We Are All on Land Not Our Own – Esther Fishman

I want to write down
everything I know, to
record every street I’ve
walked, every landscape
objectively, but I will
have to forget what is
in my heart to do it.

My heart, with its mismatched
collection of untethered emotion,
swirling before my eyes, obscuring
sight, placing its subjectivity
over all that is, privileging itself
over every thought or tactile sensation.

It started off with the hills, brown
from May to October. Of course,
they weren’t brown, but
tawny, more brittle than
paper, exploding with the
heat of the Gold Rush summer.

To get anywhere, we
had to spend hours in
the car, more than half-
asleep, daydreaming, the
radio playing the top hits.

(Oh, Mandy
Smoke on the Water
Bye, Bye Miss American Pie
And She’s Buying a Stairway
To Heaven)

We drove to the restless
sea, the rocky fog-lined
wilds of Mendocino,
Fort Ross, Point Arena.

We slept in a huge canvas
tent my New York father
ordered from the Sears catalogue.
My mother cooked over
an open fire. Franks
and beans were our favorite.

We picked berries along
the side of Highway 1,
their juices running down
into the tops of our
bathing suits. You couldn’t
keep us out of the water.

We started school every
year in a heat wave, temperatures
over 100°, the landscape
sun-blasted, still, ready for either
the boon of moisture or
the holocaust of fire.

When the rain came (sometimes
around Halloween, in
a bad year not until
Thanksgiving) it felt like
the whole world breathed again.

And we would put on our
plastic raincoats, button
up our hoods, splash in every
puddle, and remember
summer, the long, yellow
days, and the sound
of the California surf.

I have published reviews on the web at thereviewreview.net and raintaxi.com. My poetry has appeared in various small magazines, most recently Bloodroot Literary Magazine.

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