Born by Lee Herrick
I was born in an ocean of poor magic near a songwriter with stories
but no maps, strung out on local wine and rice.
I was born because the magic and the birds were certain they'd seen me before.
There were no gasps or hands clapping nor arias or sobs. I was there
on the grass, a full head of black hair, eyes that asked, will you say a little more
a curiosity that became desire, then death, then desire again.
Testimony by Lee Herrick
I heard the American poet groan like his farmworker mother bent into California's central question like a rake or a comma or a death that was not a death but a rising fire or a shotgun in a wheat field.
I heard the father say to himself to hell with it before he wrote a seven page manifesto on the crimes of lemon trees whose leaves become little whispers in our dream like yellow flowers floating on a lake.
I heard anger come into the night I heard the night bring you down I heard the down say please madam I heard a woman say Hmong means free I heard freedom like kingdom.
Gardening Secrets of the Dead by Lee Herrick
When the light pivots, hum — not so loud the basil will know, but enough to water it with your breath. Gardening has nothing to do with names like lily or daisy. It is about verbs like uproot, traverse, hush. We can say it has aspects of memory and prayer, but mostly it is about refraction and absence, the dead long gone when the plant goes in. A part of the body. Water and movement, attention and dirt.
Once, I swam off the coast of Belize and pulled seven local kids along in the shallow Caribbean, their brown bodies in the blue water behind me, the first one holding my left hand like a root, the last one dangling his arm under the water like a lavender twig or a flag in light wind. A dead woman told me: Gardening, simply, is laughing and swimming a chorus of little brown miracles in water so clear you can see yourself and your own brown hands becoming clean.