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Roland Petrov

Desert Trees

Roland Petrov was born in England and attended junior high school in Ethiopia and high school in Lebanon. He got his BA in Liberal Arts from the University of the State of New York, and he currently resides in the desert of Southern California. He lived in Japan for seven years where he started composing haiku, many of which were accepted for publication in Cicada magazine. In 1996 he won the Bernard Ashton Raborg award for his essay on Salman Rushdie, “Highballs and Siberian Bananas”. Roland writes all types of poetry and prose and he's currently posting on His first book, Delectable Dishes of Panamanian Cuisine, is in the process of being published.

He fought for Hitler in the war, but after that he was a farmer, growing food for people and animals. He farmed in England, where he'd been a prisoner of war, and then in Ethiopia, California, and Bolivia. He always said that what he'd like to do when he retires is to travel, but by the time he retired the wind had gone out of that sail. Now, at ninety, he potters around his home like a general in his labyrinth.


When my father feels well, he invariably cuts one or more branches off our few trees. We live in the desert and need the shade these branches provide. When my father cuts branches, the black cloud descends on me and I feel agitated and nervous. When my father is depressed and spends all day in bed, I feel relieved for the garden and myself. The black cloud lifts and takes my anger and panic with it. My father and I are in this situation where one of us has to suffer for the other to feel well.


Touched by the black cloud

I feel sadness and panic:

Another branch falls


I came home from work yesterday to find that my father had thrown down the gauntlet: one of the largest branches on any of our trees lay on the ground. He cries with back pain, he can barely walk, but when I'm not around he can cut through thick branches with his rusty saw like they were butter. I need the garden; it breaks my heart to see it being destroyed. I went for a long walk, but it did no good; when I got home I was still angry. We exchanged words.


Before I went to bed, he came out of his bedroom in his pajamas, accompanied by his trusty flashlight, to tell me that our Hispanic neighbors were outside singing Christmas carols in German again.


This afternoon I spoke with my neighbor, and she told me that she saw my father cutting the tree, and she thought that something wasn't right. She stopped and asked him what he was doing.


“Cutting a tree,” he said.


“I can see that,” she responded, “but why?”


“Because I'm bored.”


Last year I took a photo of an impressive cactus blossom that I featured with my poem “Jasmine Tempered with Cucumber”. On the same day that he cut off the big branch, my father slashed the upper half of that cactus to bits.


Parts of me are gone

Cut and sawn and slashed and trashed:

Gone with the garden


My mother confided that my father had told her that he'd seen devil worshipers singing with our neighbors last night.


Our desert hills are snowy mountains now,

And tractors bring down snow into our town.

He plants potatoes still and milks a cow,


And telling him he doesn't makes him frown.


His horses run through eucalyptus trees;


They did when he was farming long ago.


He thinks the trees are falling in the breeze


And wants to flee the house when real winds blow.


Our neighbors sing in German every night.


Sometimes the roads are closed, he knows not why,


And thieves are stealing his things left and right.


He still sings army songs then starts to cry.


      This soldier fought for Deutschland in the war;


      Now, in his mind, he's going back for more.

















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