The Almond Tree and the Almond Gatherers
They come prepared with sticks and blankets,
while your new shadow reaches out across terracotta earth.
Chattering, laughing, bubbling like a breaking wave,
bare chested, skins glistening, eyes flashing
like sparks, they advance carelessly,
spread their worn blankets at your feet,
and begin the chastisement.
While their sticks rise and fall against your arthritic limbs
you bear the indignity in silence, surrendering
your children without protest, letting them fall like rain
onto the blankets for your tormentors
to gather before they move on to your neighbour.
Later, they will lay down their sticks
to consume their bread and wine in your shade.
A universe away, on the fifty-ninth floor
a man sits past midnight, his children
in silver frames beside the backlit screen.
He sees their faces but cannot be sure
if he can remember the sound of their voices
or the songs they sing. Nor does he feel
the pain of the sticks as they fall.