BY Beth Benjamin
Once again the town breathes hot and arid
panting at the base of a California mountain range
that runs from west to east.
We pride ourselves on a canopy of trees
in a drought stressed landscape,
strive to maintain this gentle shady dream.
After each rain
my heart eases,
relaxes its clenched fist.
With enough of a drench
I hear the root hairs drinking
for a couple of weeks anyway.
At least there’s snow in the Sierra Madre,
mother of waters,
for the coming year.
I can imagine damp meadows
of magenta shooting stars
and glowing panther lilies,
petals arching backwards from their mottled throats,
preening beside stream banks.
But rumors of El Nino moisture
don’t put juices in the bushes
of our chaparral landscape.
I’m all tensed up again.
I try to maintain an outlook
more geological than botanical,
have a little more trust in the depth of roots,
but at 90 degrees on Valentine’s Day,
no clouds in a sharp blue sky,
all these hopes of green may be unrealistic.
Better to love the paddles of opuntia,
eat nopales and sweet Indian fig,
called sabra in Hebrew
in another thorny land,
to love the spiny cholla,
shining golden in the glare,
that hosts the cactus wren,
and get comfortable with boulders and gravel.
And doesn’t the syrupy sunlight
rest sweetly on my closed eyelids?
And wasn’t that sleeveless February evening
delicious against my skin?