Where did they come from? From so many lands.
From mountains, jungles, deserts, snowy plains,
From regions of hot grass, from great slow rivers.
I think there was no country upon earth
That did not send these secret embassies.
Turquoise. Apricot. Mahogany.
How did they get here? In so many ways.
They came in peace and war, with song and story:
Marching in with dusty, sunburnt soldiers;
By caravan along the Silk Road; borne
In white-sailed clippers; carried on the spice wind.
None checked their coming here; no customhouse
Could hinder these that travelled light as air.
Maharajah. Sandal. Talisman.
And did we make them welcome? They were seed.
We gave them earth: some withered, some took root.
At first they tingled on our tongue, like snowflakes,
But then the strangeness melted: they were ours.
Typhoon. Anaconda. Kangaroo.
And will they come again? Never like that.
A language also has its innocence,
Its first fine careless hospitality.
Never again so multitudinous
Those migrants to our shore, like unknown birds
Alighting for the first time, opening
The proud fan of their peacock syllables.
Oleander. Lilac. Cinnamon.