Already we prepare for war, hang
Irish Spring in orchard trees, clear
the battlefield of weeds before
their green turns brown as the latest
batch of baby ground squirrels
watch from the granite outcrops, little
heads peering from our uphill bleachers.
We cheer the appetites of hawks,
eagles and crows, their hungry, noisy
and nested young waiting on a thatch
of twigs, open-mouthed—even
the rattlesnakes these easy swallows.
We clean the .22 and pellet gun.
There is no talk of peace, sagging
hog-wire a poor border to defend,
to hold when we’re away at work
to satisfy the costs of living where
we will always be the intruders.
The untamed, the cultured and civilized
gone wild, hungry for power, rise
out of the cornfields and the canyons
of big city streets, from behind camo
curtains to poach another prize beyond
the reach of more common men and
women if they can—stars on their own sets
that upset the rest of us. That we envy wealth
and freedom, independence—the quick buck
gained by deceit as standard practice
for capitalists and politicians. Take down
the statues of Robert E. Lee, a horseback,
we have models of our own to cast
and enshrine in every city square
for our poor youth to look up to.
Short spring, the grass wants to turn
in the sand and shallow ground, a sunburned
tan, and the birds have turned to serious
nesting, feeding and breeding on the branch,
on the ground or on the redwood railing.
Immigrants, interlopers, the ring-neck doves
cry like babies before landing overhead.
One white female parades the rail
to her drab gray mate’s dance and croon
as we welcome evening with a glass of wine.
Flutter too quick to get a camera, they whine
together, ecstatic as coyotes across the canyon.
The eagles have displaced the crows
on the power pole, singly claimed
the overlook of rising feed saved back
for weaning calves, to fall from,
flap and glide close to the ground
squirrel towns submerged in green.
Short skirmish, the eagle fell with one
black wing outstretched beyond
its taloned grasp deep into the grass.
I think I understand wild politics,
its guiltless traits, its territories
and borders, our totems changing.
How humbled were we when
the golden birds chose us
to entertain at dawn and dusk,
but beak and claw I never saw,
just two sets of wings lifting off
in opposite directions. High
at the head of Ragle Canyon
in the granite outcrop, she waits
to be relieved to feed herself.
It’s Easter spring and the hills are green
as they should be, golden fiddleneck
and skiffs of popcorn flowers in between
and we go back to floating scraps
of wood down furrows, sixteen-penny nail,
a mast for leaves. You would retreat
to your throne and princess dreams
in the forks of the walnut tree beyond us all,
or we would drive a team to town
from the dusty seat of the steel-wheeled
manure spreader to visit friends, names
we both remember now after sixty years.
We were turned loose to entertain ourselves,
play with our imaginations before TV
and cell phone screens—more grateful now.
for my sister Ginni
Blue moon over green
above grandchildren grazing
to tree frog refrains.
Sometimes we can’t see
skeletons of drought-dead trees
through canyons of rain.
I have had the luxury
of not remembering
every story about me,
the mundane details,
embellished and edited,
as if told often to others.
I can dress the rain
goddesses in gossamer gowns,
pen them dancing bare-limbed
with the sycamores
across the creek beckoning
wildly—let myself be drawn
into the image of a poem.
So much is make-believe
looking back into the mirror,
so much forgotten purposely.
I am not ready to retire
to whittling the past
into wooden statuettes
with so much more to do.
It could be Climate Change
or a changing of the guard,
an East Coast winter without end—
a sky full of harbingers,
floating clips of recycled news
fishing for the self-righteous
with seasoned bits of drama.
In one hand we hold Chekhov’s
mirror on our modern world.
Or are the clouds obfuscation,
each changing shape
of our imagination: our addiction?
Evening shadows climb after rain
around the equinox of dark and light
on Sulphur’s face. My plural we,
all our eyes look up for an expression,
for a hint of the future on the horizon,
beneath the last of gray cumulus
when the green grass seems golden—
almost heavenly when the granite
stacked could be pillars of marble.
How could it seem any other way
after months of no rain? How much
closer to the gate can we imagine?