The great god Pan’s gone wild
on our acres, piping wind-music through
all the holes in our world of pasture—ground
squirrel routes that undermine garden
and field, root and stalk—concealed by lush
of weeds and forbs growing fierce
with names I’ve never learned to pronounce.
Buzz of insect never stops except for
storm. Rain turns waves of grass to river
rushing down to ocean tiding; pumps new vigor
into grass’s growth. Every clock-wound needle
of filaree, every sharpened ripgut-brome’s
an ammo-clip in spring-nature’s arsenal.
Are we ever safe in this world? Look at lethal
gray concrete that green breaks through,
how a stampede-creek tears down the fences.
Safe between blue sky and earth, fire
and stars. Just listen to Pan piping his music
of reeded wind. If the rain will stop,
it’s mowing time again.
FEAR OF SUNFLOWERS
How sunflowers cause panic, I don’t know.
He says the dark seed-center pulls him in
a vortex of yellow petals that spin
him frantic, caught in summer’s hectic show.
I drive the Lotus road and always slow
to see a certain woman, scarecrow-thin,
tending her ground—tomato’s crimson skin
and sunflowers uplifting in a row.
To the traveler, it’s a blessing of praise
for land we pass through on our way to some-
where else; it’s catching sun before it dips
behind the hills where deer and cattle graze,
where hummingbirds hover, honeybees hum,
and sunflowers hold seeds in golden lips.
The women beat a week’s dirty wash
in the river, as they sing the song of beating
clothes to make them sweeter. They sing
to the beat of whipping cloth against water-
polished rock. As if a song of work could
set them free. Do beatings diminish the rock?
One old crone kneels in the rush for
balance. Not enough of her, anymore, so worn
by years of flailing against rock. She stops
singing; she listens—to what? a voice
she’s heard in forest, not voice, a vibration,
vaguery of the mind. Memory. Could it
come from the rock she batters with her last-
week’s dress? A voice of sadness for once-was;
voice of seeing what can’t be seen. A grace.
Heart of rock laid open in the stream,
how it came from higher on the mountain,
torn from its rightful space, its long history
of place. Strange transmigration of stone.
Where is your place, old crone?
The day’s darkened the way to the street,
its traffic gone in tangles of trees,
leaves brittle as toffee. You’ve walked
through walls to get home.
Now you’ve washed the town away,
wiped soap scum from the sink,
and wrung out the rag.
Listen to solitude as if you could taste it,
translucent amber, breakable
as the crack of a door. Delicious
emptiness of rooms, a vacancy that calls
an echo to the soul.
ENDINGS BECOME BEGINNINGS
This place has welcomed so many humans taking possession and passing on. Farmhouse walls permeable as rock. Winter collects in the cellar, seeps up into kitchen, bedrooms; the damp dries on curtains at a spring window. A gift, the ghost touching your shoulder lightly by that open pane. Spirit passing through walls. And now, strangers from far away listening to a tale of sadness from this lakeside stone.
in need of healing,
rock breaks in your hands, spirit
passing on—to you?
They were straining so desperately for admission to paradise that they had forgotten that paradise had always been their address.
Sweet, sweet, sweet, O Pan!
Piercing sweet by the river!
Blinding sweet, O great god Pan!
The sun on the hill forgot to die,
And the lilies reviv’d, and the dragon-fly
Came back to dream on the river.
—Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine, fine poems and pix! She writes, "I never would've believed people could be afraid of sunflowers, but according to Google, I guess they can." (See medavia.co.uk/our-content/sunflower-phobia/.) As poets, though, we don't always need to think literally, of course...
Taylor and other poets will be in Placerville today for the Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around at El Dorado County Library, 345 Fair Lane, 5-7pm.
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA
(This photo is Katy’s way of reminding Taylor Graham
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