Tiffany Higgins

The Garden of Brazil

for Moisés J. Nascimento

The mango I think was the same mango you were thinking of when you thought of the mango
On the counter, between us, the pile of fruits
Red and green and yellow skins
And the little flies with their opal wings
Legging across the oval of their little fruity planets

But it was not quite the mango we were thinking of when we thought of the mango hanging
On the tree at your parents’
House, the one you had ordered to be constructed
For them in the country, in the country, in the country
Of your memory, where you had as a boy run
And played in the river so clear the backs of fish
Were countable as they flashed by in sun

No, it was not quite the mango we were / Yes, it was the mango we were
Thinking of in the mango still attached
To its branch, somewhere between raw and ripe,
Mango still clinging to its tree, the tree the
Neighbors had requested you cut, prune, lop
Off, remove of branches, those reaching across
To their side of air. Branches which might release
A fruit growing steadily in its pulp
To their grey sweep of cement,
Splat, sudden gift of sweetness.

The fallen one, that mango.
Heat of day shining upon it, the one
You might bend and cradle in two hands
And lift toward the sky (if it fell on your side)
From gratitude, and utter blessings upon it

Before bringing it inside, in the cool,
Where you bend knife to peel
It open of its skin, and then, then,
Smash its orange flesh to your face as you suck
Suck orange pulp, little orange-yellow threads
Flopping over your nostrils, juice seeping—
You inhale it—into your nose.
That mango. Was that the mango?

That mango reminds me of the mato,
The mato, scrub,
Brazilian brushland.
Chords of the land,
Even when they’re fallen, we hear them.
Banana tree, palm. Height of three men.
Bamboo. Even when—

And the truth is, it’s not the country any-
More, though we think of it as the country,
Because it was that way in our memory,
The rising factories, dust in the nose,
The chemicals to construct
Our new future,
The ungardened future of Brazil.

The garden.
Mato, weeds, plants, overgrowing.
Caipiras são de mato,
Brazilian brushland. Chords of the land,
Even when they’re fallen, we hear them,
Ringing still. Banana, bamboo, palm.

The little monkeys, should we mention
Them? Here they are like squirrels,
Nuisances. There are so many of them!
Body fist-sized, tail the length of a tire
Cut and hanging down
The bamboo branch as it feeds
On the banana your parents have propped
There, because there used to be hundreds
Here, and now there are four. The family
Clings, waiting to be fed, in this one
Stand of bamboo. The rest of it, cut. There was
So much of it, they said, as they cut.

Down the road, when we drive, it smells
Like a vat of nail polish nailed to the sky.
Don’t worry, they are making parts
To send to the Fiat factory. And Fiat
Shall send its cars to the world.

Don’t speak of the cutting of hills—
Sete Lagoas, Sabara,
Ouro Preto, Jaboticatubas—
To mine multicolored marble,
Dazzling granite—
To rematerialize as a countertop,
As a kitchen island
In an island far away.

Please don’t concern
Yourself with the water
In the streams.
We have what we need.

Please don’t worry
About the breath
Of the sky. We have
What we need.

Then you ask: Well, what do we need?
A big space opens, like the space where green
Animals used to live in the heights
Above our eyebrows, above our roofs, above
Our expectations. Now these are down.

Oh, we need—a cup of tea, a coffee,
A slice of Minas cheese, a fruit, a mango—
That mango, hanging by the fence
In what used to be the mata,
The forest. There was so much of it!
Mato. What is value?

Chords of the land, even when they’re fallen,
We hear them. What if
Brazil were a garden?
What about a garden of Brazil?
Would you build it?

It was not about pure, it was just
That we wanted still to breathe the breath of trees.
Fruits of Brazil.

Veranda of balance.
Animals, plants, people.
Belleza. Sounds beautiful.

The kind of place I’d like to buy,
If it was offered to me at a good price,
Or even at a high price.

What about a garden of Brazil?
Would we build it?
Would we buy it?