This hard-scrabble ground,
all come from somewhere else
settles here in the spaces
that split the fog
in a clearing that is not a clearing of the mind
in these gray scale days where spirits sink
weighted by the merest breath of mist.
Like a fairy circle tree,
I am second-generation seedling,
coming after my father, the alien refugee,
who planted himself on the sand dunes
of San Francisco’s Sunset District,
one block from an immigrant church,
having faith that shallow roots
will draw water
that shoulder each other up
to keep from sinking in the quicksand
of the 50s.
The non-native plants now crowd
the creekside park below my home,
choking out the long grasses.
The fog obscures this grief, erasing memory
of time green and immemorial.
— Paul Totah, August 26, 1998