On the first or last day of the year,

it’s customary among many humans
to speak of wishes and write them down
on brightly colored strips of paper
which they’ll burn at the stroke of midnight.
Or, according to my daughter calling
from a tiny town in Portugal, they’ll put
twelve raisins on their tongue, one
for each month of the year. I forgot
to ask if you’re supposed to eat them
one by one; does chewing then
swallowing them together nix out
or amplify the extended release
features of all that good fortune
desired for the immediate future?
We believe mostly in the efficacy of will,
that there are still some things in the world
open to choice. Do you want the steak
dinner or the mushroom casserole,
the red or white wine to go with that?
Did you want to bring a child with you
over the border just to have her die
of hunger and neglect in the over-
crowded detention camp? Perhaps
this offends your sensibilities. Perhaps
it isn’t fair to consider the mundane
varieties of hunger equal to those
born in greater exigency. At the same
time, there are some things which exist
only as apparent example of their
lethality: take the manchineel tree, lush
and green and spreading, but toxic in all
its parts. Don’t touch the bark, don’t eat
the fruit though it looks like an adorable
miniature apple; don’t even breathe
the air immediately under it. This is
the very same fruit whose sap
Calusa warriors smeared on the tips
of arrows that killed conquistador
Juan Ponce de Leon in his attempt
to colonize Florida in 1521. He
probably didn’t know what gored him
in the thigh other than a sharp piece
of metal at the end of a shaft:
someone else’s will not to be so easily
made vassal, subaltern, subject.

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