Saturday, October 19, 2013


Baby Blue Eyes

In the foothills, by a vernal pool, I once picked up a toad 
that had escaped from my childhood and squeezed it 
gently so that it wouldn't squirm or pee in my hand. 
Toads disappeared from town long ago. Once, 

when I was a flagger, I didn't outrun the viscous
rain dropped from a cropduster. I showered, 
drank a glass of milk, but nearly
passed out. Another man ate lunch with the poison 

on his fingertips; he stopped breathing 
for two minutes before they revived him, the boss
not wanting to pay for an ambulance. Once, 
I stood at the entrance to a canyon 

Ithuriel's Spears, Chinese Purple Houses, Fiesta Flowers

among flowers whose names I learned in middle age, 
the self unselfing, the eternal experiencing itself 
for a moment, the delicate purple eyes of fiesta flowers 
open on vines that draped over poison oak, a swallowtail

exploring the filaments of the thistle, unafraid 
while I watched a foot away, the first oriole of spring 
suddenly winging over my head across the river to sway 
on a bare buckeye branch and then return toward me,

Ithuriel's Spears

veering away suddenly to eye me from a nearby oak 
as I swayed on the cliff. On the canyon floor, 
the call of the phainopepla, a heavy drop 
plopping into still water, mingled

with the long musical call 
of the grosbeak. I sprawled in sand,
gazing upward as the clouds 
flowed over, and I could believe 

Bobcat in Late Spring Flowers

that I have lived in wetness with the toad,
that my vines, heavy with flowers, 
have blanketed bushes and limbs, 
that I have clung to one leaf 

for ages waiting for some animal to pass, 
that I have winged, a brilliant flame, from tree 
to tree, eternal and forever changing,
only now aware of a possible end 

without grace, and I vowed 
never to rob life with its splendor 
from mountain or valley 
or from any human being on this earth. 

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