Don’t forget the mountains. Nor the glow on them
The link to the poem's page is here...
as a desert’s winter sunset unfolds in the west,
the mountains in the north latching on to all that light.
Warm, fibrous, resinous—cactuslight.
Altitudinous, the light of late bird activity,
of irrigation drip lines; light that skims golf course greens,
pools, and patios; light by which the bobcat
begins her night of scratch and claw;
light that seems to brake the turn of the Earth
before ceding to the dark once more,
letting loose squadrons of javelina, bands of coyote,
wily packrats, and scores of Sonoran moths and bats.
But this is light that will return, soon enough,
to climb the tall saguaro of morning.
In the gloam,
mirror on mirror,
shot glass memories.
Wild turkey, you’re a dinosaur.
Subtle grouse, you’re the heart.
New bird, I’ll never know you.
Sixty-six million years ago—
How long ago was that
In technology years? In robot seconds?
In the exhaust of wingbeats
Thudding like clickbait
Into the online brilliance
Of original flight?
Long live the crow,
Who abstains from all of us,
Who flocks like a nuisance
Until none of us is around
To scorn him.
Note: This was among four of my poems published last month at Parhelion, an online literary magazine. You can see all four poems by following this link. I also wrote a short essay about my writing process to accompany the poems. Poems by other writers published in the same issue, along with an incredible painting of a farmhouse, can be found here. Thanks again to Parhelion for including my work on their site.
“A lot of texts these days.”
“Yeah. I was thinking. What messages did we used to send that didn’t contain text?”
“Yes. Can you imagine sending a smoke signal today? From one end of a city to another? From Minneapolis to St Paul?”
“There are a lot of places where it could still work.”
“Not in cities.”
“Certainly not. But from one farm to another. Along some trails. In the desert.”
“What do you burn in a desert?”
“A desiccated cactus will bank a fire for days.”
“What about hieroglyphs?”
“Were they sent?”
“That’s… a stretch.”
“They were composed by hand and contained or referred to a specific language. How do we know they weren’t meant to convey information into the future?”
“I think they were pretty close to being text though.”
“How about Morse code?”
“Hmm—yes. Only audible. Not a text but...”
This short bit of fictional dialogue continues...
The next morning the coals were there, buried but lurid, glowing like rare orange gems. Across the distance of a cold night they were still hot despite being abandoned, despite being covered by a heap of fine grey ash as the prior day's fire faded in upon itself. I walked around looking for pieces to add to the fire, to bring it back. I was out at Farm again, waking up chilled from a night in the unheated farmhouse. I was in search of fresh fuel, the arms and legs of trees, fodder for the next go-round. Honey locust, sycamore, cedar. Walnut, hickory, oak. Just-fallen twigs, young limbs, old broken trunks half-rotted away, wet with the promptly melted snow of a Missouri winter. On top of coals prevailing through the wind and dark of night any wood will do...
Click here to continue with fire, bluebirds, osage orange, and the sun...
Thursday. I’m in a goose-infested corporate office park parking lot, waiting for my wife, who is inside a Red Cross, donating blood. Some machine is out in the distance, intermittently backing up, backing up. Emitting that insidious beep, beep, beep, beep. Other than that, the soundscape is pleasant. Sound of the wind. Birds. Sparrows, a cardinal, the geese.
There are empty swathes of spaces in the sprawling, interconnected parking lot. The office buildings are arranged in a wide ring around the parking spots at the core. There are still a number of cars parked up close to the buildings, packed tightly, the businesses in those buildings still humming along, essential or stubborn, it’s hard to say. Who’s gonna get close enough to inquire, to stick their nose in it?
The essay continues...
In eastern Butler County the fields opened up, took on the wispy gold of uncut hay. Not long after that hills appeared. I could see the outcome of geological events, the hint of a rock facade where the road cut through. But the grass didn't mind the hills and it ran long and uncut up and down the slopes still. A valley appeared, a vantage, a vista. I thought of some of that scene from Dances With Wolves where they creep up to a crest and look down to see a herd of buffalo grazing in peace.
It would've been a good place to stop but I was going 75 and I was only an hour into the drive. It's a spot to think about, for another. A spot worth reaching over into the glove compartment and pulling out this notebook for, an emergency notebook, never been written in before, the two notebooks I did bring secure in my bag.
I'm east of Wichita, KS on U.S. Highway 54, where Butler County ends and Greenwood County begins. Hay, cow ponds, the cattle so dark against the golden light of the field, dark against the blue of the sky, against the shapely hills.
FDR had some sort of windbreak tree-planting program. A shelterbelt. I never gave much thought to windbreaks, to trees as a line against the wind. This tree I keep seeing, that is so prevalent, must have been one of the trees of choice for the shelterbelt planting. It's often got a lopsided crown and most of the time its trunk splits into two not far from the ground, a couple of feet, maybe less. This tree, whatever it is, is not at Farm. It's a Dust Bowl thing. Kansas, Oklahoma, the Texas panhandle, northeastern New Mexico.
Continue with Part One of this travelogue...
Like the jigsaw puzzle suddenly nearing completion the pile was virtually gone. I had used the tarp to drag the piled debris to a new bonfire-to-be in the pasture. After the pile down below went up so easily yesterday afternoon I figured we could easily get this pile ablaze before dark.
The locust limbs split and hauled away, the thorny vines extirpated and lofted onto the pile, the only element of debris remaining where the brush pile once sat was a collection of tree detritus: twigs, leaves, the maroon pods of the honey locust. It was a curious collection, somewhat familiar-looking. I was grabbing at this melange with gloved hands and tossing some of it on the tarp to be hauled away. Doing this I stepped into a depression, wide but shallow. I started to get an inkling that I was disturbing a nest...
The full account is available here...
I gave praise
to steel you confidence.
You gave welcome
to feel me love.
Rooster sang crow
to share us morning.
Eugene broke fast
so we'd build house.
Water washed clean
so we felt ourselves.
Earth sprang mountain
to keepsafe sun.
Wood took flame
so we'd have fire.
Wind gave owl wing
and we had night.
We're between mountains, like in Colorado, or Utah. Wall! Border wall. To our left, to the north. Contiguous. Iron? A rusty red. Eight feet high? It cuts into the hillside.
Suddenly it's a little greener. Wind in the palms. Some flattening out. By the looks of it, the playa at camp will be windy. Stones, boulders on the hillsides. I've lost sight of the wall as we've tended south.
This is a smooth road. Turning to the south. Large round boulders. Accesso planta dart. Windmill. This is the back way into camp. It has a rural feel but there's actually quite a few plants or factories back in here. The road has gotten very rocky. A metal structure manufacturer. Galvanization. A burned area. Car carcasse. Lots of old tires. A guy in a chair under the shade of a tree just looking out at the road. Railroad.
We take a right onto a much smoother, paved road. There are lots of cars stopped on the side of this road. There are canopies set up. Lots of them. Is it a market? We're close to camp. Turning right, I know this road. There's the old, snub-nosed flatbed lorry. The silo-like red cylinder lying on its side. Dust! At 14:42 we are at the Amor Hacienda Camp...
Continue with this Tijuana 2019 travelogue...
Every new phone is going to be the best. Sleek, dark, touchless, smart. I look at my phone now, an older model, practically obsolete. My fingerprints are dirty smudges on its protective film.
It took me fifteen minutes to write that paragraph. In those fifteen minutes, I could instead have saved fifteen minutes on car insurance. I didn't. I made a mistake, I missed the boat.
I bought a blood pressure cuff recently, at the recommendation of my doctor. My first home-read was just a moment ago. It wasn't as high as the ones in the office, but it was still too high. Ice cores, volcanic ash, a barleywine that's been recast as an Imperial Red IPA. Do you believe in miracles? Yes!
Earlier today I saw something I would describe as not quite a miracle but something approaching a miracle—a stupendous oddity. I saw a gal struggle against the side of her car in the parking lot at the grocery store. I don't think she was drunk. She just got hit with some strange sort of gravity. All of a sudden. It was a kind of gravity we haven't explained because we can't even detect it. I'm not sure anyone else knows it's even here....
Continue with this short story...