poem index

Eden

David Woo
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.

David Woo