When Sengalese women tend their communal garden, they water vegetables from a hand-dug well one bucket at a time.
Their animatrice, their leader, has seven children but only half a harvest. As she bends dry dun hands to cracked ground, the Harmattan wind peels topsoil and carries her continent’s cast-off skin, weightless, many kilometers south.
When the women are given buckets from their leader to water soil, plant trees, feed their children, they draw a garden, full, green and fertile from parched earth.
The animatrice, blowing life into her sapped disciples, reminds them their tribe has a riddle:
Where does the dry season go in rainy season, and where does the rainy season go in dry?
She answers, Into the acacia tree, evergreen, with pendulous leaves and silver wattle. From you, she tells them, dusting her pinched breasts, the tree comes; even to him— our tribe’s chief —the tree is a riddle.
Where did I put the geography the wholeness of this place? Each piece compartmentalized: air direction velocity humor feathers oils ribs groins top shelf farther left up above the plateau beyond the sink hole meadow moraine where sand grains loiter seeds fall and wait for rain back wall near the window where mornings are kept alphabetical by month miles from here on maps rolled under beds near closets of cotton and woolen wharves asleep by restless rivers running past igneous ridges and crystalline columns near the corner by the bank where the post office stood before BlackBerries.
DONNA BAIER STEIN’s chapbook Sometimes You Sense the Difference was published by Finishing Line Press. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Virginia Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, and elsewhere. She was a founding poetry editor at Bellevue Literary Review and now publishes Tiferet Journal. Her story collection Sympathetic People was published by Serving House Books in 2013; it was a Finalist in the Iowa Fiction Awards; her unpublished novel Fortune received the PEN/New England Discovery Award. Other awards include a scholarship from Bread Loaf, fellowships from Johns Hopkins University and the New Jersey Council for the Arts, prizes from the Poetry Societies of Virginia and New Hampshire, an Honorable Mention from the Allen E. Ginsberg Poetry Prizes, a Summer Literary Seminars Scholarship, three Pushcart nominations and prizes from Kansas Quarterly, Florida Review, and elsewhere.
Tom Plante was born in New York City in 1949 and raised in East Rockaway. He studied Geography at the University of California in Berkeley and worked for several newspapers, including The Berkeley Barb, The Irish Echo, and The Courier News. He published Berkeley Works magazine (1981-85) and has published Exit 13 Magazine, an annual poetry journal, since 1988. Tom works in Elizabeth for the Union County Bureau of Housing and lives with his wife and daughter in Fanwood, New Jersey.
Teresa Carson is the associate publisher at CavanKerry Press and the assistant director of the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching. She holds an MFA in Poetry and an MFA in Theatre, both from Sarah Lawrence College. She continues to live in the crooked house in Union City, NJ with her husband, John.