We were too cold to know then.
Stacked shoulder to shoulder
on green linoleum seats
wondering when we would arrive.
The volume of voices
young and irreverent
calling and rising
from the small sliver
of open window allowed
on this old school bus.
This would be the last
for a long time.
The train tracks
loud as ever.
A gentle insistence,
a fierce repetition –
of just one note.
Japan is in the third drawer
beside an extension cord,
address books, and a handkerchief
I forgot to give.
Old journals remain open
in no particular order
as I search
for your number.
I believed that
on at least one page
out of so many saved
you would emerge
so I could say –
There is beauty here too
in this wild space
where we all flock.
Wild geese, still wet
and slick from the lake,
where men cast their line
for fish they cannot eat
head towards the house
lined with a corrugated metal fence.
Heavy grey rocks rest beside rows of young trees.
Camps are still pitched here.
There is one with a California flag,
another with a tie-dyed blanket serving as a door.
An empty lawn chair sits vacant
waiting for the blue lines painted in the sand
to become new trails.
Men and women standing in rows
practice Tai chi in their pajamas on the grass.
Children chase each other as their parents
sit wearing masks, watching them play.
Cyclists with their padded bike shorts and
fancy thin tires broadcast their arrival,
louder than the lone bagpiper bellowing
under the oak tree, the notes perched
on his black music stand.
The San Gabriel mountains look better now
without violent orange flames lining its crest,
without plumes of ash and smoke,
rising and reaching into our lungs.
The bioswales meant for the rainwater
flowing towards the Rio Hondo river
have now captured me and my dogs.
We chase dragonflies and orange poppies.
Wander between native shrubs and trees.
I hold them steady as rabbits, lizards and
squirrels run too close to where we stand.
All of us have been carried here
by so many storms.
Allowing gravity to pull us
through layers of soil
until we are all clean.
The Monarch butterflies are leaving
and my old friend died the other day.
can bring them back.
My friend has seeds,
she says, “Do you need some?”
I don’t know what milkweed looks like
or why butterflies need them.
I don’t know where he is now.
Probably in a student’s heart,
a seed – choosing
to live there instead.
In memory of Gabriel Monge