“California Morning Sky”
Some secret, silent stealing starts
above the clouds and currents of coffee.
Spokes of it gradually break through, uninvited.
A sudden move, a journey, a turning of the world—
and the whole horizon’s washed of white,
as if that warm thief of shining light spun out a scare,
put color back in the face of all being and its hope for the future.
Mockingbird sings, shimmy shimmy shimmy!
and I know a neighbor watches cable-soft porn.
The bullfrog up the hill bleats Elaine, Line 7,
as bullhorns croak numbers, names.
Mockingbird answers their calls: brring! brring!
Darkness, and there is no music now.
But to say there is no music here is not to listen.
First—cars, occasionally shifting gears or clanking within.
Mostly slapping hand on back of the road that wraps around,
until the sun and drivers are mostly home.
Then, trees talking amongst themselves,
bugs singing out in the quiet shelves of leaves and tires,
singing to themselves as the sun goes in and out of its cloud corner.
With that, the country hugs its shoulders, compressed in a shiver.
I’m back East suddenly, and there is the train.
On frequent occasion and with no timing that is yet my own,
the running begins until steaming and clanging of hardware
like dishes in the sink is closer.
It lifts and unfolds time ‘til I return
to a moment that was but never was—
in Cook Springs, wise old people all around,
sweet tea and tobacco smoke inside and out,
the dog asking for a sip, and so many trees and smiles—
when the steaming and clanging was also present,
on frequent occasion and with no timing that was yet my own.
I’m still waiting for the pain to come,
camping here on my springy studio apartment floor,
building coded for bounce when the world shakes.
Occasionally it breaks past my stone-still guard owl
on the apartment building across the street—
the shifting of plates, past into present,
tiny tremors marking the new coast, year, person
with old scars of anniversaries, holidays, conversations
riddling time that will grow newer yet with time.
Camping when I was older meant:
warmth of sunlight on cold, bare skin,
enforced rest of wooded slumber far from people,
and above all the kind of silence that lets you hear the world—
birds, bugs, frogs, branches, leaves, footsteps of deer,
my own heartbeat in step.
How hard I tried to slow my thoughts
in babbling brooks with woods-hauled books,
a cigarette to right the rhythm of breathing,
a fire to forge myself to myself,
and nights alone in woods with only a nod
to the occasional, passing men.
There is less effort now in everything good.
The kinder chorus—talismen and boys I spun
between scared fingers, animal spirits
leaping out of Lethe to make me laugh,
small gods warming the wind enough
for frozen feet to last the night—
you said it would get better.
I never could believe it would.
You who are not yet that you
of reassuring others who wander
and may very well be lost—
I want to draw you a map
for making it from one set of woods to the next,
write a recipe for boiling bones to broth.
But all I can do is tell you where I’ve traveled.
The long, black tunnel in which I was tired of living
Has let out into a calm and sunny sideroad.
I’m only camping in the middle of the valley,
but I’ve seen the old lady on the tree-covered hilltop,
in her cave of flowers and magical, hybrid creatures—
the poetess-Rottweiler guarding a ballerina scarecrow.
The wind doesn’t rustle leaves because it sounds good.
The cicadas aren’t playing back to pick the prettiest chord.
The train isn’t choosing tracks based on their tenor.
Birds, though—true enough, they pick what they like best
From all the songs around. But still their calls are saying
only what they have, and what they need.