Apolonia the midwife took me to a hovel
roofed with yagua, the base of the palm frond.
A squat woman nodded Yes,
I could meet her children.

They lay splayed on long benches:
one deaf-mute,
another blind and crippled,
the last spinning a coconut.

His head bobbed up and down,
his smile never changing
as he watched the coconut wobble to a stop,
then spun it again on endless repeat.

I tried to speak to him.
“These are the fruits of this tree,”
said Apolonia, tugging me gently away.
“You mistake movement for intelligence.”

“You might as well talk to a palm,”
Apolonia shook her graying head.
“Its fronds wave in the same wind
whether you’re speaking or silent.”

Jan Steckel


  1. A really moving piece with a mythological ring to it. Sad and yet a beautiful comparison in the image of the mute palm.


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