These three poems by Ani Martin explore how anxiety, as well as inner quiet, translate into the natural world…
by: Ani Martin
THE ROBINS OF ST. HELENA From my office window I watch as plump birds lift and flutter to stay alight. They peck at the red berries, clustered on holly branches, wings brushing against the other. Their stomachs full, I spot them on a nearby tree peppered with small cones, sitting together as if deep in conversation; their heads vaguely undulate with the breeze. As the sun dips behind the Mayacamas Mountains I wonder, do their emotions shift and fall as mine? Do they get frightened? Anxious? Is there a leaf for pain? A flower for joy? And is it okay when the sky flashes its stars and the cicadas seethe, for them to fly to the top of a telephone pole and stare at the moon on their own?
EUCALYPTUS CANYON 1. Rains came late punishing the spring flowers and making a sop of our canyon hillside. A nineteenth-century eucalyptus tree dropped like a hunted elephant, snapped a power pole and sparked damp electrical fires on its way to the ground. The whole spectacle unnerved the retired heart surgeon next door, and in a frenzy, he had half a dozen healthy trees cut down, exposing the backs of homes to each other like dropped pants. With no tall trees to perch, our great horned owl left, which broke my husband’s heart. 2. With the owl gone, the crows came, huge, circling, screeching mobs of them, taking over the trees and our small strip of sky. One flies by with a baby dove in its beak, the mother dove pumping her wings after it. My husband runs out on the deck, cursing the crows. Our daughters throw avocado pits & clementines that bounce to the gully floor. I shut the sliding glass doors against the bitter smell of creosote and chain saws. We don’t have the energy to move, but my husband says not moving will kill us. 3. I was born here, in this wedge of urban forest. When I was a teenager, it was my mother who was as unhappy and restless as my husband is now— almost lupine as she looked to the hilltops by 3 p.m. This house is too dark! We’re living in a hole. So my father cut down the huge oak shading her vegetable garden. After that the zucchinis went wild with sun and bulged to the size of footballs, and the passion fruit vines strangled the strawberries. And then she was gone. 4. They say when we die, we lose our narrative story. That will be a relief. Sometimes when I’m in the kitchen making myself a turkey sandwich, I think, one day I’ll leave this perched, cantilevered house. My body will disintegrate or burn. And like a girl reclined on a redwood deck, the sky will savor me, then exhale me like a clove cigarette.
DOORSTEP When he comes to my door with his static energy smile, eyeing my fruit bowl, the small of my waist, does he know he’s calling on my old angels— rousing the winged creatures back from light-year dimensions away? Sometimes my angels rally, come and hold me as steady as a JCPenney mannequin, flat peach lips painted on, one arm propping open the door. But truly they’re exhausted, over it really, very, very done.
Anne-Marie Cappellano has been published in Brackish, Radical Beauty, Malibu Times, and the anthology Side Eye On the Apocalypse. She has attended the Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Port Townsend Writers Conference and studied with John Rechy and Jack Grapes. Anne-Marie received her BFA in screenwriting from USC Cinema Arts and her master’s in spiritual psychology from the University of Santa Monica. She has worked on a hospice team, run a wine and olive oil vineyard in the Napa Valley, and is the mother of two daughters. Ani Martin is her pen name.