Maureen Eppstein

Words Unsaid

In My Sister's Garden
Morning Light
The Almond Orchard
Manaia

 

First published in:
Bellowing Ark Vol 10 No. 5 (1994)

 

 

In My Sister's Garden

I'd not have guessed she'd liberate her vegetables.
They grow in casual clumps, self-set
lettuce and beets wave flowery stems to set again,
old cabbages, like pensioners, enjoy the sun,
pansies purr round their stems.
A mulch of pulled weeds blankets the soil.

Once more she leads me by the hand:
my secret pleasure in disorder
(plants in cracks)
repressed in deference to her,
the sensible one,
self-confident,
sharp-tongued,
now sanctioned in her yard.

The old resentment flares.
Old rivalries, still rampant,
crowd tendrils of familial love.
I'm tired of carrying them around.
The compost heap on which the pumpkin sprawls
will serve as dumping place.

This garden is the affirmation
of a person I might like to know.
Gently it tells me how alike we are
behind our public masks,
behind our rivalries.
Here I learn the sisterhood we cannot speak.

 

First published in:
Bellowing Ark Vol. 12 No. 2 (1996)

 

 

Morning Light

Early morning, while visiting relatives sleep,
I escape a while from hostess duty.
In the garden dew glitters on spiderwebs,
birds rustle and chitter in the hedge.
Before the bees wake I pinch spent blooms
of cosmos and bachelor buttons,
coaxing them into color a few more days.

Soon sounds of stirring break my solitude.
My dad pads out to watch me as I work.
As a child I stood in awe
at his workbench skills.
Now he is close to death,
his failing heart a mechanism he cannot fix,
yet he's come this tiring half-world journey
for the wedding of my son,
his grandson, whom he scarcely knows.

His bare toes knead the bricks.
He smiles and nods into my silence,
my hands nimble across the flowers,
lit now by morning sun.
"They're looking great," he says, and in his words
I hear the words he cannot say.

 

First published in:
Green Fuse Vol. 11)

 

 

The Almond Orchard

Look now,
before it is too late.

I lost the almond orchard yesterday,
car full new fall eager
down the old school road
(suburban gingerbread
close-packed
with natty yards).

Look now in wonder at the hills,
rejoice
before it is too late.
I have not wept enough.
Now gone.
Only the desolate brown
of harrowed earth
and trees in dying mounds.

Look now,
hold in your mind
the precious things,
the horizontal harmonies,
chromatic cadences of mustard weed,
and gaunt black stubby silhouettes of trees,
the gray blue solid shadow of the hills.
Quick, find the words to hold
the secret greening of the almond flower,
subaqueous white
in the black trees
on a mustard sea,
blue hills beyond.

Now it is gone.
Too late.

 

First published in:
convolvulus No.22 (1998)

 

 

Manaia

The giver was a stranger,
owner of a shop I'd stumbled on,
crammed with masks and artifacts
from lands with far-off names,
and carvings in the local style, his work.

Nothing between us but this carved
and polished disk of bone,
small as a St. Christopher,
in the form of a manaia:
tail coiled like a fern frond unfolding
New beginnings, he said,
or a lizard, keeper of life and death,
the head in profile, beaked like a bird,
a guardian spirit to keep me safe.
Pop it in your purse, he said,
knowing I was a visitor
in the country of my birth.

Nothing between us but this shared glimpse,
through the spiral of space
enclosed by the lizard tail,
of a journey that had dangers.
Not the hours of ocean cramped in an airplane seat,
nor the arrival, but another kind of risk,
that other expedition into who I am,
the coming home, wherever that may be.
Take it, he said, and Thank you, I replied.

 


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Updated: March 25, 1998        webmaster@ramonahouse.com