Tell me everything is normal,
that I have slowed as time
has accelerated change—
that there are people, out there,
trying to steal you away
with worry and fear,
trying to bait you
with their protection
like a coyote in a cage.
Tell me everything is normal,
that anything you say
can become criminal,
that all the double-entendres,
similes and metaphors,
all the poetic devices
may be held against you
someday. It was serious
in the fourth grade:
a love note to Denise
and devotion falling
into my parents’ hands—
a mortifying lecture
to be careful what I write.
The arrival of the Cooper’s Hawk several weeks ago has thinned the coveys of quail around the house, required scouts and sentinels as they’ve quickened their step. Likewise, he’s had to change his roost as they’ve learned where to look. Startled at my desk to a flutter beyond the door, he was perched on the railing, waiting for the quail to come off the hill to water. Six feet away, this photograph is softened dramatically by both window and window screen.
I missed the shot, however, when he tried to fly through the windowed door, wings outstretched and talons hung in the screen door. It surprised and scared me enough to be spellbound, another moment where I have to be satisfied to brand it in my mind.
Mt. Tamalpais – L.E. Rea (1868-1927)
For a moment in the movie I was moved—
removed from the chaotic struggle for power,
the clumsy bad actors, the sick intrigue.
For a moment, the song sang for me,
free from the fetters of this flesh to float
on eagles’ wings above the discord of humanity.
For a moment, the photograph forgave me,
took me in and gave me eyes to see
the simple splendor of reality.
For a moment, I was the poem: it wrote me
beneath sharp peaks of granite scree
sunk deep into a blue, blue sky reflected
on Sierra snowmelt, white clouds passing.
What for the art have we to offer for release
but moments marked where we found peace.
Where the creek stops in moss-laden pools
miles above the Kaweah in August, wild hens
collect with half-grown poults scratching for seeds
and bugs—aware, but not caring. I whistle
for a gobble as they drift off into the brush
as I have, into the canyons of lichened rock,
the Live Oak and Chamise. I am native
here, apart from where I came to forget
the blunderbuss of duplicity.
I came to be refreshed by the unafraid,
by the innocent and self-reliant—
I came to bring some home with me.
Mind gone blank: Zen empty
across the creek gone dry,
shadows stretching over long blond feed,
first-calf heifers coming out from under
shade to water for an evening’s graze.
It’s all the mind I need.
The news rains off my shoulders.
Even the eclipse didn’t faze me,
but for the fuzziness in my gut.
For a moment, it worried me—
so disconnected to the periphery
I had no need for poetry—
no need for anything but to breathe,
to inhale and cleanse the flesh
as it melts into the gloaming.
Fires in the night flicker on different faces,
candlelit or shadows borne from torches,
glowing herds driven by separate forces:
Black & white
Love & hate
Wood & steel
of celestial guitars—how loathing
corrupts the innocent and trusting,
all the possibilities of anything more.
Robbin, July 2011
The answer in art appeals,
resides within, not without.
It adds, it multiplies
boundlessly: fresh, unnamed
senses like ripples from a pebble
spreading across pools
we harbor in our hearts
apart from politics,
from the legions of agendas
to satisfy the appetites
of power and greed
where might is right.
Art is not correct
and never stays the same,
illusive as the canyon wren’s
cascading song—I hear it now
again for the first time:
bear clover forever stirred
in memory miles away
in time and distance
trout fishing as a boy.
In the churning air we breathe
the latest news cascades from mountaintops,
waterfalls of misty details stream instantly
around us, tugging eddies we ignore
like bad dreams—waking to
and shaking off nightmares of fear
we carry on, we persevere.
How I envy cattle and coyotes
their ignorance, poor dumb beasts
with habits honed day by day,
moon to moon. Greeted by heifers,
nearly yearlings coming into season,
I can feel their flesh crawl with heat
beneath tight black hides that shine—
each day yet a new confusion.
It will suffice to linger among them
reading poetry under my breath
until they bore with my poor intellect.
I know all the old horses
and the men who rode them
to their ridgeline bleachers.
Full moon August rises atop
her perfect breast perfectly
after all these years, centuries,
eons—I am relieved from
the world inside this galaxy,
this tug of war for power,
gravity without compassion.
I lean toward the heavens
and the far ridgetops,
send roots deep
to good water and wait
until my moment is up.
They own the air we breathe.
Jim Harrison (“Old Bird Boy”)
Spring delivered a clan of blackbirds
to the Coastal Redwood thick with dead
limbs too far from home. Quick fighter pilots
patrolled the air and drove away the crows
like coyotes baiting cows from newborn,
from their egg nests—hurried off the hawks,
dived-bombed the dog when fledglings fell
before they left, gave up the lawn to families
of quail, little tikes on wheels from winter’s
prunings piled to dry before burning,
bringing summer coveys from the garden’s
damp cover to explore the rest of their world.
Hummingbirds hover the hibiscus. Black-headed
Phoebe’s wait from the backs of chairs
for flying insects that cloud our breathing.
Our space grows still in the summer baking
as a Cooper’s Hawk claims the air,
walks the rail to bathe beneath a sprinkler.