Apocalypse 1492

When the Caribs appear
suddenly in our midst,
garish & silent as vipers,
I hurl myself into a tree,
find refuge on a high limb.
All night I sit straddling
the trunk like a lover,
one ear against the bark,
& at daybreak look down
into a hammock of leaves —
the ground is lost to me.
My only view is of blue:
the sea, the sky, & on
the line between them,
a strange new island shaped
like a moving hand, fingers
webbed like the claws of a seal.
In the sign language of the islands,
an open palm means
We have nothing.
We seek hospitality.

That’s what the Caribs said
too, at first, their weapons
hidden in their canoes.
How have we offended you,
I want to shout, but I know
we haven’t. We simply happen
to taste good, like the seals —
though at least a seal can hide
among the waves.
The island draws near,
& I can see it’s lousy with men.
The sun flashes off their bodies
as if they brought their own seas
with them. I hear shouts
in one ear, & in the other,
something deep & slow
that has nothing to do with us.

Festival of the Trees returns to Via Negativa

Foggy Woods

The Festival of the Trees will return to Via Negativa on November 1 — the 29th edition. The last time I hosted it was in August 2007, and I also hosted the very first edition on July 1, 2006.

Any and all tree-related blog posts or photo galleries are welcome (which doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll include everything that comes in) and you needn’t be the author to submit a link. Multiple submissions are fine, too, and if you have any doubt about whether something qualifies, just go ahead and send it. Submit the links via my Contact page, or by email to bontasaurus [at] yahoo [dot] com, and please put either “Festival of the Trees” or “FOTT” in the subject line. The deadline is October 29.

In the meantime, please check out the current edition at Arboreality — one of our best yet, I think.

13 Tips for Surviving the Apocalypse

The Bloggers Association of America (BAA) has notified me that I am at risk of losing my blogging license if I don’t start publishing more random lists of links masquerading as bad advice.

Oh, wait, make that 14:


“Are you there? Hello?” The voice breaks a little on the final oh. The sound of a foot scuffing against pavement. “Talk to me!” The distant wail of an ambulance — or is it a coyote? The paper’s been reporting more and more of them in the area, killing housepets and alarming the parents of small children.

“Hello? Hello?” Yellow light and the smell of curry spill from a window over on the far side of the parking lot. The figure at the pay phone is a dim outline in the deepening dusk. It doesn’t sound like any of the neighbors.

“Are you there? Listen, I can’t even tell if that’s your breathing, or just something on the line. Hello?”

A very long silence this time. Then in a low voice: “Just one word, O.K.? One word. It could even be ‘goodbye,’ if you that’s what you’re thinking. Just so I know you’re alive, and I’m not talking to myself.”

A car swings into the parking lot, illuminating for a couple seconds a hunched figure whose elongate shadow tracks across the face of the building like the hand of a backwards clock.

The car door slams, and the footsteps quickly retreat toward the far entrance, followed by several minutes of silence — or what passes for silence around here. It’s not a bad neighborhood. Most of us work long hours, come home, and fall asleep in front of our televisions. Weeks can pass between encounters even with the people across the hall; it can be hard to know whether a given neighbor is still there or not.

“Listen.” The voice finally resumes. “I’m sure I’ve given you plenty of reasons to give me the silent treatment. But this not knowing whether you’re there — it’s hard to take. I don’t know where you moved to. I don’t know…. Oh, hell!” The clink of coins falling into a metal well. “You people are thieves!”

Another long pause, then one final, resigned “Hello?”

The once-familiar sound of a pay phone returning to its cradle seems almost as anachronistic now as the clip-clop of a horse. Who are these people without mobile phones or Blackberries, traveling alone through their lives? “Hello,” you whisper to no one in particular. Such a funny little word! “Hello.”