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Delray, Florida, March 13, 2022
Northerner, stranger, I’ve been visiting my failing mother in her gated
golf community. Yesterday, I wandered under the gumbo limbos,
thinking of her inevitable descent, while green iguanas scattered
under the fallen copper succulents. Flat lines of black clouds
rolled over the Everglades, pelting the land with cold rain,
then, briefly, almost impossibly, hail, over the wetlands and dredged
fields, reminding us how fragile the grapefruits and oranges.
Indoors, the TV’s evening broadcast was almost unbearable,
tank columns crushing the suburbs as they advanced on Kiev,
so at dawn, it’s almost unsurprising to hear herons scream
outside in the bluing jet-stream and something hump and gurgle
under the roofline, roosts of ibises, perhaps, unsettled by this sudden
cold snap from the north and mass murder half a world away
lit on everyone’s CNN flat-screen with their morning coffee,
bulldozers plowing bodies into mass graves and the newscaster’s
dim analysis numbing us despite the caffeine hit.
I slip on a coat and slip out to the screened porch, watching small lizards
the color of cement stiff on sidewalks, stuck to their pre-dawn spots
until sun and body temps rise, but now they’re sitting ducks
for electric lawn-carts, a few workers rattling by with rakes and shears.
Beneath their wheels, the sod’s tough enough to harbor earthworms
still aerating the soil, and lower down, layers of helium push upward
like optimism, bolstering the earth’s crust where a cold line of ants,
stunned and listless, makes no advance from pizza crust to ant-nest.
If I lift my head and look back through glass doors to the living room,
I can see the flat-screen, those columns of tanks stuck outside Kiev,
their husks burnt from stinger-jets and drone-strikes, punished
for scorching the earth earlier elsewhere where everything on,
and under, it, either perished or surrendered, and nevertheless,
perished. From here I can click the remote, shift to a local channel
where the morning forecaster hasn’t yet decided whether we’ll dodge
the freeze or whether all the fruit will perish.
Copyright 2022 Neil Shepard
Neil Shepard’s many books include How It Is: Selected Poems (Salmon Poetry 2018). He edits The Plant-Human Quarterly published by the Otherwise Collective.