Once a shell nested here cupped in the sand,
the soft flesh inside offering itself to the sea,
a sea that submerged it and then retreated.
As waters receded, the shell
burrowed in the wet sand.
Then, like a great tidal wave, an uplift
rocked the earth and the shell rose with it,
uprooted on a windswept mesa.

Today, a thousand miles away,
waves conceive the winds that sweep
the landlocked mesa
where, like a scavenger,
I sort through broken sandstone and rock
and carry home the sea,
windswept and marooned,
in a fossil.

I wish my words
could be as fine
as the words of a sonnet
each syllable in place
or as fitting
as the flawless coiffure
of a debutante
and I wish that my words
could overcome you
like the melody
of a saxophone solo,
but mostly I wish
that the harmony
of our lives
might survive us
like that 1930s jazz
we conjure
with the touch of a button.

We are one together
like the dark coffee beans
and white coffee blossoms
like the ruddy henna dye
and the white henna flowers:
your seed gives root
to my blossoms that
nourish your fruit; like
opposites on a visible
spectrum, I take, you give
color, while the puzzle
of our belonging appears
as mysterious to the world
as does the existence
of zero to the mathematician.

Like a ladder
the green vein
of the zucchini
climbs each petal
reaches the petal tip.
The petal arches back.
One blossom displays
her pistil.
Another, the anthers.
Where the sepal
diminishes,
the small round
breast of the zucchini
nudges the petals.

img_1668Henna on her hands,
she walks the streets.
Henna on her hands,
she braids her sister’s hair.
To color her hair,
a soft mound of henna
in a rounded gourd
next to her sister’s ankles;
her sister sits on a straw mat,
legs outstretched.
On the henna plant grows
fragrant white flowers;
an extract from the henna
leaves a dark-colored dye
for your hair, your palms,
the soles of your feet.
No henna on my hands,
my hair, my feet;
henna in my pen,
on the page that was blank.

They fit together like two hemispheres,
one enclosing the other.
Apart from each other, each is broken.
One shoulders the other,
draws her gradually to the light.
When one is warm,
the other is cool.
Each knows day and night,
but neither experiences it fully
at the same moment.
They fit together like two hemispheres,
like oceans and continents.
Neither is whole without the other.
It’s a balancing act,
like tide tugging at the shore.
One cradles the other,
feeds her.
See how they fit together,
day and night,
fullness and hunger,
mother and child.

Her eyes once reflected
love, cupped in my hands,
cradled in my arms;
my hair, a curtain
concealing our glances.

At night, the kerosene lamps come out;
they look like the water lilies that bloom in the morning.
We set them on wooden tables;
sometimes their legs are unsteady.
Kerosene lamps flicker;
they open up like white petals unfolding.
The kerosene lamp has a blue stamen;
its flame lives in a glass vase.
Water lilies float on the marsh surface.
Neither the water lily nor the kerosene lamp has roots.
You cannot hold a kerosene lamp
the way a child cradles a lily.

My daughter hides under
an indigo blanket
and covers my face, too.
The long thin woven strips,
the seams that give way.
Light enters
the cracks in the seams
as stars piercing the night-sky blanket.

When loneliness swells
like a girl’s pregnant belly
when night holds
you in embrace
little children run
through your dreams.
You feel their pain;
you cannot shake it off,
like the odor of a blue dye
that can’t be washed
from a blanket.