God bless

We went for Thai

The first time since we moved here

It was the classic

A strip mall unit

Nestled between wine bars, dog baths, taco shops

Pink walls, plastic bamboo

A dish of multi-colored candy at the counter

 

Celine Dion was playing over the speakers

American Idol,

Closed caption on,

Was playing out on the giant screen

In front of our table

 

Lenora was mesmerized

Forking in her Pad See Ew

Without ever looking down

Oliver ate only rice

And kept asking for salsa

 

It was one of those times

Where we could only look at each other

And form the words together

God bless

What is this place

What is this place

Where the earth transforms from black silty ooze

to cracked parched tiles

Where plants bow their heads

before the hard white heat

 

What is this place

Where vines grow with tropical vigor

Where the dignity and girth of the trees

means nothing to wind that will shear

and lightning that will crack

 

Where trees and walls and benches

are studded with thin crackling shells

goggle-eyed and ghost legs clinging

their backs hewn open

by the commonplace violence

of life

 

What is this place

The wasp nest

B hosed down a wasp nest

That was outside our dining room

Lenora had spotted it at dinner one night

The size of an apple

Crawling with black and yellow wasps

Several cells sealed over and bulging white

 

It took a few minutes of concentrated spraying

He was wearing pants, parka and hat

In the sweltering heat

Water leaked in from the top of the windows

But finally the nest fell down

 

He brought it into the house

Grey, bedraggled, soggy

A trophy for Ronan the nature lover

 

Shouldn’t we put that into a jar?

I asked

 

It was a good thing we did

Ronan and me

Covered it with saran wrap, rubber banded

Poked holes

Set it onto the counter for observation

 

The next morning Lenora was making toast

There’s wasps in there, she said

Disbelief on her face

But there were

Two full size wasps

With their narrow waists

And happy alien faces

 

I set them outside and lifted the plastic

But I wasn’t sure they’d know where to go

The other wasps were still gathered

At the phantom nest

We watched them from our window

As they crawled back and forth

Where the nest used to be

Contemplating their loss

Or maybe just shoring themselves up

With the companionship of their sisters

While they figured out what to do next

 

Sculpture center

The kids were unimpressed

What’s the big deal, they said

With the 10,000 pound glass cylinders

That look like giant gumdrops

 

Lenora said her favorite was

The stone guy with the penis

Because she likes naked people

 

I liked the headless people outside

Dressed in tatters of dark metal

They definitely made you think

Genocide, war, violence

But they gave you a real feeling

A spooky one

 

Mostly I watched the people there

Young, arty people

Several looked like they were on dates

A girl in a yellow satin dress

That would have been overly formal

Except it was paired with silver clogs

A man in stylish sunglasses

With dreds twisted

Into architectural spirals

A skinny man with a chunky camera

In clean, neatly ripped white jeans

With hand-graffitied slogans

Don’t tread on me

Don’t let them manipulate you

 

I imagined them as installations

Whose particular crouches, pivots

Sidelong glances

Throwaway laughs

Were so fleeting and rare

That only I witnessed them

 

Backfloat

Water below

Behind

 

Above, skeins of cloud

Spread thin

Across blue summer sky

So clear and expansive

I almost feel

I am rising up into it

 

Yet even

As my spirit rises

On the warm air

No matter how much of it

I draw in

My feet begin to sink

Earthbound

 

Gently dropping to

The smooth white green

Pool bottom

And below it

Hard red desert rock

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