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Under An Oak In California

ISSUE:  Winter 1986
When Hitler kissed the children
and Mussolini played the violin
my father planted spindly cork oak
saplings in the dust of California
because they said this war might
never end. “The nation will need cork
and wood and shade,” the foreman said.

He with a crew at an awkward march
over the hills above some snug town
with a saint’s name took two steps,
swung his short hoe at the call dividing
earth, and one thin blade of life
from the bag at his belly rooted there
and the crew lurched forward.

Maybe the rain would come, or maybe
the crew would return with water packs.
“Plant many, for many will die,” the foreman
said, while Hitler kissed the children
and Mussolini played the violin.


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