January 17, 2010
(Parallel Press, 2009)
Where We Live
Nocturnal creatures must teach their young
to be heard and not seen.
Coyotes yip to the east of us
and to the west, frogs beat their drums.
Somewhere to the south, a bird calls --
two thin, falling syllables
in a language we'll never know,
except for rough translations into loneliness.
Where we live, you have to listen hard
through cricket static to hear yourself think.
I like that. For once,
everything human has to shut up and sit still.
You can't even hear the traffic on I5,
only a few miles to the northeast,
where big rigs drift by like ghosts with lanterns
trapped in a long, dark hallway.
Edward Thomas, Homer, Rain
Who knows how long it takes a raindrop
to make it home from the mud to the clouds.
Those charts in the textbooks with arrows
flowing clockwise, uninterrupted,
don't tell the whole story
anymore than dotted lines on a map
show us the travels of Odysseus.
This is the epic of rain:
not reincarnation, not purgatory,
but something like a thousand years
waiting in line at Disneyland
just to leap from a cloud
and free fall, bursting with joy
against stone or leaf.
Who's to say the rain on my window
didn't thin the blood of a poet
somewhere in France at Easter, 1917.
And who's to say one drop
didn't splash on Homer's tongue
when he lifted his face,
tasting what he'd never see.
From 'Back Roads: A Journal'
(Hill-Stead Museum, 2009)
Individual poems, untitled, are part of a
journal-like sequence that begins with
Advent and finishes with Epiphany.
They say the dust rises by itself
Sometimes, even if there's no wind at all,
But absolute stillness under the flat sky...
I don't believe it.
They haven't considered, for instance,
How the coyotes in their afternoon slumber
Where no one can find them
Breathe out their dream whimpering;
Or how the birds dozing on their perches,
Holding on so tight,
Puff & deflate like bellows --
Thousands of breaths that begin to add up.
Nor do they take into account the rodents
Down in their burrows
Busily opening passageways
Through which the earth itself can exhale;
Not to mention the Yokut ghosts
With nowhere else to go
Who wander aimlessly across the valley,
Their bare feet kicking up clouds of dust.
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