8:15 in the morning, already the heat is gripping.
Last week we had rain and hail; today
the mercury will be crawling toward 100.
On my way to the well-house, I check
the nest-box that hangs from an oak. Last week
I found five blue eggs in a dry-grass cup.
This morning the feathered mother broods her
eggs. Last year her babies were fledged
by now. In this season of sudden storm and
sudden swelter, birds extend their nesting
into summer. Mother Bluebird doesn’t waver—
not even a tilt of the head as she gives
me a sideways stare, waiting for me to leave.
What do humans know, in this cockeyed world,
about hatching eggs to flight?
She was trapped in that mirror for decades,
her family’s Federal mirror mounted
too high for so small a child to catch but
a glimpse of her self at the bottom
of its convex eye. It watched her, warped
her inside its gold-painted frame.
Eagle-crowned and ringed with what looked
like lug-nuts tightened so they’d never
loosen, never let her out. But how could she be
inside the mirror and, at the same time,
the apothecary jar—glazed ceramic, crazed
over years—surely she was trapped
inside that too. Jar of aurantii cortex, bitter
orange peel. Pucker that ought to be
sweet as orange juice smile
as she watched her self in the mirror.
GOLD PANNING IN JUNE
Uncle Jack explains
I like a rusty pan. Rust causes friction, slows
down the gold, which is so much heavier than
water. You couldn’t carry a bucketful of gold.
What about that pot at the end of the rainbow?
Panning’s slow hard work, it takes patience
—both your hands—shake, tip the pan, back
and forth; and again; tip up, a slow swirl—
rainbow water, sun-slick silver-aqua, topaz,
olive reflecting sizzle afternoon. And look!
a tiny speck golden as a fleck of frozen sun.
SEARCHING THE CANYON
Your dog dances. A lost hiker’s to be found.
Morning has set its thermostat on blaze,
a fanatic sun whetting its brash,
its swelter over the landscape. A shout—
could it be Help! a raven’s call? a sound
that echoes down the canyon’s deep-cut maze.
Scarred land of heat-glare on talc, umber ash.
Downslope the river. Dog’s a trusty scout.
It’s tricky footing over ruptured ground.
Your dog stops, sniffs the air—a far-off gaze.
Across the gorge, a signal-mirror flash?
Dog’s belief overmasters master’s doubt.
VOICE OF LIGHT ON WATER
No pier, no dock, no quay. Just the lake
lapping shore, beckoning my dog to leap in,
no matter how cold;
the joy of thin air under jovial gruff
of one black raven, feathers shining silver
in morning light. Sky vacant of clouds
yet they’d be building
by noon. Call it a ramble, trailhead
to lakeshore, picking up hikers’ litter; then
up through hemlock, steady climb
to a tiny lake, crystal blue
pursed in granite. My dog gets there
first. I’ll pull off boots and socks, wade out
to the knees in ice-blue.
Nothing like mountain snowmelt
to wash off miles of trail,
to imprint alpine on mind and lungs,
on a lens behind the eyes.
Distant encounter with a wild goat, years ago.
My dog and I were searching for an old lady who
wandered away from home. I got the slim-
chance assignment, Spanish Hill. But the goat—
goats are savvy, they know where they live.
This one stood, king-of-the-hydraulic-cliff
gouged out in the Gold Rush; underneath,
diggins that ran from Broadway to Texas Hill.
The goat just stood staring at me and my dog
like he knew we didn’t belong. That land
was his. Last time I climbed the Hill, it was
a homeless camp. No use-permit, no lease
or sublet—folks with no other place to go
staked their claim like miners on Hangtown
Creek in the heyday. But the Gold Rush
was dead. The City chased the homeless away.
The wild-goat spirit is still king of the Hill.
Image in my mind—potency of pigments
in the spectrum of light, colors of the moment.
And there she stands at her easel
above the lake—this landscape I’ve loved
in many seasons, and tried
to catch half an hour ago with my iPad
before I moved on along the trail—
wild turkey with young, a deer surprised
to see me in the buckeye woods;
egret poised at reeds’ edge. And now
I’ve come back on my circuit to snap this
artist still at her easel. She’s working
on sky reflected in water, capturing
(isn’t that what we artists do?) a small piece
of the wild world, not to deflate but
to intensely focus. Impressive,
her patience. I can’t stand still that long.
My iPad itches to keep moving,
find the next snatchable moment,
a perfect, changing
composition of light and shadow on ripples
wind-stirred, the egret lifting off,
our art forever elusive as light,
the origin if not the end of longing.
Just living is not enough… one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.
—Hans Christian Anderson
—Medusa, with thanks to Taylor Graham for this morning’s lovely feast in the Kitchen! Note that "Available Light" is from Wakamatsu, where Taylor Graham and Katy Brown will be holding another writing workshop on July 9. Watch Medusa’s “More Food for the Brain” in the green column on the right, or check www.arconservancy.org/wakamatsu for more info.
choices of poetry readings: Open Poetry Night at the Gallery
at Crocker Art Museum in Sacramento, 7pm; Speak Up
presents poets and storytellers at Avid Reader, also 7pm in
Sacramento; and Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in
Sacramento presents featured readers and open mic, 8pm.
Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column
at the right) for info about these and other upcoming
poetry events in our area—
Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back