Boat Under the Orange Tree Poetry of Place

Under the orange trees,
he turned to me and said,
scratch that, all things are beautiful

could he feel
the kitchen table under my elbows,
the taut muscles of my father’s face
tendons like fists, then ropes
the wince, the rocking motion,
what an ugly thing
war is

fingering the dullness.
leaves of an olive tree,
a skirt that swallows dust,
a lime in a girl’s mouth,
skin stinging under fingernails
in the dives of birds over the orchard,
do I not love the world enough?

she is taking a little break from herself now.
her shadow has left the house now,
she cannot
hurt bodies
without it.
standing on a rooftop in Rabat,
she knows her shadow is the fog
fossilizing the city by evening

she has gone to retrieve it in the waves
that touch her like cotton
and recognize her skin, even the hem of her skirt
and she is trying to remember if God forgave the princesita
who stole the star in Darío’s poem. She thinks God did.
she wants to know if it is okay to take one from the tile
by the unfinished mosque

perhaps this is the limit of language.
beautiful does not witness
the nightmares of veterans who sleep with guns,
the pinky of a lynched man in a jar
on the shelf with the family heirlooms,

the way her voice rose and I was afraid it would shatter
when she was too still, and she said, so guess what?
guess what I saw washed up on shore yesterday?

beautiful had not been walking with her
when she had seen
the odd thing on the beach,
the panicked woman who pointed, who pointed and said,
I know what that is, I know what that is,
I study biology —
it is a human fetus,
that is a human fetus

her voice rose and I was afraid it would shatter
and under this orange tree,
there is the shape of the boat,
and the texture of the wood,
and I am wondering who was there if beautiful wasn’t

© 2011 Tania Flores

Read the previous poem in this series, “Sacred.”
Tania Flores authors the blog, “pitaya and parachute sketches.”

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