It is the duty of every poet to speak fearlessly and clearly.
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Elegy for the Orchards
by Paul Aviles
In the end, perhaps the burning of
olive or almond or peach trees cannot be
compared to other atrocities: the cock in a man's mouth, the bloated bodies
floating in a catchpool at the foot of a tumbling, slow waterfall
jammed up and bumping one another like so many cut logs
drifting lazily on the world's most beautiful river.
But an orchard destroyed sticks in a man's mind a long time.
Imagine the stunted, flowering apple
trees just south of
where we now sit--if they were dismantled:
the gnarled trunks torched beyond recognition, the ancient grafts loosened
like a woman's thick braid. Imagine the rootstock chosen slowly over many generations
has been rendered inviable, and that the once-cold fruit has vanished
forever in a gasp of smoke on the thick morning air,
the stench of kerosene and sweet
congealed into memory like cold grease on the skin.
In other words: imagine if you can
on a cool morning just like this one with its bird and slow light
your entire life gone.
Then you will begin to understand
after long generations, the Cherokee and Seneca remember peaches,
survivors at Dayr Yasin, Shatila, Jenin the sting of bitter green almonds.