“We are the world, with all our colors, ages, sizes,” Laotian organizer Torm Nompraseurt told a community speakout against a California ballot initiative that would’ve barred the state from collecting statistics on race. “It’s as if we had a garden, where each flower needs its own particular care.”
We were an odd lot who wanted to see, and be seen—Black,
Chinese and Lebanese, white, Laotian and Latino—so we got together
in the storefront clinic across from the strip mall.
We made a momentary garden
with all our colors, ages, sizes,
dreams, breathing deep and listening
to our roots talking,
hearing the quiet words,
the learned and rehearsed words,
words from the gut and heart.
Our listening planted lemongrass
and collards, kale and bright tomatoes,
with sunflowers watching over all.
Our garden bloomed from long years’ tending,
let us reach to feel each other’s scents, and ask
“What greens grew in your mother’s garden,
what spices did she use—sage, saffron,
garlic, chilies of a dozen hues?
What did she brew when you got sick?
What do you offer to a neighbor who stops in—
green tea, coffee strong and sweet,
or a can of pop?”
Tell me how I let you know I’m listening—
do I speak straight and look deep into your eyes,
or diffidently glance aside?
Tell me what you do for birthdays,
how you meet the end.
In our garden greened on years of dreams
we could speak these things
and hear them all,
every pungent every bitter
every rolling rocky word we taste
on our ears, hear in our cells,
see with our hearts open,
feel them all, embrace
the nubby, rough and silky,
hear the sparkle in our eyes
and the warmth of our hands
clasped in greeting
© 2020 Marcy Rein