The Arrival

We spoke the same language. No,
we did not speak the same language.
We believed in the same gods. No,
we didn’t believe in the same gods.
The lavender fields where we first arrived
were forever symbolic to us; the scent
not somnolent but a promise
of our new future. No, none of that.
The boat we stepped ashore from,
it was burned behind us. Perhaps
they thought our people had only one
and if we couldn’t leave, no more
would come. No, it was not our only boat,
but though we hoped others would follow,
none did. The reeds we used to make our first bed
bent easily, and we laid together
in it on a cliff side with paths traced
across the rock face. We snared birds
in nets and roasted them on a spit;
we ate greens picked from sparse rock
outcroppings. We kept a torch aflame
all night for protection. We slept safely.
No, our fishing line disappeared
from its reels, our earrings
from our ears. Finally the blankets
that covered us vanished and we woke
shivering in the inky night. The stars
turned slowly around us, night birds
swept their ugly shadows across
the stony path, and we waited.
No, we did not have to wait.

Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of two chapbooks: All night in the new country and Pact-Blood, Fever Grass. She's held fellowships from the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the Poetry Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow in Poetry at Stanford University. She lives in Berkeley and teaches ESL, though she's also crossed the continent on bicycle and by freight train, deckhanded aboard sailboats, and hitchhiked on four continents.