I and Eucalyptus 13

By | 3 February 2024

If yellow eucalyptus sap looks like a duck, where’s the quack? Weed whacker, maybe, interrupts the duck’s drip, which I catch as image before another sap drip forms. They’re all real to him, the characters that emerge from lines of paint on the road. Why does this duck bill drip its yellow glob on green and black below? Its palette’s visible more to the camera’s eye than to mine; it filters out ambient colors, leaving only black. But approach the tree and its duck and you see a world refracted. The first sentence of this meditation quacks like a duck. I am he as he is I and we are all together. Presence is not what is evanescent and passes but what confronts us, waiting and enduring. Eucalyptus duck teases me with its slow motion. Look hard enough, and each drop carries an image of you in your red cap, standing on a green lawn, grasping your phone. Becoming Christmas ornament or tropical icicle. Somehow more pleasing not to see these excess images, to wait for the duck to return to dropness, for the tree to untangle from its wild spectrum. If you put too much red in your photos, the observer will be overwhelmed. But if you like red, you’ll swim in it, like a duck on a still pond, thin layer of algae quivering.

On each end of the Temple’s tile roof, two new golden birds. I’m told they are phoenixes, but the maintenance guy says they look more like fighting chickens. They stare at each other, raising their golden feathers. Somewhere, plastic Buddha places his bets on these two. A photograph morphs into story, especially after humidity bends its edges, removes a boundary, opens the border for crossing into memory-land. Like a kid’s game, where you spin the wheel, move your tiny car across a line of squares, and hope to win at Life. When I remember the game, I don’t play it backwards, but forwards again. I don’t remember how it ended or what I won or lost. I find paper money in the cemetery, huge denominations, Hell Money. Bills are fictions already, like banks, even when there’s a run, but this one overspends its symbolism. If you burn it, it returns to its owner. Heaven has high rents, like Hawai`i, but you buy a view there, away from the mounds of red clay, the wrinkled tarps, the coffin carriers on wheels. Artificial flowers are forbidden, though you find them run up against the bushes that mark an end to this carefully tended place. But seriously, I’ve never seen a duck in the cemetery, only in the culvert running parallel to the road I walk on. A tree crowned with egrets. A mongoose rushing into the bushes. The line of cats that watches us warily for signs of food. A woman in Aiea feeds them in a wooden shed by the parking lot. “No recreational use of the parking area,” a sign reads. The karaoke place next door is empty, but a sign demands silence.


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