Touch of Irish green,
rainbow rising from the creek,
canyon rich with luck.
Somewhere along the way,
I lost my anger for mankind,
that loud and profane passion
felt on dear faces, remembering
how the deep incisions
bled for days. They said
it was the war, the retreat
as unknowing bait
in the Battle of the Bulge,
keeping the men and machinery
together in the frozen snow.
Perhaps I am too old to care,
too far way to threaten
weathermen and politicians
preening before the camera crews.
I’ve lost my outrageous luster—
but as long as I’m alive,
I’ll hear stories I don’t recognize.
Between rains, he takes the high post
to watch for hawks slicing the low sky
as she inspects the garden below
tittering from the frost-bitten lantana
to the volunteer artichokes exploding
with long green fronds and leafy fruit.
Little cover for a nest, the bare ground
waits for seed. They have paired, it is spring.
The birds begin to think in pairs
as these old hills begin to breathe
soft green from crusty brown.
Two young blackbirds inspect
last year’s redwood limbs
to house the colony, safe-haven
from crows and ravens, easy
to defend. Two by two, the quail
titter down garden trails
too cold to plant. The crimson
chests of finches gleam before
drab ladies on the railing
when not picking at
old nests in the roof beams,
half-heartedly. Too early yet
for songs of love and making
babies when these old hills
have just begun to breathe.
…the cold passion for truth
Hunts in no pack.
-Robinson Jeffers (“Be Angry at the Sun”)
It is an art
not to be swept up
in the turbulence,
not to fear the storm
of words etched
in electric thunder,
when our ear drums can’t
with the latest blow
from a hundred anvils
busy reshaping the truth
to fit the moment.
It is an art to savor silence,
to listen to where it leads
to what you know.
Low snow on the steep ground,
a slow melt soaking slopes
for Golden Poppies and wild lavender.
Still on the rise, the old man
hasn’t left his post looking down
upon us, the floods and droughts.
Born forty million years ago,
he’s seen the worst of weather
changes—few things as sure today.
“Will the hills turn green again?” She asks.
Flat on my back, my tongue dodges
dental utensils: mirror, suction
and cavitron finding a nerve
as I turn my wince into a grin
and gargle, “Yes, they just need rain.”
This old dry flesh and all its crumbling
skeletons shedding bark and limbs
await our ballyhooed first
winter storm on the first of March.
Ricocheting between extremes,
nothing is normal, our only certainty:
rebirth, rejuvenation, the miracle
of earth and water. To her I wink,
“We may even have flowers.”
I think we should keep
some of this, in case God comes back
to see what we did with it.
– William Stafford (“The Whole Thing”)
He’s been away, it seems, left His lackeys
asleep on the ridge, or dressing up, waving
their diaphanous sleeves before the polished
window glass of town. We could have used
some help, some rain to inspire more Glory
in our eyes, our minds, our flesh—this grass
refreshed. Busy it seems, hands full
with despots and tyrants beyond our horizons,
this dry ground forgotten to endure with our own
small labors. Now we are the found strays
coming into hay we taste on wet nostrils,
ready to follow through any open gate.
Upon the ridge between
Ragle and Live Oak Canyons,
a mile or more three miles away,
sun and moon seasons slide
Solstice to Solstice
when there is no way
to measure time exactly—
days without names
a different tree
to diffuse the light
for a moment
and I am blind, lost to this world,
refreshed—each new day
sliding between the canyons.