Meditation in Texas Hill Country
Whatever this countryside is, it’s not
art for art’s sake. Rises buckle
who knows how from sea floors
we call prehistoric because we
weren’t standing here taking notes.
Crushed shell and coral transformed,
now shed limestone talus and scrabble
in late spring sunlight, a still life
of disintegration, a story set in naked
sediment and eroding fault lines.
Scrub oaks borrow height from hills
along aquifer-fed springs which activate
molecular machinery of prickly pear,
oleander, and spiny lizards down at life’s
basement level in the mist of quarks and gluons.
Placed in adjectival region between vast and slight,
we can’t guess the architect’s meaning behind
this dogged impermanence and temporary solidity.
Lighter than the dust blown down slope into our eyes,
we know only the heft of the sky’s larger frame.
Felling Bois d'Arc
Maybe in an untended angle of Eden
before we named bristle and barb,
their first seed swelled and set root.
God’s curse made them modern
and they sprouted thorns, leaned down,
and began protecting their strange secrets.
They leak warm milk blood when cut.
Ripped yellow wood splinters upward,
biting back at chain saw blade.
Graceless neither growing nor dropping,
they clutch the trees around them,
rending forest shade as they fall.
Just as problematic prone as standing,
they pierce hands and feet, granting
hours of pain from heartwood’s pure venom.
But they guard with pike and poison
only a crop mocking heavy grapefruit—
a kind of apple horses alone love.
The wood never rots; stumps uncovered
decades later could almost serve as anvils
on which to beat ploughshares into swords.
The Caddo’s stone axes smoothed limber bows
from the yellow wood long before railroads
employed it for ties, pavement stones and wheel stock.
Few craftsmen have the patience now to buff
limbs down to mellow finish or transform
the trees’ stubbornness into table and chairs.
Now mainly fence posts along county roads,
they twist from the plumb of any honest standard,
and elbow barbed wire across Texas fields.
Plunked in postholes and tamped tight with dirt,
they resist termites and other entropies.
Rootless, they rise again.
After fall, vision falters, but still the red-tail’s
white underwings trace the sky like a stylus.
Sharp-eyed, he scribes letters in quick language
untranslatable into our race’s worn tongue.
I lounge on my back in the dust and tired broom sage,
trying to decode this circumsolar calligraphy.
Rummaging my dialect, I hunt the proper spell
to bend his spirals down to my shoulder, unable
to find a voice to circumscribe such wide autonomy.
Hawk ends letter with relaxed gesture, sealing
the blue like an imperial signet pressing melted wax.
Dropping through provinces of cool air, he delivers
his message to a corn snake hunting rats of this realm.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Three Poems Accepted by Southwestern American Literature
Three of my latest poems published in Southwestern American Literature Review.