Children of the Moon, Chapter 12: Solitude

To begin reading Children of the Moon, see the Prologue.

Laurel visited her grandmother:
Why didn’t I go with him that day?
Grandma Wing waved her hand:
How could you know what would happen?
But, Laurel said: I can’t help him.

The old woman snapped back:
Stand by him if you believe he’s innocent,
and you can overcome this;
you are farther rooted in the source
of all things than you can ever imagine.

Grandma Wing gives her a letter:
Your mother wrote this poem when young;
she called it “Sowing The Field.”

Bands of wheat fields flow gold and red
on a low road where clouds sweep overhead;
I walk among mountains steep and high
to catch spear-stalks of wheat as they fly

Reaching I grasp fleet arrows of wheat
as day yields to low clouds gold and red;
I watch each seed as it falls to my feet
through the reaping beat of my hands

Will wondered, too, why few believed
in his brother’s innocence;
he felt betrayed by friends and neighbors;
only a few said Sandy was the last person
they thought capable of violence

With most the rumors went viral:
he was always so quiet, so polite,
they had been fooled, or he was odd,
often alone, walking about
in a world of his own

Morris Rubra investigated and found:
There have been other incidents in the area,
and even several deaths that are unsolved.

In the ensuing hysteria the trial began;
Sandy’s guileless demeanor isolated him
and alienated the jury and the press;
he asked Morris Rubra if he seemed arrogant;
the lawyer replied: You appear to be too innocent.

With his family and handful of friends
in the courtroom, the judge sentenced Sandy
to prison; he turned to look at his parents:
his father’s face was granite,
his mother’s expression a frieze of grief

Morris Rubra began his appeal:
Never give in to despair,
I’ll do everything I can to see you free again.

A prison guard greeted him:
I have more respect for a man who comes clean
than one like you who never owns up.

You’re a coward, the guard said,
and probably feel like a genius
for getting away with other killings;
we know we’re putting an end to a lot
of suffering if we put an end to you.

The moon’s pale engravings on the cell wall
wove a pattern of loss and sorrow
as the knowledge of evil streamed in,
and this revelation caused the greatest pain
of all, and Sandy wept for the human condition

Not far away, in another town, a man
only a few years older than Sandy,
was arrested for the murder of a teen-aged girl;
he was convicted, sentenced to life in prison
and brought to a cell next to Sandy’s

He watched Sandy suffer with pleasure:
in a corrupt world there was no justice,
he thought in gratification of his cynicism;
better to embrace the chaos
and take whatever you can.

Blanca Cors recovered from her injuries
but was unable to identify her attacker;
Will’s anger erupted with Morris Rubra:
I can’t help my brother, or save him,
and I hate everybody who’s turned against him.

The older man counseled him:
Don’t let this make you bitter,
or lose your trust in people.

The wind in the pines was a fugue,
and in the sky and river a tomblike gloom;
Mira tried in vain to comfort Will,
and Morris Rubra to give him hope,
but Will was inconsolable

When Will fled to the coastal solitude
of Casey Key, he found brief respite;
on the beach he saw a group of teens his age,
threatening to rupture the amniotic sac
of light and wind that enwombed him

They waved to him, and he recognized each
one just as they closed in,
casting tall shadows on the sand;
the Gulf galloped over rocks and moss
glistened like sweat on horses’ flanks

Voices broke the hypnotic pulse of surf,
reverberating around him
and riding roughshod into his brain:
Hey, Will. We’re going to the rodeo.
Are you?

He tried to smile:
Yes, I’m coming to the rodeo; I’ll be there;
he knew he should be grateful for their loyalty,
for their attempted normalcy,
but these people belonged to a past illusion

Will told his father and added, my world
before god turned away;
his father threw up his hands: God?
We people bind our innocence in fear and lies,
and trot out the worst in ourselves with pride.

But doesn’t god give us that ability?
His father reflected a moment:
It doesn’t mean we have to use or develop it;
we can be the way Sandy is, so much like my parents,
and your grandparents, in kindness and humility

They were such good people, so decent
it makes me cry to remember them,
and they not only existed — they flourished.

Will was no longer listening;
his grandparents were killed in a highway accident,
on their way home from visiting the family;
there was no justice, no reward for being good,
and happiness was an illusion

Will dropped out of school, taking odd jobs
and one day hit the road; he was riding through
the Everglades when the moon’s sudden reflection
in a pond fired off a thought;
the marsh whisked by and the thought was lost

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Children of the Moon, Chapter 11: Sacrifice

In the morning police cars pulled up
to the ranch house door;
an officer spoke to Will and Sandy’s parents:
We need to ask your son, the oldest one,
some questions.

Sandy? About what?
The officer replied: The assault on Blanca Cors;
he was seen near her home that day.

His mother cried out when Sandy was led
to the patrol car; as his father ran for his car,
she leaned down by the window
to look Sandy in the eye:
We’ll be right there.

In the interview, Sandy was asked:
What were you doing in the area?
and he reflected:
Just walking, hiking, looking at things
and . . . Sandy hesitated

He could not mention visiting Primitivo
and so he fell silent, protecting a friend
many would be too willing to sacrifice

The interrogator moved in:
You’re hiding something. What is it?
Sandy shook this off:
I was out walking; I didn’t hear
or see anything.

The man retorted: Nothing?
and then Sandy remembered:
There was a man; I think it was a man,
in a field; when I looked again
he was gone.

The officer’s voice turned sharp:
So you saw a man?
Or did you see her and want her?

Sandy bowed his head, folding his arms
across his chest, surprised at the rage
in his questioner’s voice

The man leaned in to bleat into Sandy’s ear:
She was beautiful, and you couldn’t help yourself.
What did you do to her?

Sandy’s silence was his answer,
as he began to understand his innocence,
all innocence is beyond proof by reason,
and cannot be revealed in words,
no matter how clear and eloquent

His brother and parents arrived at the station
and are informed of Sandy’s arrest for assault
on the wealthy widow, Blanca Cors

Sandy? His mother cried in disbelief:
Everyone who knows him knows
he is gentle and caring;
but the sergeant answered her:
We have reason to believe differently.

Sandy was brought into the hallway, handcuffed
and flanked by officers; his father spoke to him:
Sandy, we’ll fight this. Don’t give up.

At the arraignment, Morris Rubra argued for bail,
but the judge said:
Juveniles are the most dangerous.

The prosecutor pressed his case:
There is evidence of malice and depravity
and although he is 16, we ask he be tried
as an adult; Blanca Cors is fighting for her life,
so charges may be upgraded.

In his cell, Sandy told Morris Rubra:
I was leaving Mulberry Ranch
and saw Primitivo; it was neither of us.

The lawyer said he believed him, but:
We must respond to the accusations;
and Sandy mused:
Why do people assume the worst
about others and so quickly?

Morris Rubra’s reply echoed in the cell:
They don’t want to look too closely
into their own hearts.

After a moment the lawyer commented:
You give people the benefit of the doubt;
many, however, feel that others
have let them down, deceived them
or forsaken them for no good reason

But, he said, I’ve found the reason
for assuming the worst is often for power
and domination;
and he asked Sandy:
Don‘t you feel the need to dominate?

I feel the need to escape from domination,
Sandy said, and he opened his hands:
Why can’t people see that I’m innocent?

Morris Rubra said, with a wry laugh:
It’s hard to know who’s innocent
by looking at them or watching them;
I’ve known people who smile and charm,
but by gumbo, were the most guilty.

So how can I defend myself, or be defended,
when any defense opens the door to guilt,
and any defense can be seen as a pretense?

The lawyer said:
That’s a good question,
and one I’ve tangled with a long time.

Sandy paced the cell:
In defending myself I’ll become self-righteous;
and he was surprised at Morris Rubra’s response:
You leave the self-righteousness to me;
I excel at it.

Sandy saw the irony:
Aren’t you sacrificing part of your better self
when you do that?
Morris Rubra raised his brows:
Yes; but I’ve chosen to make that sacrifice.

To read the Prologue, click here. You can read the following chapters from there.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 10: Primitivo

To read The Prologue, click here. You can read all the following chapters starting there.

On the weather-cured porch Mira’s father said:
A woman was attacked last night; blood all over
the home; her name was Blanca Cors, a widow.

Mira held her breath until her father told her:
She’s alive and they think she’ll recover.
Mira ran to the ranch, calling for Will and Sandy;
they had heard the news, and she told Sandy:
We saw Primitivo running from the home of Blanca Cors.

Primitivo was not at his cabin, but under the elm,
arms and legs sprawling like roots;
What happened? Will asked him.

Primitivo gathered himself:
I heard a signal of distress and ran toward it;
a woman’s scream;
and he lowered his head:
I turned and ran away.

We heard it too, Will told him,
But when we came to the house
it was too late.

Primitivo took recognizable shape:
I thought of the price of cowardice
and came back; he had carried her away
into the swamp, and so I followed with a howl
that came from my pain.

I thought I saw someone, Sandy said,
a stranger, but I did not see his face;
come back to the cabin with us.

Will told Primitivo:
They will suspect you;
but Primitivo was making another connection:
The woman’s voice was like music,
music I’ve heard before.

On the way it began to rain
and at the cabin Morris Rubra was pacing
in the oak hammock’s shelter;
Mira’s knees shook as she ran to him:
We’re afraid they’ll think Primitivo did it.

Morris Rubra nodded and took Primitivo aside;
they spoke in spiked tones;
Go on home, Morris Rubra said to the children,
his hands prayer-gripped together:
I’ll see what I can do.

Hours later, Mira’s father called to her:
Come with me;
she hopped into the jeep; at the airport,
a scar of concrete and a hangar in a fallow field,
Morris Rubra’s plane was on the runway

Mira gasped, recognizing the hulking figure
in the back seat: Shadow!
and then she whispered: Primitivo.

The plane flew over plains and chains of lakes;
at the end of a circuitous river launching
over a great expanse of water:
Lake Okeechobee, corralled by levees,
drowned in polluted sediment

Dipping down they landed on an airstrip
plowed into wetlands, edged by dunes,
near the Seminole reservation

Primitivo familiarized himself with his new home:
Black-calabash, dwarf cypress, everglades
and rough leaf velvet seed, and silver palm

On the flight home the moonlight was beaten silver
on the lake, and streams shimmered through grass
and sandy runes, taking their breath away

Children of the Moon, Chapter 10: Border Road

To read the Prologue, click here.

Laurel moved through her grandmother’s home,
through her creation with its sense and sensibility
and memories of a life worth living;
Grandma Wing reigned sovereign over this world
and gave it a special radiance

Aunt Ida bowed her head to whisper:
She’s our Mae West, our Madonna;
a shocking, fearless adventuress

Grandma Wing told Laurel of her travels
with her husband, in the short span
between retirement and his death

Laurel was intrigued: All over the world?
Yes, all over the world; but I know I can’t have
that back again; so I might as well enjoy myself.

A smoking roast simmered in the oven
and fresh green beans in summer savory,
and a sauce only her grandmother knew;
Laurel set the table:
But what if you fall in love again?

Grandma Wing smiled:
I doubt that will happen, and anyway
it’s much too much trouble at my age;

The old woman faced Laurel:
Did you fall in love?
No, Laurel blushed,
and Grandma Wing laughed:
You will.

On the river, Mira looked to the western sky:
It’s late, she said: Wait, did you hear that?
Will listened; a whistling sound dropped
and spiked again:
Nighthawk?

They ran up the boat ramp near Mulberry Ranch
where killdeer whirred over a sandy field
shrieking kee – kee – keee

Another scream mingled with the wild abandon
of river, birds and wildlife;
Mira and Will walked towards the piercing cry
to see a man bolt from a manor house
on the neighboring ranch

Will turned with widened eyes to Mira:
Primitivo!
Yes, yes, I think so, she replied;
They raced to follow him, calling his new name,
but Primitivo slipped away into darkness

They turned toward the house,
a sour taste of dread in their mouths
to the open front door

From the threshold they peered inside;
the house was quiet, crimson light pooled
on the floor, streaked the walls

Will broke the silence: No one’s here.
They ran with arms and legs at odds
back to the boat, and rode the river home;
an alligator glided by, watching them
with one red eye

The swamp’s mouth opened wide
and a silhouette of a man ripped at a woman
as if he could carve his name in her flesh

A corona of sun rested on every flower,
detailed every spike of tall grass;
a figure crashed into the swamp
and fox and deer went slinking away
in the bug-in-amber spell

On Border Road, Sandy saw a man kneeling,
tending to his crop; a sphinx moth whirled
its turbine wings,
and the breeze shifted into high gear;
but when he looked back no one was there

With Uncle Joe driving and Aunt Ida in the front seat,
crossing Border Road Laurel thought she saw Sandy
and started to wave, but he was walking away

Children of the Moon, Chapter 8: Wilderness Song

To read Chapter 7, click here
pasturegraySandy heard only the sound of his footsteps
as he ran along the roads and through woods;
he ran until the motion carried him
ecstatically, heroically forward; hours passed
when he thought of nothing

But an occasional calculation of direction
and time of day; he drifted along to sounds
without known sources, some near
and some too far away
to know if they were real or imagined

A symphony of random music;
this is the wilderness song:
belong, belong

A yellow carpet of bur marigold swept down
to the riverbank where the river’s current
sang the name Macaco

All along the border, river and streams
interlocked to nurture a living body;
Sandy rested in a cup of royal fern, his face
appearing in the foliage, and from his forehead
sprang a fountain of fruiting branches

He came in from the border to join his family,
helping to set out large plank tables
by the ranch house and load them with food,
while fresh steaks simmered
over an open pit fire

Downwind, behind a stand of trees
a vat of skunk cabbage was boiling;
Laurel and Will went to investigate
and Laurel asked the boys’ mother:
Where do you get these?

In the spring, she answered, orange-colored pods
burst out of the ground in the pinewoods,
and then these tender coils; all summer they grow.
But, she told Laurel, if a branch falls or an animal
brushes them, they give off a rotten aroma.

Will interjected: It smells like skunk spray
when you cook it, but it tastes okay,
he added quickly, like store-bought cabbage.

Chicken and hot dogs roasted on a grill
and baked beans, Bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes.
Vidalia onions, corn on the cob,
three bean salad, green beans,
hot sauce, jam and pies were piled on the tables

The women wore jeans and crisp shirts
and the men brown or blue pants
with slanted western-style pockets
and embossed leather belts with large buckles
and lariats with turquoise or silver

The boys and girls in blue jeans
and tees took off their cowboy hats
to sit with their families and friends
among the enormous oaks
as the day’s shadows gathered

When evening came, moonflowers expanded
in a dream on a web of vines;
Will drifted off to sleep in a comforting beam
of light, the sun’s belated gift:
a lightning stroke slowed down

A bird balanced on a branch, and while he watched,
the bird went through transmutations
of colors and shapes and attitudes,
crossfading from one into another;
Mira, he said, waking up

Banners of light drifted above all sound and reflection;
as the four explored Shadow’s garden,
Laurel cradled a welter of leaves:
He’s growing vegetables. Lettuce, radish
and tomatoes, broccoli, sweet potatoes.

Shadow emerged from the pine forest;
Sandy’s eyes mirrored the changing scene:
It’s like a cloud the way he moves, filled with light.

But, Will pointed out, a shadow follows him;
I wish we could help him more;
and Mira said: It’s up to him now.

Shadow came to them:
I am rare and threatened, I am native and strange,
I move slowly among all things, I am these and more.

Shadow stood still, looking at the children:
I am a man in the prime of my life just awakening.
Sandy’s eyes swam with light; and Will exclaimed:
Primitivo! We’ll call you Primitivo;
Shadow considered this: That may be.

Mira’s father drove to Casey Key the next day;
pulling off on a road’s scattershot shoulder,
she watched him climb out to talk to fishermen,
inspecting the catch, trading stories:
Snook are good today.

They headed straight for the Gulf of Mexico,
the white lip of the beach blazing in the same sun
that had bleached the Calusa shell mounds,
the same sun that scorched
the Spanish conquistadors

Her father said:
Ponce de León saw Florida on Easter Day,
and named it Pascua Florida: the feast of flowers

Years later, a new expedition sailed from Cadiz;
Pedro Menéndez de Avilés with a thousand people;
in 1565 he landed on Florida’s northeast coast,
not far away from a settlement of French Huguenots;
he had orders to cast them out.

The French were here first?
He answered her surprise:
Up near St. Mary’s, but in two years the Spanish
had driven out the French
and built the city of St. Augustine

Menéndez set up seven garrisons on Florida’s coasts,
one of them here at Charlotte Harbor;
Did they really think there was gold here?
Her father responded with a laugh:
Menéndez had bigger plans

He believed Florida could be conquered,
both physically and spiritually;
he thought diplomacy would convert the native people.
But his soldiers attacked native villages,
and Spanish priests ridiculed native religious beliefs

When one of his forts was destroyed
Menéndez changed his mind;
he proclaimed the natives were savages,
and he asked the Spanish king to allow:
“that war be made upon them with all vigor,
a war of fire and blood,
and that those taken alive shall be sold as slaves
removing them from the country
and taking them to neighboring islands.”

You know those words from memory?
He sighed: I know those words by heart;
Menéndez died in 1574.
Everything he did was in vain.
Only St. Augustine remains.

And the Calusa? she asked him;
With a sigh he answered:
By the mid-1700s the tribe was gone,
devastated by war and disease,
leaving ragged scars on the human spirit.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 7: Three Bridges

Laurel visited her Grandmother Wing
in Nokomis, a town with several bays
and three bridges; the house two stories
with wide windows on a concrete road
and a fountain in the circle

On the front porch her grandmother waited
stooped but keen-eyed;
Laurel felt her cool arthritic palm

As sunlight blazed beyond Venetian blinds
highlighting antiques and Oriental rugs
to match the tapestry of her exotic garden;
crystal and china shone in measured light;
and overhead fans kept the rooms cool

Aunt Ida fussed about the house:
Do you get bored here alone all day?
With an enigmatic smile Grandma Wing said:
Oh no, I read my books and newspapers;
I think and I daydream.

At my age those are the things I do best;
and in the evenings my neighbors
come over to play bridge; Grandma Wing
picked up a travel book: My next trip;
and sometimes, you know, I stay at my beach bungalow.

Laurel saw the joys and sorrows of a long life
imprinted on her grandmother’s face
when she sat by a window’s sunspot;
and Laurel settled in with her for a game
of double solitaire

Grandma Wing asked her:
Why don’t you stay for the weekend?
I would like to have you here.
Laurel sighed: I have to get home;
I have to do my homework.

Can’t you bring it here?
Laurel nodded yes, and the old woman rose
from her wing chair, striding to the door:
Help me in the garden; a delicate aroma
of tropical flowers washed over them

I want to stay with you, Laurel thought of days
in this garden; backlit by water-dappled clouds
Grandma Wing said: You keep saying,
you have to do this, you have to do that;
listen: the only thing you have to do is die.

On Mulberry Ranch, Will and Sandy tossed a ball
back and forth outside Shadow’s cabin
while Mira gathered wildflowers

Will held the ball a moment:
I was thinking how Shadow healed himself
and became meek.

Sandy smiled, but before he could answer
a blue plane with white markings flew above them,
circled the cabin and landed on a dirt strip;
Mira read the name written on the fuselage:
Scrubjay

Morris Rubra climbed from the pilot’s seat
and Sandy ran his hands along the plane:
It’s beautiful.

Mira joined them and said to Morris Rubra:
I want to fly; and Morris Rubra nodded his assent:
I’ll take you up if your father says it‘s all right.

Two days later, with her father next to Morris Rubra,
Mira strapped into the back seat
and held on as the plane taxied down a runway,
floated toward banks of clouds, surged up
and roared into sun-washed sky

She looked down to see mats of rain-fed forest
and pointillist fields interlaced with ranches,
citrus groves and small towns

The Gulf of Mexico telescoped in;
Mira saw sea melding seamlessly into sky:
Do you ever want to come down?

Morris Rubra admitted: I live to fly, day or night,
and often at night I’m alone in the sky;
and then I feel I’m flying through a divine mind.

Mira pointed to a wide glaze of water
spilling from the horizon: What’s that?
Morris Rubra banked the plane:
Tampa Bay. A fellow here was the first
to fly at night in 1911

There’s been a lot of changes since then;
Morris Rubra righted the plane: Like the Cubans;
he glanced at Mira’s father:
The Cubans are fiercely independent;
they fought Spain for their country.

When the bay city rolled into view
he pointed as Mira craned her neck:
Do you see that old fort? Osceola was there;
some of my people fought him;
And lost, her father replied

Morris Rubra laughed and Mira blurted out:
I’d like to learn to fly;
The pilot began the turn for home:
You come back when you’re 14;
I want you to see what’s out here.

To read Children of the Moon, The Prologue, click here
From there you can read the following chapters.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 6: Renegade

Black snakes lounged on jalousie windows
dozing until evening to dine
on the raucous chir-chirr-chir-ring tree frogs

Mira worked with her father in the garden
sunlight flying down in soft arrows,
imbedding in the flesh of the air

Heat murmured, a murmur she heard
near the ground among marigolds and lilies
and her father’s favorite roses

She listened for her white and brown terrier:
Solis, he might be hurt;
she looked around: Or lost in the woods;
Him? her father replies, Lost?
Never.

Mira weeded among the light green leaves
and aromatic white clusters of shell ginger,
and Solis trotted through the side yard

He passed white-eyed purple bougainvillea;
a multicolored jewel necklace hanging
from his jaws

Dropping it at her side he waited for praise;
What is that? her father jumped to his feet
A coral snake, Mira said;
Not likely, her father looked closer:
Oh, it is.

A metallic whirring caught their attention
as a mosquito truck rolled down the street,
fog coursing from its sprayers

Sprinting into the house, Mira called Solis
and he followed; her sisters and brothers
already closing all the windows and doors

Setting off in the morning, carrying penknives,
canteens and mess kits, Mira, Will, Laurel
and Sandy followed an asphalt road;
waves of heat created mirages of lakes
always ahead on the black adhesive strip

Sandy showed them coins of tar
on the soles of his sneakers
and they passed a great blue heron
lying by the side of the road, glistening
feathers dulled by dust and dried blood

Crossing a roadside ditch, they each
left a footprint in the crusted mud to mark
where they entered the woods

An indigo snake scaled the parched lips
of the ditch, seeking shelter in the grass;
bright yellow mullein flowers shocked
the evergreen and palmetto
in dashes of sunlight and dots of shade

Mira suggested: Let’s go to the fire tower;
and they pounded down paths
through sand blackberry

The palmettos thinned out, fan-like leaves
theatrical against the backdrop of sand-plain;
in a scattering of scrub pine, some lower branches
drying and barren of needles,
they scanned for fossils

Climbing to the top of the fire tower
they surveyed a thickening web of forest;
an eagle picked up from the horizon
and as it spiraled above them
they lifted their eyes to its broad level wings

A path ran back into the forest
and along the way, they found seed pods
and wild raspberries; quartered light fell
on deep-green nightshade
and blue dusky palmetto

At noon, they rested on cool layers
of pine needles and shared their food
as the needles glowed russet-gold

Sandy said: I would like to live in a log cabin
far out in the woods with a friend or two;
you can make everything, grow your own food.

Mira said: I’ve thought about living on my own;
and visualized her grandmother’s people:
That’s what Seminole means:
Breaking away. Renegade. To me
it means free.

To read Children of the Moon: The Prologue, click here

You can follow the links from there at the bottom of each chapter’s page.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 5: Refuge

bassroadSandy pushed aside saplings to reveal
a deer’s nest-like home;
Laurel ran her hands across fawn-soft,
red feathered grasses
and blackberries jetted in waves from the earth

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,
Sandy hesitated

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.

Mira smiled:
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

Children of the Moon, Chapter 4: Flight Path

Sandy watched a brightly-decorated train
trundle by, carrying circus animals;
a slow-moving wave of tigers, lions, elephants,
camels, llamas and horses, painted vividly
on the cars; as if a dream passing by

After the fanciful caboose cleared the crossing,
he was surprised to see a girl his age
magically appear on the other side;
he walked over the tracks to her:
I’m Sandy. Are you new here?

Laurel Wing, the girl answered;
and in her hair Sandy saw the fire of red maples,
in her skin white birch, and in her eyes
blue delphinium:
Where were you going now?

Laurel replied, I am new here
and I’m just walking around
to see where I am.

He indicated the way: There’s a town
with a store, a gas station, and a school;
and when she hesitated to follow him,
he said: Okay, then
and started off on his own

Wait, she asked and he turned back around;
Can we just stay around here?
They don’t want me to go too far,
I’m living with my aunt and uncle;
and she pointed toward the home

Sandy checked the sky: Gonna rain;
when they began to walk together a short way,
Laurel kept her distance:
I’m from the hills of Tennessee, she told him,
and I feel like I’ve lost my boundaries.

She recalled a land of ups and downs:
attics and cellars, and mountains smoldering
with bursts of redbud, dogwood and mountain laurel;
and Sandy could see when he looked into her eyes
all of this landscape

Sandy and Laurel and Will and Mira
visited Shadow and traveled to and from school;
they were the three, really, four Musketeers

Crossing a field by a stand of pines one day
Mira jumped aside, and Laurel and the boys
slid to a stop, all eyes riveted to a coiled rattler
camouflaged behind a delicate fringe
of Indian coontie and saw palmetto

The snake wavered in limbo between attack
and staying close to her tiny young
winding around one another,
inspecting the edge of the nest;
Mira stepped back and the snake veered away

In the field where a line of pines jutted into sky
a bald eagle, blue black wings, white head
and a quiver of white tail feathers,
gripped a branch with large yellow talons
watching them with hooded eyes

A huge nest floated in the tallest pine
below a widespread canopy
by the edge of a burnished auburn field

The eagle spread its wings, swooping down
over the field, white and black feathers shining;
they watched it soar up to fly toward the river;
Laurel asked Mira: How do you say eagle in Spanish?
and Mira told her: Aguila.

Evening came, and in a dream
Laurel led a group into the wilderness
to look for eagles

As time passed without a sighting,
many were discouraged, but as they were walking
the ground began to tremble:
and Laurel sensed the eagles’ beating wings
triggered the rumbling in the land

The group moved forward again
and the trembling grew until it seemed the earth
would break open

Let’s go on, Laurel implored them:
The eagles have promised they will come;
the promise was in the land, the sky and the dream

Coming onto a plateau with views in every direction,
the group saw a solitary eagle rise from the horizon,
flying in an elliptical arc, in the eternal present

The eagles coasted across the sky filling their sight,
one after another in a dance of flight:
they changed formations and patterns
like semaphores
and transformed into a multitude of colors

The rumbling in the earth grew louder
and some of the group ran from the field;
the earth cracked open across their path;
Laurel and the others heard their cries
as they stood on the brink

Laurel and her group raced toward them, hoping
all could jump across before the chasm was too wide;
but with a roar a wide canyon opened its mouth;
the explorers huddled at the divide:
How do we get back home? Will we survive?

In slow motion one by one they were in the air
and Laurel saw them land on the far side;
she was unsure if they were flying on their own
or being lifted by the eagles,
when she felt herself take flight

At her home, Mira rose from dreams of sailing,
and when she opened the door, the sky
flew away like a wing

She dressed in second-hand clothes
and hearing her mother move about escaped
to the yard to watch her father leave the house,
pulling up his collar to ward off the storm
following at its own pace, sure of its power

After Kissing Mira on the forehead
Mr. Apaksi jumped into his battered jeep;
a cloud of dust curled across the yard

As he sped away, there was a change
from one level of quiet to another,
a shift of light as the heat creaked
and fluttered, lifting and falling,
like a sail in a fitful breeze

All the plants, trees and grass
gave off a heavy stifling aroma,
lingering like the smoke of gun blasts

Mira followed a road around the swamp
and she heard Will’s voice as she approached
the boy’s rambling ranch home,
where giant branches of live oaks touched down
and then soared up again into new trees

After lunch, Will led a stallion into the corral,
and swung into the saddle;
Sandy sat on the fence as ranch hands gathered;
Watch this, Will said to Mira
and the crowd along the fence began to murmur

The chestnut horse stood eerily at an angle,
head tilted back; in the bat of an eye
the horse rocketed off the ground,
back arched, suspended in air,
sun-fishing into the sky

The stallion came down without its rider;
Will, arms out-flung, plunged down;
teeth chattering, stars wheeling in his eyes;
he struggled to his feet, hands covered in dirt
and blood, transfixed by the clarity of the world

Will and Sandy’s mother, a champion rider
promptly ended the impromptu rodeo,
taking Will inside for first aid
while Sandy walked the horse to the stable
to brush him down

In the golden hour Mira loped home;
twilight winked and in a blink of her eye
the sun was gone

Mira ran along the railroad tracks,
her feet landing squarely on the wooden ties:
in the darkness, she could not see
where she was going,
she just knew

To read Children of the Moon, The Prologue click here
You can read the first three chapters from there.

Children of the Moon, Chapter 3: Mulberry Ranch

From the Myakka the swamp flooded away
in all directions, and in the river’s eye the ghost
of Ponce de León wandered in search of immortality

Within the swamp Will and Sandy found dry ground
on an island of live oak and cabbage palm
filled with the shadows of Seminoles
seeking refuge from U.S. soldiers;
and they walked on to forge a new path

By a marsh dotted with yellow eyes:
each flower on a single stem of tall grass,
a stream overflowed its margin,
and high in cypress trees maroon orchids
fell toward perfect reflection

The brothers rested on an oak’s undulating limbs;
Sandy lifted his head at tweaking vines:
a phone ringing in the wilderness;
when he eased aside moss and myrtle
creatures revolved away, perturbed:

Wood roaches the size of his palm,
spongy growths leaving bands of slime,
furls and curls of ridged lichen,
parasites often unseen by experienced eyes,
and creatures from early evolutionary time

Mira’s white shirt gave her away
and she climbed into the old oak with Will;
Sandy jumped down and leapt into the cypress,
calling from a tangle of wax myrtle:
Here’s another way to the trail.

With an eye out for poison ivy’s toxic fringe
the little group came again to the old Indian trail
and in time to the shell mound
where Will dug into a quavering layer of debris
and held up sun-scorched oyster shells

Mira let run through her fingers
a handful of whelk and mussel shells,
pearls of an ancient time

Through pink trunks of stopper trees
and limber branches of pine acacia, the children
rambled down the hidden path

Above the lazy river and cruising alligators,
they saw on overhanging branches,
flashes of great white egrets, serene patches
of little blue herons, swatches of roseate spoonbill,
safe from raccoons and other predators

The little boat was resting in a bed
of spear-shaped leaves; a gator snoozed
in the shade and a row of red-bellied turtles
decorated a fallen tree trunk:
each rivaling Monet’s lilypads in the water

Treading lightly by wraithlike spider lilies
the three climbed into the boat, pushing off
with a dull clunk of oars echoing downriver;
in a panorama of marsh and sky,
they were centered in the heart of the Myakka

They hid the boat on the far shore, in reeds
by a pasture crisscrossed by wooden fences
crowned with barbed wire

Mulberry Ranch, Sandy murmured, as he led them
to a crêche of longleaf pine and laurel oak
and in this shelter a small wood cabin

Will bent his knees as a black-white-and-red arrow
flash-jetted between the trees;
Pileated woodpecker, boomed a voice,
and the children swung around:
Shadow!

Shadow’s face twisted into a smile
as he waved to them; they sat in the shade
to hear his stories of long ago:
of tiny three-toed horses, wooly camels
and very, very unusual mammals

While they were listening a man came
riding up on a golden Palomino:
So these are your rescuers, he said to Shadow,
as he dismounted; thanks to you all
I have a new caretaker of these lower pastures.

Will defiant and awestruck asked: Your ranch?
The man smiled at the children and answered:
My eyebrows are bushy, my gaze
dense with thought, intensely wrought;
my shoulders droop and arms sway
and while my hands are as pointed
as the tip of my tongue,
mother’s milk runs through my veins;
my joy spikes minute and myriad
to herald the fruits of my labor,
but these are yours to eat

And then he said: Mira Apaksi, I know your father,
we served in the war together;
he tipped his hat to all: Morris Rubra, a comrade
in harm’s way; laughing, he added:
And now a lawyer; I defend the hopeless.

Morris Rubra walked with Shadow to the cabin
and spoke to him before riding away
with a cheerful wave to all

Around them clouds were blowing up
in soundless explosions; and heading home
they deftly steered the boat across the river

Weaving their way through frothing elderberry,
they hopped a ditch to a shifting border
of sand and limestone beside a two-lane road
searing through a green landscape;
heat flash-fired their shoes on the blistering blacktop

They ducked through a pasture fence,
scrambling up a gravel incline to railroad tracks
curving by a flurry of trees;
the tracks vaulted over a steep-sided creek,
a lean wiry stream draining Florida’s wounds

Will and Mira placed pennies
on the dusky bronzed metal tracks
before moving onto the trestle’s crossties;
a wolf-mimicking cry ruptured the silence,
spilling crows and mockingbirds into the sky

Will jumped toward Mira, but a foot slipped
between the planks; Sandy pulled him free
as Mira leapt by; and skidding across gravel
they rolled down to the man-made gash
as the train clattered wildly overhead

That was close, Will exhaled
while Sandy pressed his handprints
into the creekside;
on the tracks they found the coins,
like motes of the sun, too hot to handle

A quickening pulse in the air frisked about
as gusts of heat nosed along their skin;
a chemical burning-off, acid-lifting explosion
echoing the rippling implosion
of sweet pain

To read Children of the Moon, The Prologue click here
To read Children of the Moon, Chapter 1: The River’s Eye, click here
To read Children of the Moon, Chapter 2: Shadow, click here