The Garden of Abu Mahmoud
He had also lived in Spain
so we stood under a glossy loquat tree
telling of madres y milagros
with clumsy tongues.
It seemed strange in the mouth
of this Arab, but no more so
Across his valley the military
settlement gleamed white.
He said, That’s where the guns live,
as simply as saying, it needs sun,
a plant needs sun.
He stooped to unsheathe an eggplant
from its nest of leaves,
purple shining globe,
and pressed it on me.
I said No, no, I don’t want
to take things before they are ripe,
but it was started already,
handfuls of marble-sized peaches,
hard green mish-mish and delicate lilt
of beans. Each pocket swelled
as he breathed mint-leaves,
bit the jagged edge.
He said every morning found him here,
before the water boiled on the flame
he came out to this garden,
dug hands into earth saying, I know you
and earth crumbled rich layers
and this result of their knowing—
a hillside in which no inch went unsung.
His enormous onions held light
and the trees so weighted with fruits
he tied the branches up.
And he called it querido, corazon,
all the words of any language
connecting to the deep place
of darkness and seed. He called it
ya habibi in Arabic, my darling tomato,
and it called him governor, king,
and some days he wore no shoes.