. Impending, thin tremor
of air like insect wings, storm,
bring it all down, please, bring the rain.
Bikes rest on books, and the books
themselves rest crooked, the tub is
filled, dishes done. Porch steps
cool my bare feet taking in the weak
and pretty flowers and my eyes scan
the sky still open and placid as a petal.
Such a day must surely soak and tear,
so bring the storm, bring the rain.
I ask my neighbor, a stranger,
where is the rain? I could bike
back to the gallery where I left you
in this sunlight. I could run yet
into the street with a mania of questions.
Steamy April leaves send James and me ducking to duskdark
rooms where our mother lights a lamp so we can read summer books
earn a treat for each toppled stack of twenty. I am seven years old,
I like to thumb my father ’s neglected shelves the thick yellow stink of squint-
small texts, my bloody-bitten fingers gently dusting each spine. I like to think
then about my father’s hands fleshing the book calloused pink where his pen rests
this creature —father— thinker of far-off thoughts. I can only go with him so far
then he is alone with the white box fan blades back ache canyon-deep and
we must quiet for he is healing but we are children unable always to bend
limbs and tiptoe along shelves. More often Mother wipes gray soap on
her threadbare jeans and sends us out James to poke a thin stick at the trash bin garter snake
me to pick tightrope toes barefoot along the stone wall. This is where I find the fossil
embedded in a blonde rock winking with mica from our creek. I fold myself down and see
this—an armored bug a many-limbed mindless spine. I am afraid to touch it.
After dinner drying dishes Mother removes her wedding ring to sink-side
eye-height. I remember my treasure then and tug her sleeve but no one believes
when I finger trilobite in the encyclopedia its ribbed carbon body by then a lost rock.
And I can't imagine now why I set it down but I was child unable to hold one
thing. Still my belief in the old sea-dweller flowed ocean currents through our
home the pale sky heavied with water pressure and I swam through tiger lilies
to reach the toolshed gasp air and stir bottom feeders with light beams cast from
my submarine’s foggy portals. From that dusty sill I waved to my father
when he emerged in late spring to hoe-halve an arrowhead snake.
Its flesh stank through May By June, only its moonwhite spine remained.