SageGreenJournal.org voices out of the West, mostly poetry, personal to planetary...
I’m happy, the way a mirror
is happy with its looking.
Who can say what will fly into sight
or bloom slowly all afternoon?
I’m always surprised and
particularly at the familiar:
the script of tarry ribbons scrawled
on the parking lot’s asphalt,
a wind-bedraggled jay
on the limb out my window.
I reverently study the rocks,
the fine lines of their language.
I’m glossing the stream,
scanning for secrets in shadows.
If they’re told, I’m also happy
though I send them back.
Once in a room in a New York hotel,
looking at a building whose windows mirrored
mine in a curly fashion like melting,
and then looking down fifteen stories
below my toes, I was shocked at cities,
at their artificial immensity,
and I thought we don’t belong here and not
for the first time. Years before, sitting
in Fairbanks, 40 below at noon,
having driven by the dump where a dozen
feral dogs eyed me like the wilderness,
I looked out my double-glass pane at a lot
of frozen cars and muttered the same half-joke.
Tonight I sit beside a prairie river—
all day the carp sucking and singing
in the muddy shallows of the bank—
canoe pulled up, the fire behind me,
the waiting tent, Venus bright enough
to scribble light across the slow water,
coyotes exulting on the other side.
Nor do I belong here. I return
to the little room of my fire, one light
left in the earth’s acres of darkness.
The moonlight’s windy,
all these tossing pine branches,
that broken river.
A coyote, full of his own purposes,
trots toward a small gathering of elk
but only because of his straight-line path.
The elk have little to fear but they watch
as he comes. The coyote has little to fear
but he alters his path to skirt them
only a few feet wider than he might,
some margin known by both between alarm
and nothing happening. Coyotes always
carry messages but he isn’t telling
this one, satisfied with his destination,
and the elk consider it unimportant,
return to contentment, if that’s what it is.
The sky rests itself
in any water—
cloud in the river,
gold and rosy light
in the gleam of mud.
Something to forget.
Something to remember.
One means the other.
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