I had a beautiful dream I was dancing with a tree.
Some things on this earth are unspeakable:
Genealogy of the broken—
A shy wind threading leaves after a massacre,
Or the smell of coffee and no one there—
Some humans say trees are not sentient beings,
But they do not understand poetry—
Nor can they hear the singing of trees when they are fed by
Wind, or water music—
Or hear their cries of anguish when they are broken and bereft—
Now I am a woman longing to be a tree, planted in a moist, dark earth
Between sunrise and sunset—
I cannot walk through all realms—
I carry a yearning I cannot bear alone in the dark—
What shall I do with all this heartache?
The deepest-rooted dream of a tree is to walk
Even just a little ways, from the place next to the doorway—
To the edge of the river of life, and drink—
I have heard trees talking, long after the sun has gone down:
Imagine what would it be like to dance close together
In this land of water and knowledge. . .
To drink deep what is undrinkable.
From Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings by Joy Harjo. Copyright © 2015 by Joy Harjo. Used with permission of the publisher, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
Under this loop of honeysuckle, A creeping, coloured caterpillar, I gnaw the fresh green hawthorn spray, I nibble it leaf by leaf away. Down beneath grow dandelions, Daisies, old-man's-looking-glasses; Rooks flap croaking across the lane. I eat and swallow and eat again. Here come raindrops helter-skelter; I munch and nibble unregarding: Hawthorn leaves are juicy and firm. I'll mind my business: I'm a good worm. When I'm old, tired, melancholy, I'll build a leaf-green mausoleum Close by, here on this lovely spray, And die and dream the ages away. Some say worms win resurrection, With white wings beating flitter-flutter, But wings or a sound sleep, why should I care? Either way I'll miss my share. Under this loop of honeysuckle, A hungry, hairy caterpillar, I crawl on my high and swinging seat, And eat, eat, eat—as one ought to eat.
Published in 1918. This poem is in the public domain.
What I’ve written for you, I have always written
in English, my language of silent vowel endings
never translated into your language of silent h’s.
Lo que he escrito para ti, siempre lo he escrito
en inglés, en mi lengua llena de vocales mudas
nunca traducidas a tu idioma de haches mudas.
I’ve transcribed all your old letters into poems
that reconcile your exile from Cuba, but always
in English. I’ve given you back the guajiro roads
you left behind, stretched them into sentences
punctuated with palms, but only in English.
He transcrito todas tus cartas viejas en poemas
que reconcilian tu exilio de Cuba, pero siempre
en inglés. Te he devuelto los caminos guajiros
que dejastes atrás, transformados en oraciones
puntuadas por palmas, pero solamente en inglés.
I have recreated the pueblecito you had to forget,
forced your green mountains up again, grown
valleys of sugarcane, stars for you in English.
He reconstruido el pueblecito que tuvistes que olvidar,
he levantado de nuevo tus montañas verdes, cultivado
la caña, las estrellas de tus valles, para ti, en inglés.
In English I have told you how I love you cutting
gladiolas, crushing ajo, setting cups of dulce de leche
on the counter to cool, or hanging up the laundry
at night under our suburban moon. In English,
En inglés te he dicho cómo te amo cuando cortas
gladiolas, machacas ajo, enfrías tacitas de dulce de leche
encima del mostrador, o cuando tiendes la ropa
de noche bajo nuestra luna en suburbia. En inglés
I have imagined you surviving by transforming
yards of taffeta into dresses you never wear,
keeping Papá’s photo hinged in your mirror,
and leaving the porch light on, all night long.
He imaginado como sobrevives transformando
yardas de tafetán en vestidos que nunca estrenas,
la foto de papá que guardas en el espejo de tu cómoda,
la luz del portal que dejas encendida, toda la noche.
Te he captado en inglés en la mesa de la cocina
esperando que cuele el café, que hierva la leche
y que tu vida acostumbre a tu vida. En inglés
has aprendido a adorer tus pérdidas igual que yo.
I have captured you in English at the kitchen table
waiting for the café to brew, the milk to froth,
and your life to adjust to your life. In English
you’ve learned to adore your losses the way I do.
From Directions to the Beach of the Dead by Richard Blanco. The Arizona Board of Regents © 2005. Reprinted by permission of the University of Arizona Press.
Today, longing for my father,
I saw a solitary bleached owl skim
the dark grasses. It swept so low
to the ground it might have buried itself.
I did not know my father so how could I
be lonely for that guardian?
When I was a newborn, I didn’t let
my father hold me. I cried in his presence
till my mother came. My father would shrug,
lean into his high backed chair, to read the paper,
to smoke his pipe while he heard his wife
sing to his only daughter.
In the woods, I summon him
and my eyes fool me as a dark haired
jay shifts a twig, or a stone rolls
into the creek. I think I hear his footsteps
on the path, but it is only the oak
hip twitching to the afternoon’s cold wind.
When I was born, he must have felt
the rupture in his chest, dark matter funneling
through his veins, and he must have known
he would not be here for the rest but he ushered
me into that brightly lit room, the earth
with all its lumen.
Father, I know you are here,
the only place you must be,
where the heavy branches
lean into bright air.
I put down my sack to eat everything
I have carried with me. When I am done,
the ants come swarming in to take
the last of it, to cleanse the earth
of abundance and discard.
Walking in these woods, I believe
that tall shadows and shifts of light
mean that something is at work beyond me.
Midway home and the redwood
are letting go their furious scent,
where you are the tree left standing
and I am this frozen salt flat,
hemisphere of crushed snow.
Copyright © Tina Chang. Used with permission of the author.