ethel’s words

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My neighbors are as varied as my flowers
and many come from far lands, as my flowers do.
But there are some--some herbs, some flowers,
some neighbors, whose only roots
are in this continent.

These neighbors have long hair
that is black and shiny and almost straight
except that it flows to the shape of the head
and spills over the shoulders.

Some of the young women
keep their hair gathered and private
in their traditional way: the maiden's coif--
telling also the long poem of her history.

But often, the men let their hair fly in the wind.
One day, a young man, bronze as a bronze statue
with hair dark as midnight and starred
with highlights from the same sun that warmed
his great-great-great-great-grandfather--
passed by my yard in the old heart
of the city. I was tending flowers.
He tossed his hair like a stallion romping
in red-rock country. I did not call hello
as I usually do to all passers
but rather kept on pulling intruder weeds
from among the flowers.

                   I plant flowers for the birds,
to bring the bugs, and for the poor people
who walk by my old house
but I know that the earth on my hands
belongs to that young man who is homeless
and loose as a winter tumbleweed,
who tosses his hair like a stallion's mane
while his guts are a tight knot of pain.

I plant flowers, and when I can, trees,
to give something back for what I have received.
There is so little one can do: Write words;
march in the streets; shout; color the earth
with flowers.

But most of the time I am not uncomfortable
that I am raising flowers.
The earth is so sweet under my hands.

Ethel C. Hale                          1992