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Under the Fragrance Tree

Our ages are recorded somewhere
in the rings of a tree.

It arcs over us.
Its branches caress us
like an ancestor
we never knew.

We stand holding hands.
It’s late in the afternoon,
and the warm,
amber-colored air
flows around our bodies.

A silver-sweet fragrance
drew us here through the woods.

All along the path
we searched for flowers, but finding
none, walked on
to this tree,
which has no blossoms;

but from it, fragrance
seems to float
slowly down
like falling petals.

Cloudbank 10

By Whatever Name

As I slice Jerusalem artichokes for a stir-fry,
you tell me how this tuber,
from a sort of sunflower,
got its name.
Samuel de Champlain
in 1605 arrived on Cape Cod
and found Native Americans
cultivating it.
They called it sunroot, since the flowers
twist their necks to face the sun.
Champlain brought it back to France,
where they thought,
this tastes like artichoke.
It’s popularity spread to Italy,
where they called it girasole, “turns-to-the-sun.”
Traders brought it to England,
where girasole sounded like
Jerusalem.
So the tuber sailed home to North
America with a Mediterranean
name.

I’m thinking,
if only we could begin again…
I’d retrace this pilgrimage,
back to England,
Italy, France, then sail
to Cape Cod in 1605.
I, envoy from Europe,
am greeted by Wampanoags.
We sit down together
and eat sunroot, by whatever name.
We share our languages
and found a new Jerusalem,
in peace.

Rare Earth

We lie naked on the bed
and you’re telling me
about terbium
and erbium, and other rare earths,
like lanthanum and praseodymium.
My hand rests on the soft plain
of your gut with its brown wheats
and your legs extend elegantly
in two tapering ridges.
My own body undulates gently to the horizon.

You tell me these elements are abundant
but dispersed, so hard to mine,
and not easily separated.
I wonder if we’re the only lovers
covering this ground
now, anywhere,
as the bright afternoon light
blinks through the blinds.

At the End of the Sofa

I remember my mother, every afternoon
would either be reading or cooking.
She would pick up a book quickly,
like a snack,
and sit at the end of the sofa.

Honeyed sunlight flows in
over her right shoulder.
A subtle smile simmers.

Then in the kitchen
she hums to herself
and feels the knotty, pitted skin
of a potato,
tenderly pats
a lettuce leaf dry
with a faraway look.
She chops onions
and their stories
bring tears to her eyes.

Atlanta Review Spring/Summer 2016

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