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Frank
Some Thoughts on Birds and Trees…
fish, and pyramids and geckos, fragments of blue sky showing through the ceiling of leaf and fruit and flower, drips of ivy and outsized lanterns hanging from the trees’ tentacles. The swallows decorate the day-shadows sweeping in and out of the garden ungula, gliding from clapperclaw to trunk to perch on the woven rope chair to the right of our room’s old, thick, ponderous whale-wood door, Louisa-cum-Jonah stirring from sleep in its warm belly.
The swallow and I lock eyes, and it knows I am a stranger here, an intruder in its garden. This place is named for it, and it has allowed me to sleep in its very center. The bird trills once, sobriquetical, as if allowing me a temporary pass and I take it, lumbering pre-coffee American that I am, and bump my head on the pink and gold star piñata strung over our doorway. In its clumsy sound, however soft, the swallow retreats to the viscera of a grapefruit tree, and I am somehow evicted again, robbed of my birdsong nickname and ticket to the garden’s real inside.
I sink into the rope chair and listen to a few other guests taking their breakfast in the sun at a series of tables set up at the garden’s nucleus. I watch them move behind the trees, fork-to-plate, fork-to-mouth, and my own stomach growls as if giving itself its own alias. Starving. My guts have always been self-conscious and melodramatic. Especially in the morning. The smell of refried beans topped with
fresh cheese and fried eggs loops through the trees, mists over the blue and white tile serving as our room’s nametag—C17. Under the cover of its alias, my stomach whispers its selfish thoughts to my brain. Wake wife, eat food. Such simple equations here. I sit, stare upward, trying to ignore it, hoping the trees will invite some mediation beyond this morning hunger, the multi-special dance of the rain tree cohune palms, latex sap rubber trees, chicle gums, cyrillas, fan-leaved willow bustics, naked flame corals with their fat toxic seeds, buttress-root fig trees, pink geraniums, pungent berried madroño shrubs, a single long-limbed pecan, knife-trunked palmettos with their lavender bisexual flowers and black nectarine drupes, sapote negro, pomegranate, yagrumo macho timber, the orange spiked fruit of the sweetgum monkeyball, and those buxom grapefruit bobbing like lures I’m too earthbound to reach.
It doesn’t work. I’m still hungry. I listen desperately for signs of life in the room. A sink, a toilet. Something. But nothing. A tiny old man with a wizened face like a pewter gecko strolls up the walk in blue medical scrubs and matching cap, short-handled broom in his left hand. He bids me a buenos días, all deathbed tweet, and begins sweeping fallen leaves and ant-riddled pomegranate rind from the walkway in front of the next room.
I try to hide myself in last night. Our late flight, our arrival to the tiny Oaxaca airport, the silence there, the baggage claim conveyor belts so loud in a room with few tired people. I remember boarding a
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