Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Overheard at Booth 1: The Tree of Fire


The Tree of Fire

When she was born the tree of fire blossomed,
And the mountain swelled great with liquid rock,
She spent her first years barefoot on black soil,
Feeding her younger half sisters, dressing them,
Changing their diapers, until such a day came during
Her fifteenth year, she left the house of leather 
Straps across her back and walked into the city.

There, she met a man, he worked, they loved.
She nursed his dying wife and then she spent
The next year of her adolescence feeding her
Stepdaughters, until her belly began to swell 
With her own child, the first of eight, the years
Then spent in kitchen, making dinner, and in 
Rooms, spinning thread and cloth, and in shops, 
Purchasing rolls of material, and she spun 
Together uniforms for schoolchildren, clothes 
For her own, as the daughters helped her with
The spinning and the sewing and the buttoning 
And the selling, and then

One day, her husband died in her arms at a
Restaurant. He said he did not feel well, and then
He slumped over, his head on the crook between 
Her shoulder and her breast, his ear against the
Beat of her heart.

Then came the worst of it: the war, the bodies
Slumped against the door in the mornings, scaring the 
Lady who cooked breakfast and cleaned the house,
And then the sons began to graduate with degrees 
In engineering, and then the threats from the rebels
If they took that job with the government, and so 
She spun and she spun and she spun her children

North, up north, spun them to Missionary bases
In the Bible Belt Buckle town, and some of them 
Landed eventually in British Columbia, and they,
Each of the children, one by one, made their way
Through the Northern lands, spinning their own
Stories and having their own babies, with her

Having folded her work and walking into that 
Northern land where there are no volcanoes, no
Torogoz, no sounds of the Quetzal in the mornings,
Just a house where she taught herself to make pupusas
And read the Bible each morning and move among
Her children and the hermanos de la 
Iglesia, and she saw many marriages, and 
was the first to hold many of her grandchildren,
and she, the Tree of Fire, watched her leaves
stretch out across the land, full of life and full
of energy and full of their own leaves which 
they scattered across the years and the decades,

and the laughter that she has heard
and the Christmases that she has shared, and 
surely it must be said, that the Tree of Fire,
her flame burns, and continues to burn, and must
continue, in the hearts and the blood in the veins
de todos sus niƱos y nietos y bisnietos
and all those still yet to be born.


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