Alfredo Aguilar

             Where soil, water, and tending

Leads loquats, grapefruits, and persimmons to ripen —

On a sunlit patch of grass I threw myself face-down

With something like abandon, for what else could I call it — ?

I gave myself over to a feeling and let everything fall away —

I was young again, in that, for a moment, I was free

Of responsibility, bathing in a warm golden light,

Breathing in the scent of soft dirt and fresh green leaves.

No one keeps a spadeful of soil from the place they call home

             Unless they’ve left and believe they might never return.

This didn’t occur to me years ago when a fire crowned the mountain

Across from our home with its wild and terrible light —

Forced our family to evacuate with everything

             We could fit into our van.

In the next town over at an uncle’s house

I sat on a kitchen counter unshelling and chewing pistachios

As we watched news updates about the fire and its spread,

Each passing moment making it clearer

That we wouldn’t be returning soon, that when we did,

We might arrive to an ashened valley where our home once stood.

Today it still stands and for that I’m grateful. Had it disappeared

With the fire, I thought I would’ve carried our home inside me

                       Like a haunting.

Yet now, I live far from there and find that I carry it.

What do I name this — ?


Maybe the difference between the two is whether

             You’re fortunate enough to have something to return to —

The fertile soil, family photographs, floors worn with living,

             Games, laughter, spring rain, thin walls, workbenches,

Wooden shovels, stars, windows filling with dawn-light and birdsong —

That home has built itself inside me —

                                                              It can never be lost.


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