Direction: bronze knee-snagging flower-head,
unsprung from the weathered bank.
Direction down: bird; bird song
Direction utterly still:
longstanding gold lichens on boulders.
Or late, late: flicker, sunset feather-ribs.
Or passage under: soft holes in the trail— everywhere,
Re-routing: arrowhead wedge of muskrat or possum
a jewel-box with teeth for clasp.
Aim as it says? Course up: hillrise—its associates,
manzanita, blue oak, digger pine, buckeye.
The pitch of a slope
suddenly too breakneck,
root, shoe, sole-slip, but just above that,
cinch, thinkable again.
Back to the carcass: desiccated muscle of a tail—
broken leather watchband.
It looks like an abrupt little dinosaur,
hair bedding thrown off to wake it.
Throw cover back over. Slip back to the pitch
of the hill: plant tibias, skeletal fall
village of spring’s old plants,
a snit of framed junked sketches of lupine, finished fennel,
Sociogeology: an artist’s landfill.
Climbing upslope more slowly than fire, scraping through
dried yarrow foam, I hear the quick side-changing
of opposite hummingbirds.
Fire gate. Listen for: California thrasher, northern pygmy
white-throated swift, warblers, flycatchers. Listen for fire.
Bones and leather: Could it have been
“the rare cinnamon opossum”?
Skunks nibble on dead ones.
Muskrat has webbed feet
but similar tail—it’s
“reddish to dark brown,” shorter than possum.
Possums climb a tree “to eat a ripe persimmon.”
Confusing book sketches dusky-footed wood rat.
Those white claws and silk boots = muskrat. Hind feet
partially webbed. Swims backward
_ or forward with ease.
Fox, cougar, or owl may have got it.
“Their interesting mouths
remain shut to water
while the incisors, out front,
munch away at succulent underwater stems.” Did I see
an underwater mouth?
But it pointed here: I’m stone-benched in an abounding
of giant paper leaves
neither shrunken nor crushed (the deer keeping to their
I’m sitting in the tall
dried ray-flowers, pine-board-faded-whiskey color,
their involucres flying, dried waving their gold.
In circles of basal leaves
the size of many eagle-feather headdresses
laid on the ground, hill-skirts.
I sit among preserved whisks
of itinerant air, the ears of the rise.
Wyethia angustifolia: mule’s ears: “Calf Compass-Plant”:
“An innate love for the mysterious and poetical
makes people wish to believe
in strange and beautiful tales”
that claim its leaves stand edges always
pointing N & S. “When beauty achieves great subtlety,
the Japanese call the effect shibui—
only time can reveal, an aged tea, scenery
of a gray, brown, or moss-green color, the impression
one gets from looking at the face
of a certain kind of older person.”
“The end of growth, the final stage”
parched, above the rushing island-making stream.
Someone said: “You’re between books.”
As if you could ever be at one,
as you are never “at” a trail.
I look at my unsure feet: All millennial support is for the
for the wildest. Then look away: Did you see
the creekside cormorant spiral?—three times— widely —
just to clear the 300′ dam.
As if, when you arrive here, you become one of the old
your colors having been green passing, ripe black
purpling, pale and crimped, yellowed, goldened, drabbed,
aired. You are very, very old,
and people shaped like arrowheads
find such preservation as you are
in the dry garden. The stone tools find you, their museum.
Look, I say to myself turning, the young
blue oaks are more earth’s progeny now than I. They think
the winding needs the watch,
Far away, in the ruins of civilizations,
earth colors crawl from frescoes.
The planet spins them off. The trail whirls into a helix of
When I was in labor, |
friends read me bleak poetry.
Read more, I harped, until a new thing turns our heads.