Listen to Justine read this story - Get the RealAudio Player here if you need it.

20,000,000 The Pentagon says the nation can prevail
with a loss of 20,000,000 lives;
constitution, flag prevailing
after a loss of 20,000,000 lives.
I asked some friends,
"But what would that be, 20,000,000 lives" -
New York, Chicago, Denver,
Albuquerque, St. Louis and Yarmoth, Maine?
Georgiana looked up;
Georgiana looked straight into my eyes;
"California," she said.
"That's California."

Do not think of that curved length of coast,
nor of the desert called Mojave;
forget rainbowed waterfalls and high Sierras;
do not remember tide pool, apricot blossom
nor the seed pod of the artichoke;
forget pelican, sea lion, whale;
no recollection of cactus, redwood, vineyard.

Forget what humans have built in a place called
a bridge called the Golden Gate,
the land - Disney,
the valley - Silicon;
do not remember sailboat, skate or surfboard;
no recollection of the missions.

Think only of the teenaged clerk in the
fast checkout lane,
the couple in the laundromat,
the man selling a balloon to someone's
the kid who checked the oil,
the mailman;
think only of the old, old woman sitting on
the bench
along that curved and sanded shore.

That's California.


Back to Stories Menu
Back to Main Menu