A box turtle feasted on the berries,
leathery neck stretched out to reach
the lowest clustered branches
Laurel and Sandy picked berries,
washing them in a stream, and Laurel said:
I want to take all of them home.
My aunt is learning to cook Southern food;
she’s enchanted with the Florida lifestyle.
Sandy took off his shirt: Here, use this;
and they laughed as they wrapped the fruit;
Laurel led him across her lawn: Come with me;
but placing a hand on his bare chest,
Laurel smiled at him: They won’t mind.
A woman flashed to the door, a platinum blonde
in frosty make up: Come in. Look at this.
She held a carrot-colored concoction:
Sweet potato casserole.
This is Sandy, Aunt Ida, Laurel said,
and she placed the shirt-wrapped fruit and berries
on the kitchen counter; Aunt Ida ran her hands
through Laurel’s unruly hair: Thank god
your grandmother thought of us.
Laurel and Sandy sat on the screen porch;
My mother died, and my father wasn’t able
to take care of me, she told Sandy;
Grandma Wing came up to get me,
and now my aunt and uncle have custody.
Mira’s home was suspended in a wave of light,
the tar paper roof sizzled and bubbled into blisters;
her father revved up the jeep:
We’re going to see your grandmother,
I want you to meet her.
In Fort Myers, they drove by parades of royal palms
and white bands of sidewalks on broad avenues,
date palms and flowering spires of yucca,
scalloped emerald lawns of St. Augustine grass,
and the winter palaces of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford
Her father looked grim: Fort Myers was born in the heat
of the Seminole Wars, in a garrison town
on the south bank of the Caloosahatchee River
Ponce de León landed on an island near here;
the Calusa were waiting and fought the Spanish,
sending them back to Puerto Rico;
Mira studied his face: So that was it?
He went on quietly: That was just the beginning
Ponce de León sailed to Spain to seek
permission to conquer Florida;
he returned with more soldiers,
the Calusa watched until they began to build villages
and then they attacked
Ponce de León was wounded by an arrow
and sailed away to Cuba
where he died a few days later
And that was the beginning and the end;
the Calusa were killed by war and disease;
years later the Seminoles came to this place.
In the 1830s and 40s, Mira’s father continued,
the federal government built a ring of forts
around the last of the Seminoles
The soldiers destroyed villages, killing many
and capturing women and children,
sending them to the hills of Oklahoma
One day, a hurricane drove the army
from the Caloosahatchee, but local people
were encouraged to ignore the treaty
and to move into Seminole territory;
soldiers retired and stayed on
Cattle ranching began to grow
and ranchers brought beef into port
at Punta Rassa; in the early 1900s the rich
began to build mansions
and snowbirds found a winter haven.
But in reality
we are still here.
When Mira came face to face
with her grandmother, she sat by her father
in the shade of sprawling live oaks
dipping into the mirror of a lake
creating a tranquil but lively darkness
The old woman said softly:
I cannot shelter everyone
but for many my sanctuary is lasting;
I place my roots in the earth
and rise graceful and wide;
my hands sing in the wind
as I embrace the air, birds fly from my hair,
and rain makes me stronger;
I am alive in all seasons;
my head rises high, but my roots
grow deep into the grain
To read Children of the Moon, The Prologue, click here
From there, you’ll be able to read the next chapter and so on.
To read Children of the Moon, Chapter 6: Renegade, click here
Illustration by Forrest S. Clark