Long Beach

A young worker, iPod deaf to the dawn, saws at the deadened banana fronds, alone in his Winston-scented world. Warming air soughs and whispers the branches in growing bright as invisible birds chip and chirp and the asparagus fern twitches beneath the fitful movements of a miniature lizard. I could be in Mytilene or Cyprus except for the absence of the Orthodox prayers or mullah’s calls replaced in this secular land by the hum of hot tub jets, a lower-decibel barrista’s churrr.

I jump at a CRASH! The worker has not trimmed the dead fronds but topped a 20-foot expanse off the palm that marked the corner of the yard. Four black cables like a poorly drawn bass clef slant from the neighbor’s roof to fill the space. The sound of ripping palm flesh confirms he is no gardener, merely an executioner.

My eyes tear from thin ground haze that reminds of yesterday’s wildfire. The air carries the sting of wet charcoal and smoldering wood. Like an ill-extinguished cigarette, the earth exhales death’s putrescence.

Photo by Frances Davies

Nov. 19, 2008

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