(Peace Garden, La Casa de Maria)

In truth, they never left,
these oldest living birds, constant
in their possibility of  peace. Wide-winged,
they’ve migrated across centuries
joining earth to sky,

landing in the heart of  young Sadako
with her wish to live. If she folded one thousand
small, square papers in their image,
they might cure her from the poisons
of the mushroom bomb.

It ended her life, changed the direction
of history, sent us to our aching knees, yet
here we gather in the garden where her spirit thrives
with the cranes who’ve only been in hiding,
on guard between the thick limbs of live oaks

and the open-armed eucalyptus.
The gate unlocked since winter’s terror, we walk
with caution once more on this sacred ground.
Awed, the silence profound…gone are the grinds
of machines to lift and remove the eruptions

of mud, to clean and repair, unearth
the stone walls, the podium, the fountain. Our footsteps
crackle on bark chips laid to protect dear earth
once buried when the mountain’s face fell
into the garden’s hold. We bow to see

the rebirth of paper cranes, bursts of color
folded by the hands of school children
Sadako’s age from Manhattan Beach, who also
dream peace for the future they will face.
No longer complacent with our place

in Paradise, more aware than ever of our task,
hearts weigh heavy with lives lost,
the cost of the deluge, and beyond this refuge—
our freedoms under siege.
Like Sadako’s cranes for peace,

let’s keep showing up, like the child
who hand-painted a flag with the words
Love lives here, and hung it low on a tree
just down the road. What matters more?
As Rumi said, there are a thousand ways to kneel
                                    and kiss the ground.



by Perie Longo
Santa Barbara Poet Laureate Emerita
6 Aug ‘18