Sunday, August 30, 2015

And now it sings

She stands in wet and likes it; drips rolling 
around the brim of her split-bamboo conical
hat to fall on thirsting clay. Here's

weather at last, there having been sun,
sun, sun, a lip-cracking and tree-splitting
dry, since the vernal equinox. Nothing

had been vernal about it, and her land
knew so. The very fir limbs sulked;
willows on creek banks browned up and died;

birds fell everlastingly silent, dropping
on needle-sharp tufts of what had been haymow
beneath their perches in rattling cedars;

fish sought pools deeper than any there were,
crowding in together, fin by fin, 
gulping and grunting, then rolling over

to bump along hot, slimed rocks and lodge
somewhere, stinking. Her crops had miniaturized,
flavorful but insufficient to pay her labor;

She'd lost heart and let vining morning glories
into her cracked farm at last. And now here
comes weather. Not enough to top off the well,

maybe, and certainly not enough to start the creek.
But here she stops, catching chill -- watching
a goldfinch settle on fence wire with a twist

of foraged thistledown. It drops the meal,
opens its beak, cranes skyward. And now it sings.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

These are highlands

These are highlands, in a region of highlands, so
not especially notable. It takes a long 
time to get there, though the graveled road

is short enough; park and walk -- not far,
but bring a lunch and water. Sign in; it's wilderness
according to the kiosk and its map.

Immediately you have shade. These are
Douglas fir, mountain hemlock, perhaps
some red cedar. Beneath, on both sides the trail,

a scattering of vine maple, ocean spray,
rhododendron, and, in the draws, willow.
Sometimes bear grass is in flower;

not this year. As late season turns, first
vanilla leaf, then devil's club, then red
huckleberry, then the blue, will shade through

gold to sienna to cranberry: cool nights.
Kinnickinnick under foot will be your sign
you are straying; do not lose the path.

Along the way are springs, but they are dry;
near them are holes of mountain beaver,
a town like that of prairie dogs. You will

not see them; they go abroad at night.
Admire twinflowers and trilliums, though
they are past bloom. So it is as well

with gooseberry and false Solomon's seal --
they are tired now, and long for snow.
As your path turns upon itself and climbs

rocks and trees will change to andesite
and alpine fir; soil to red dust, shrubs
to ceanothus. Now you discover that view

eyes come here to see; a mountainscape
of scree and scarp and what remains of ice,
not far away as the crows fly, yet leaning

over miles of air, blue with smoke and firs.
You may eat, and drink your water, leaving some
for your return. Wait here for me a bit

while I go to see a stone nearby
where both my parents' ashes lie at rest.





Where are the potatoes, she wondered

Where are the potatoes, she wondered, watching
Heat shimmer across her corn block, its leaves
Each rustling against other, turning brown.
Right here they were planted, next bed over,
Evenly spaced, in two long lines, eyes up

And covered in soft soil, mixed with compost --
Really exactly as she had done these fifty years.
Early next morning, she reached for her mason's hammer,

The experiment with the spud hook having failed, and
Heaving her old bones down onto her gardening stool
Exactly at the end of that mysterious weedy bed;

Pulled block after block of solid hexagonal clod
Over, busting up each as she went, feeling for
That coolness she knew as round starch balls
All her life she'd depended on. It's not
That she hadn't watered and weeded, no,
Or fought those gophers well, newly arrived.
Earth could not drink for once, it seemed.
Some spuds appeared. They were even

Smaller than those from last year. Some felt
Hollow. Some were cracked. Some were
Even green with poisons though they'd grown

Well deep enough never to have seen sun.
Oh, well, she thought, I'll take what I can get;
Now we'll have barley for every other soup, with
Dandelion to help stretch out my kale. This
Earth, she told herself, never did all,
Really even in days of rain. Barley I bought.
Ere I go forth from here as buried flesh or ash, I'll
Do as I have done: work with what is.





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

She has work to do

She has work to do, establishing
Her anchor threads, her frame threads,
Even her bridge thread and all her radii,

Hub to be ready by dawn, herself resting --
All-powerful, so far as any lacewing can
See. Seeking out the ripest berries, she 

Works not to eat drupelets, but entirely to
Offer them as bait to fruit flies and their ilk.
Right away along comes another
Killer, a ladybird beetle, seeking the berries

Too, and for the same reason. He's caught,
Offers resistance, is overwhelmed, rolled up,

Done. Whatever comes in, if protein, her
Ovum will accept. Death it is brings life.