Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Rice Terraces, Northern Luzon

The village kids here in summer
are the essence of idle beauty—
racing worn-out tires uphill or strumming
the same few songs from a doorway
under cover of the afternoon rains.

And for the second straight day
the builders have fallen asleep
inside the narrow shade
of the half-finished home
overlooking the valley.

From this distance, America
is a joke at which we
would each laugh if not
for the heat. Only what they’re building
is a larger inn for when the road

is complete. Progress
riding in smugly on its dumb
white horse. I know
that I am no one to lecture
on need, that my being here

deserves its share of blame.
But I also know
that in a few hours the wind
will rush over these terraces,
finding the light inside leaves of green,

where a woman works alone,
preparing the harvest of this year’s seed.
Let them finish the road.
The soul cares nothing for that.
It grows in the dark mud,

it crests stubbornly
each spring—I never understood
what labor it was, what release—
pounding away at the husk,
winnowing the grain.  

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