by: Leila Bilick

I.

Each April, I walked among crushed tulips
after the last snow
and headstones for fallen soldiers,
my favorite for James Miller, last of the Minutemen,
“I am too old to run,” inscribed in the stone.
I imagined him falling to his knees
delivering himself, negating himself
as the red storm blew in.  

Then I woke from a sleep
that might have lasted through summer.
I heard the cavalry climbing up Prospect Hill
and knew I’d stayed too long, that I was a ghost
among ghosts in a city with circles upon circles
that once kept it safe from battle and now
enclosed it in a form it had long outgrown.

Somewhere far from here the flowers rose up
and the dead bloomed to life
and the circles unraveled
into lines pointing forward
and I was too young to fall on my knees
too young to stop running.

II.

Now here I am in a city refusing to charm
offering graffiti and great distances,
the howl from the hills, swarm of cars
on the vast and lonely boulevard
and an antiseptic sun
bleaching bone-white and unrecognizable.

But here the ocean
after washing its dead to shore
rolls back into itself
renewing and renewing.
Here guava is on the air like a promise.
Here the hardy cacti
even with the smallest stores of water
never doubt their resurrection.

I have never seen so many lizards.
I pay close attention
to their bodies immobile
to their knowing when the blood’s gone cold
when to lie as in a graveyard
when to surrender to the sun
and when to run, like prehistoric creatures,
hopeful toward mutation.

 

Leila Bilick‘s poetry has been published in Soundings East and The Merrimack Review. She has an MA in English from UMass Boston, and works as a grant writer. She hails from the East Coast but is slowly and surely making Los Angeles her home. She has two daughters.