On a long street connecting
downtown with the wide Prairie-style
homes of the preserved neighborhood
runs a column of date palms.
These are the tall, regal date palms,
the same decorating a child's Bible.
A landscapers' prize, the palm trunk
retains its girth; in its 100 years of living,
it will not crowd its neighbors.
The date palm is civil in this way.
Muhammad called it a blessed tree,
perhaps extolling the female's supply
of food or the male's pollinating capacity.
Each November, before the Thanksgiving
feast, the date palms begin forming
their bunch of fruit. Thus I know
these are mostly female palms chosen
to adorn the roadway, my path
home from work and each day,
as I drive past, a Jesus under the
fronds, my eyes cling to the pendulous
bunch of dates, like bright oysters
or multitudinous orange breasts,
as they bulge below the clipped leaves.
The first year, the pods grew fat
in glorious multiplicity before the
weight collapsed the wings and bunches
fell to the sidewalk, a mess of sticky sweetness.
This year, they are managing the date palms:
each receives its fall shave and before
any possibility of red contamination,
the men come with their ladders
and excise the flesh of the date palm.