The rooster's crowing followed the Call to Prayer,
or was the crowing first, and then the call?
In her dove-white feathered bed, the dreamer
drowses while the two echo on top of each other
as if practiced every day to ensure perfect harmony:
One, the melodic sounds of a man, like an operatic aria
bringing the world alive to honor the Maker;
the other, sharp and urgent, like a jazz trumpet,
compelling all creatures to awaken.
Together their voices arouse the sleeper,
drawing her from unconsciousness,
lifting her from soft surrounding.
Her hands wipe the sand from her eyes.
Her tongue licks the brine from her lips.
Her feet recoil from the cold marble floor.
Pulled to the window to see the sun rising
over the desert, she leaves behind her dream
of an ocean rolling with diamond-capped waves
smashing against her body as she swims to shore.
The Greens of Acadia
The green surrounds, carpets the trail we walk.
The sun streaks through the leaves’ tree-top abode.
The smells of pine and fir, sounds of soft talk,
like the trees whisper in a secret code,
encroaching humans cannot comprehend.
Leaves pale green of an avocado’s heart
to the dark of the avocado’s skin,
their diverse arras framing nature’s art.
Then, deeper in, where sunlight cannot go
the other side of green emerges—decay,
algae, fungi, lichens, mold, taking hold,
spreading like veins through the body of their prey.
The Acadia forest, heaven of green,
nurtures life, death, the spiritual between.
He prances out the gate, pausing to rotate his head
left then right, before his nose, now covered
by a silver beard, propels him south. I follow,
his leash in hand. The dawn of winter greets us—
A softened Sol rises above houses to the east,
birds send warnings in the tops of bare trees,
squirrels, pecans in mouths, rush up to join.
He sets a pace of purpose, slowing to smell scents
along the trail bordered by pocket prairies, butterfly
gardens of milkweed and lantanas, and trees of palm-
shaped yellow sycamore leaves, green pine needles,
empty oak arms reaching to the sky. He hesitates, ears
at attention for the whispers of creatures only he can
detect, when we cross the bridge over the muddy bayou.
Above the trees, the downtown buildings tower
in the distance, their windows like mirrors reflect
the sun’s rays across the cityscape and beyond.
He stops, tilts his head, and lifts his brown eyes
to look in mine as if to tell me it is time to leave.
We turn in harmony, and my four-legged, loving
companion leads me back home.
My mother and a friend in 1920.
In love letters to my father from her college dorm,
my mother professes to love only him, proposing
to him during leap year when custom allowed
women to make the first move. She wrote,
“You, my love, cannot say no.” They eloped
soon afterward. In the sepia photo I now hold,
I see that young woman before they married.
She hangs off a ladder on the back of a brown
freight train boxcar. She smiles, leaning away
from the car with one foot on a rung, the other
extended, pointing to the ground. Her left hand
grasps the ladder, her right arm stretches out
to meet the hand of a friend standing with her.
Both wear white lace dresses, pearls, stockings,
leather dress shoes. A hat covers her friend’s head.
My mother’s hair flies free, bobbed in a roaring
twenties cut. Her stance creates the illusion of
flying with the train as it rumbles down the tracks.
But the train is not moving. Dressed in such finery,
was she playing her role of the party girl all boys
wanted to court, hearing the tune she claimed they
sang for her, miss “five foot two, eyes of blue,”
while the train’s horn echoes in the background,
and the young woman fades into her future?
The peacocks parade before deserted homes
and across cleared lots to determine their domain.
Gold-ringed turquoise ovals like eyes align
in mystic symmetry on the shimmering blue
and green feathers of fluorescent flamenco tails.
The more subdued grey and brown females
gather in clusters in cul-de-sacs as if waiting
to be courted by the flamboyant males. Cocks
bring bright colors, vibrant life to their mating
ritual in the devastated neighborhood.
Decades ago, a wealthy couple bought one
peacock and one peahen, envisioning the pair
as living decorations for their gated, garden
estate framed by the ancient pines and oaks
on the sloping banks of Buffalo Bayou.
Over the years, the muster grew and spread
beyond the estate with babies and adults nesting
in natural hovels, roosting in trees along the bayou
until the rushing, muddy water flooded their tranquil
forest homes and drowned many of the peafowls.
Pushed to seek higher ground, they clustered on
rooftops while the people were rescued from water-
filled homes. After the water receded, the birds
emerged to scavenge for food and walk concrete
roads through the demolished man-made world.
Across the wooden fence and four-lane street from
the community the peafowls are building is what
remains of the Cenacle Retreat of Catholic Sisters.
Resting on heavily wooded acres, the houses,
prayer gardens, and labyrinth welcomed all.
But their peaceful surroundings were overtaken
by water when the Corp of Engineers opened gates
to the reservoir dams during Hurricane Harvey.
The Sisters rushed to save their Cenacle havens
and gardens but had to be rescued themselves.
When people reclaim their neighborhood
and rebuild their homes, they will chase
the peacocks away, forcing them to survive
elsewhere. I envision them finding respite
in the woods surrounding the deserted Cenacle.
Their Indian heritage and God Krishna
could join Christ, East and West united,
emerging from the apocalyptic flood like
from Noah’s into a new world where the nuns’
prayers echo in the ghost trees of the peafowl.
Published in Soul Lit, 2024. Online site for this publication is apparently no longer available.
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