Landscaping a Year in Paradise
Not even ocean here but the harbor, or else
it's all sea, and at night, from the beach
wharf lights make these low waves
long lines of shadow curving to shore.
Each small crash and long caesura hissing,
the wave subdued into itself, the next
long line rising. Or else the hiss is the thing,
each crash only needed as punctuation. Dusk too,
foothills patched with light, the sunset at night
too red, this whole shore a line strung
from that hysterical show, everything has been made,
everything held frozen in perfect light
that ends outside this riviera.
Yesterday the weeds went to seed
and when I pulled them they burrowed small tears
into my palms. God waits as water
sheathed in the fingers of succulents.
Music quivers as sun. Squinting all day,
my temples tighten. My head pulses
with deep pains. Water coalesces in clear drops
on the wine glass. The paper wrapping the cigarette
burns in small pieces. The Serb who owns the land
pays me in fifties, and I remember
every glass we drank together, every
inch of her thigh by candlelight.
Bach cascades through the old radio
as sunlight through the scrub oak.
The remembrance is a kind of the eternal: it is summer now,
the poem growing slowly. I circle the bus station
fingering the fifties in my pocket. The ice-plant
crosses itself and reaches minutely upward.
Seasons are all the same. Months crawl,
a kind of renewal.
On the table: a spray of carnations.
Among them: the green fist of bud, red barely
seeping through the fingers. Turning the stem,
green flowers into white, white folds
in the movement towards green. I feel
I've touched nothing here. The Serb has august visions
but the work never changes his paradise.
It is already made. The calyx is long opened.
Everything was in bloom the January we began.
"Eh ése, you got a quarter?" No.
No nescesito. Éste es el Paradiso.
"Puto, you've been drinking. Su español
es mierda. You don't know shit."
The painter unwraps the sepals.
They fall to the hard dust while
I finish my cigarette. "Los pobres
no pueden vivir en el paradiso."
The sea is already rising to the sun,
shadows an obdurance reaching around us.
©2004 by Michael Zbigley
Michael Zbigley resides somewhere between the mountains and the sea in
Eureka, California, or in Missoula, Montana, variously. "Landscaping a Year in
is a part of a longer work, "Lives-forever," another section of which
been published in The Red River Review.