This hard-scrabble ground,

ice plant

pampas grass

scotch broom


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

through homes

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



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