on the hike to church’s blue hole

reverend hamilton leads me down the dirt path
the island heat limitless
the sky impossibly blue
and everything else suddenly the same
he tells me the story of each
thing growing
as far as we can see
his eyes
and mine
this is ironwood
he says
pointing to a tree dotted in papery lilac blooms,
its wood is so dense it will not float
not even in seawater
and it grows so slowly
some live to be a thousand years or more
the seagrape tree
we love to eat the jam of the seagrapes
and the seagrape tree loves dry salty soil
so we are a perfect pair
he laughs
the wide wick of his
hands turning the page of each leaf
each a large sheath of redgreen wax
the cinnia pod, favorite of the sheep and goats
the moringa tree
the miracle tree
pointing out its arms open wide in greeting
boasting bright white victory blooms in her hair
we eat every part of this tree
the blossoms, the leaves, the bark
reverend hamilton knows every face
every name
on this island
there is not a soul we pass
that does not raise a hand in brightened greeting
rock bush
you chew its leaves
bitter and dark
to cure the sore throat
pond bush
boil and drink
to cure back pain
the ginny bush
you burn this,
a blushing blossom
tiny in his vast palm
and it will keep the sand flies away
the seven year apple tree
the rams horn
the spider lily
each name a story
each story a life
we call dogwood fishpoison tree
he says
as we walk along the shoreline
i cling to each syllable
praying i lose not a single one
the plant is poison to fish
in fact,
the fishermen take the essence from the bark
and wave it near the fish to put them to sleep
and they swim in circles and you can catch them with your bare hands
it is not poison to us
we use it to take away aches in the head or teeth
and to treat nervousness or
trouble sleeping
love weed
reaching down for what looks like spools and spools of orange twine
legend has it
you roll it up in a ball in one hand
and say aloud the name of the boy or girl you would like to love
for life
and throw it into a tree
if the vine catches
you will have your love
and if not?
i ask
he laughs
a deeper warm than the sun on our faces
if not we boil this plant into a tea and drink it
better than viagra
he jokes.
silver top palm
deceptively strong
this is how we make our roof
our baskets
he says
i draw back my hand
if you get the milk of this on your skin
it will make you itch
but it produces a dark red berry
that the white crowned pigeon loves
and we love the white crowned pigeon on this island.
sometimes we only know what something is not right for
but we don’t yet know it has an exact and necessary purpose.
how did we get so far from you, mother,
green living ancestor of us all?
how did i get so far from myself?
i wish i could chart
and know
the balms of my own body
this clearly.
i pray
for the first time
in a long time
palms pressed
head bowed
in some half performance of
begging for the lessons of
a way of life that is no longer
on my knees at the foot of
such heavy punctuation
let us learn to care
so we have the chance to learn
each and every
exact and necessary purpose.
give me the strength to care
even alone.
there are answers
in every molecule
teach me to listen again
so i can understand
the answers
before we’ve killed them.

-corey ruzicano

corey ruzicano is a producer/writer/educator from the san francisco bay area. while pursuing her bfa at emerson college she went through the creative producing program under p. carl and david dower, and continues to write for howlwound. she has completed apprenticeships at the lark, the orchard project and the 52nd street project. she has been the creative projects manager of jeanine tesori’s studio, siena music and a broaderway, where she also teaches writing and leadership to young women. she has managed the intern program at second stage theater and fellowships and awards for new dramatists and aids in making space for writers of all kinds and created community engagement programs for rattlestick playwrights theater. she is the executive producer of words on white, an art and conversation initiative. with all her work, she seeks to empower voices and stories that encourage more empathic communities and a better understanding of one another.