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By Chris Wayan, July 1990.

Ray bought basils ere he had earth.
He won't trust the yard-dirt
For people poison Grandma, in the burbs.
So Ray builds boxes of clean new shit
For his pepper apartments.
For rent, he'll devour his tenants.

Boxes of nature: life-boats
On the pave-gray sea.
Green young creatures
In six-packs, like beer,
Huddle, meek holocaust on the dead lawn
(We've had a long drought in the burbs.)
Sun blares like a boombox
(The cars prowl our night, baying
Rip the hush--drum us from sleep.
Raged teens hunt that secret street
With no dead end.
We hate them, though we understand.)

Vegetables wince--roots jam, recurve.
His fetal garden gridlocks.
Ray, hurry! Block their birth, their earth
And they'll die here--in the burbs.
"No, no! The boxes have to be just so.
I'll water them some more."
But water, like wages, is not enough.
These sad tomatoes know
A one-inch plastic cell
Is not what roots should find.
They bind!
Though they never met a thing
But themselves and a plastic wall
They remember earth--and tell us all--
By dying, in the burbs.

Among us grows a dry redwood whose
Vast shade fools you: stunted too.
Tree's a gaunt teen, scarce eighty.
Head always in the fridge, or stares
Longing for the gorgeous mates
In the rainfed groves on the skyline,
in the Santa Cruz Mountains,
where the burbs end.
They still do end.

Roots heave cement slabs, slowly throw
Paves away, trying to grow
Or at least not to die--in the burbs.

"Hurry, Ray! Free us from boxes! Or at least
(We've stunted enough to bargain)
Bigger boxes." All I want is to breathe.
"My first garden--I want it right--
One error crashes a program, you know."
We don't care. Programs aren't leaves.
Our bodies are yellowing NOW.
"Just a bit more reinforcing.
These box-corners are weak.
And I must go buy
Superior soil."
He shocks even phlegmatic leeks:
Perfection seeks!
Cukes lose hope and die--in the burbs.

And me? While I critique Ray,
My tendrils seek wild love-ions
That Burb gentility forbids
Despite the Bill of Rights.
Roots strangle, tangle back.
I meet the plastic wall,
The neat limits of the cell:
The school, the mall!
The rootbound sixpacks
Of cultured girls.

Day by day I delay, like Ray,
Fussing unto the perfect moment
To tear me out of my job-womb
And plant me where there's root-room!
A gentle money rain (don't drown your sprouts)
A broad townbox, a nice manured bed,
prefilled with artists, dancers,
Lovers, all top-grade shit.
I shop, and water my dreams,
As they yellow and droop.
Perfection! As I stunt.
"But it's my first, my first real life!
I want to live it right!"

(Two months later I quit my job and moved to San Francisco. Prepared or not.)

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