Looking back now, forty years gone,
my lack of curiosity about the river
I lived with daily disappoints me.
Maybe that’s the way of youth,
to be fixated on origins and ends –
things far off, the cold mountain spring,
the distant sea, not the everyday.
The slow brown stream, an ox,
harnessed to the yoke of industry,
was as common as my neighbors
and as of as little interest.
I carried with me in those days the hard stone of contempt
that the young may bear for the familiar to mask their fear and uncertainty.
From the bluffs above Lock and Dam #2
I watched the tugs push their coal barges downriver,
imagined the days and nights of their long journeys,
past Pittsburgh, down the Ohio to the soft-banked Mississippi,
past all the towns with their wonderful sounding names --
Gallipolis, Oceola, Tallulah --
Dreamed of the bayous and ocean --
rank climbing life --
ibises and spoonbills amongst cypress swamps --
and the hot green cities –
Baton Rouge, New Orleans --
copper-haired women, skin sheened with sweat,
and the sharp clean wail of a saxophone
calling down heaven.
Still, We Have the Birds
The morning is filled with the chatter of blackbirds,
this is a sudden and stunning awareness that pulls
the cord of my attention taut. It is as if an entire nation
had moved, in secret, to the neighborhood
late at night and awaited
only this moment to announce itself.
Late February --Has spring arrived already,
kicked into high gear
by the hard boot of global warming?
Maybe so and yet, at times even the most dire things
can be quite pleasant,
as this precocious greening day,
and I find myself whistling.
Though our polity chokes in the thickening fog of empire,
and we march in willful ignorance toward extinction,
noisy and quarrelsome as a murder of crows,
following our chosen madmen,
Still, we have the birds,
these sudden ambushes of joy.
return to Desert Shovel