Friday, January 07, 2005

The Date Palms

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.

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