We wind through acreages of arboretum,
horticultural school, floral showhouse,
the botanical gardens—with their plum
trees, the whitewashed gazebo for weddings,
nestled amidst lilies, chrysanthemums,
violas, roses, redbud, magnolia,
drapes of daffodils, cherries, orchids, tulips,
crocus, the lilac garden’s bounteous bloom.
All under the park commission’s stewardship.
She always screeches and comes to a halt
for all creatures large and small. Now though,
she dashes out of the hard-braking car,
oblivious of trailing and head-on assault
of traffic and starts hand waves as frenzy grows
in signals to stop cars or disperse the herd
through the escarpment further from the street
into the deeper clump of park green, spurred
away from looming harm she apprehends.
The stag towers in real close, in a bout
of misdoubting crossing the road. The doe
is across, where her fawn flails, snout
circling tree stumps and frail greens with petunias,
just planted and brash-budding to spread their cheer
on the tourism season here soon with fresh memories.
They might have gone nocturnal, like us premiere-
bound this weekend toward the revelries
that overspill the downtown core, miles away
from this green zone. Tonight, we’re in the wild
of night, drawn down where the crowded night reels.
For them, they’ll stir through nighttime, less exiled
from the day-glare of our sure advancement;
theirs turned the fringe of once a habitat,
in time of day or space. By nature, lifelong,
they’ll deem this sprawl of lush green flora as meant
for them—though it is man remade, for the throng
ready to file by these mannered green gates.
They’re all across, faded out, even their scent.
May you, there, never witness us jackknife
questing the small remissions, here, while need clangs
deep within us like thunder jarred to life;
never feel like our mothers between pangs
of delivery and that relief which flows
through loss of what is bundled in; how fangs
that maul innards upset our frames like gut blows,
like chaff threshed off the grain which it enwraps;
how we must trek on hoping for some dose
of beetle crunch, locust, dew in the flaps
of twigs and ferns, before our beings forswear
old treaties to bind breath to dust or collapse.
When in that kind of starveling state, a prayer
or goodwill is given blind for food or drugs
to child, to mother in our camps of disrepair.
Brain ruminates for sense. Feet drag like slugs.
Eyes scan for bird-dropped seed, for trampled crop.
The cry that harrows the night inside plugs
voids in when what nutrients yet flow slop.
As skylights flare out and ignite the scene,
we no longer care if they are foes that chop
us down, or friends that nurse—or some machine
that robs of last supper . . . not worth one bean.
loomed across high noon . . .
malfunction doomed them down by our playground.
We scattered far enough as rotors wound
dust by the fray of commandos and goon—
some hog-tied trudging, but towering rebel.
Our flaring schoolyard wars dimmed to less con-
sequence next to that witnessed march of brawn.
Little Grace stood transfixed, braids streaked with sand . . .
I, moved in the maiden grip of her soft hand.
Like our class lab experiments, our babel
of cultures fizzed and hissed offhand to hone
a country-scale refrain of bone on bone.
Alexander Pepple edits Able Muse and its related presses, and directs its related Eratosphere online literary workshop. He edited the Able Muse Anthology (Able Muse Press, 2010) and has been published widely, most recently at Hopkins Review, Rosebud, River Styx, and Barrow Street.
Kudos on this triptych, Alex!