for Baldasare Forestiere 1879-1946

In this tragedy called life,
An ancient Greek chorus could lament:

Lemons grow on orange trees, 
fish swim overhead, 
tree roots lace the dark cosmos 
of a domed catacomb 
in this underground garden.

Sunlight seeps through trees 
And grapevines, 
Casting morning shadows.
Particles of dust are suspended 
In shafts of daylight
Leading downward to chambers. 
Cellars that are lit by candles 
Or kerosene lamps,
In tunnels of darkness.

For a man secluded 
In a world of his own making, 
With a shovel and pick, 
An old mule and metal scraper,
A resting place of relics, 
A past love missing, a void.

The shovel-formed cave walls 
Emanate an ethereal harmony. 
He cannot stop digging, 
Something crooked and beautiful,
His declaration of liberty

In an inhospitable land 
Where very little could flourish. 

What really matters 
Is how the morning light moves 
Across the earth floor in the new day, 
The subtle changes.

An immigrant who returns home 
Is a moral culprit, a deserter, 
Unable to justify his severance. 
His love refused to live in a cave.

Work is the price one pays for peace 
And harmony—tranquility,
Warding off the memories,
Becoming one with the garden, 
in a fever to keep on digging,
digging all the time

Until there is an entire lifetime—
Dug out of compacted sediments.
Forty years below ground 
The man became enamored with his labor.

A man trying to dig his way home, 
To recapture his lost love. 

Silence settles in. 
His paradise can be nothing more than
110 degree afternoons,—
Hardpan under the soil 
No plant or fruit tree roots
Could penetrate.