photoExcerpts from With Teeth in the Earth


Leaves don't fall. They descend.
Longing for earth, they come winging.
In their time, they'll come again,
For leaves don't fall. They descend.
On the branches, they will be again
Green and fragrant, cradle-swinging,
For leaves don't fall. They descend.
Longing for earth, they come winging.


In Sweet Pain
for Yosele and Yudele

You tower over me,
my big beautiful sons.
How tiny I am
next to you.
Still, I've never unknotted myself
from your babyhood.

In the first cry, forced
from a little mouth,
I heard clearly:
And, trembling, I stammered:
"You. You."

In the first sign of recognition
in your little eyes,
I read, as in a flutter-script:
My smile quietly answered:
"Yes. I."

When the first little tooth
bit into my breast,
a covenant was cut:

That's how in sweet pain
we became
necessary to each other.


Bird of Paradise

Not from the tree and not from the branch
but straight from the earth—
out of the flowerpot come the leaves.
Bent inward, lobelike, on small stems,
long and narrow,
twenty in number.
One, a little stalk in the middle,
like a scroll wound tight into itself,
pokes out over the foliage.
It hurries to bear
good news:
it's pregnant with a bird of paradise.
Proudly, it holds the bud up—
a little belly, elongated, full.

From one blink to the next
the transparent membrane
grows thinner and thinner,
revealing the colors
of the big event.
The leaves below—
two quorums of in-laws

I go out to the patio.
I'm a really close relative.
I'm invited.

I sit down,
elbows on the table,
hands holding up my face.
This is how I'll sit until
the wonder-happening:
before my eyes, the bud will give birth
to the little bird of paradise.

And just now
something flies into my right eye,
and for an instant
my eyes shut—
a flash
and I'm too late.
Beaklike, it glows before me—
the bird of paradise
Majestically, the little head
ever-so-slightly bows:
"A pity.
Forgive me—
but one may not gaze
on holiness."


And I Smile

Yes, there were lovers,
dear lovers,
one more loved than the next.
The shadows they left in my house
attend my quiet smiles.

Now there's someone new.
He comes and enfolds me
as a flame enfolds a sheaf.
This is my latest conquest—
and I smile.

Who is he, you want to know?
I'll tell you
if you must know:
my lover is


© Marcia Lee Falk.