Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Field Guide to the Chaparral

The fire beetle only mates
when the chaparral is burning,

and the water beetle
will only mate in the rain.

In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns
don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am,
that you were married before.

The woman you find attractive
does not believe me when I look at her kindly. 

There are candescent people in the world.
It will only be love
 
that I love you with.
When we get home,
 
there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone.
There will be our bedroom.
 
What is it you eventually recognized
in my face that allowed you to believe me?
 
Beauty that did not come from you—
remember how it did not come from you?
 
As white sage does not come from the moon
but is found by it and lit.
 
The Buddhists say
that the front of the paper
 
cannot exist without the back.
Because there is a there,
 
there is a here. Chaparral,
the density of growth,
 
and the tattered chaps
the mappers wore
 
through it because they had to,
to keep walking without
 
being hurt. It is OK if we hurt
one another.
 
Chaparral needs fire.
(The pinecones would not open
 
otherwise.) Love needs lover,
whose last lover was flood.

Credit


Copyright © 2017 Leah Naomi Green. Used with permission of the author. This poem originally appeared in The Southern Review, Spring 2017.

Author


Leah Naomi Green

Leah Naomi Green’s first full-length poetry collection, The More Extravagant Feast (Graywolf Press, 2020), was selected by Li-Young Lee as the winner of the 2019 Walt Whitman Award, given by the Academy of American Poets.

Date Published: 2017-07-27

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/field-guide-chaparral