This poem comes from a conversation that I had tonight with dear friends, she is from Iceland and he’s from the Philippines. Listening to memories of a childhood spent picking mangoes and swimming in the warm sea was poetry in and of itself. Memories of what grew in Iceland and Montana were remarkably similar and un-poetic: Rhubarb and crab-apples don’t lend themselves quite as nicely to verse.
Memories of the Philippines
It was too hot to water
the vegetables until after five-o-clock
the sun would burn tender leaves and the heat
was too much for a small boy
carrying buckets of water, pulled from
the well which teemed with frogs.
Siesta time was at two, and a boy could lie
quietly beside his mother, waiting until her breath
turned even, heavy with sleep and then slip
quietly, softly, from her side
to roam the deserted streets. Some days we
would steal fruit, which hung on every tree…
star apples, custard apples, mango, papaya
coconut and jackfruit
the sticky evidence of which was erased
with a swim in the warm sea.
Papaya trees grow fast, so fast that
they can be planted as a fence
and the green fruit is eaten like a vegetable.
Strip the green fan from a papaya leaf and use
the hollow center as a straw
(for breathing under water, they will
never see you coming).
Banana flowers are good to eat,
squash flowers and vine flower.
The blossoms of the Ylang Ylang tree
are golden cascades, so aromatic
that they are often found pressed
between the pages of Bibles,
a fragrance pleasing to the Lord.