Yellow-oatmeal flowers of the windmill palms like brains lashed to fans- even they think of cool paradise, Not this sterile air-conditioned chill or the Arizona hell in which they sway becomingly. Every time I return to Phoenix I see these palms as a child’s height marks on a kitchen wall, taller now than the yuccas they were planted with, taller than the Texas sage trimmed to a perfect gray-green globe with pointillist lavender blooms, taller than I, who stopped growing years ago and commenced instead my slow, almost imperceptible slouch to my parents’ old age: Father’s painful bend- really a bending of a bend- to pick up the paper at the end of the sidewalk; Mother, just released from Good Samaritan, curled sideways on a sofa watching the soaps, an unwanted tear inching down at the plight of some hapless Hilary or Tiffany. How she’d rail against television as a waste of time! Now, with one arthritis-mangled hand, she aims the remote control at the set and flicks it off in triumph, turning to me as I turn to the trees framed in the Arcadia door. Her smile of affection melts into the back of my head, a throb that presses me forward, hand pressed to glass. I feel the desert heat and see the beautiful shudders of the palms in the yard and wonder why I despised this place so, why I moved from city to temperate city, anywhere without palms and cactus trees. I found no paradise, as my parents know, but neither did they, with their eager sprinklers and scrawny desert plants pumped up to artificial splendor, and their lives sighing away, exhaling slowly, the man and woman who teach me now as they could not before to prefer real hell to any imaginary paradise.
Copyright © 2005 David Woo. Used with permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.