Breezy golden light
on the mountain.
Breath by breath,
you climb the rope
of listening and vision
down into the valley,
where the pine-tree
people have already
slipped into a tall,
swaying sleep, while
(in their slim shadows)
the grass people lean,
whispering their most
sacred story: how bleak
this valley was before
their ancestors sailed
an ocean of wind
into its barren folds.
Your ancestors came
from Germany via Ukraine,
from Ireland and Scotland.
Dirt farmers, mostly,
mostly half-assed about it,
buying rocky ground (sight
unseen, but cheap), then
trundling west in Conestogas,
iron-jawed women birthing
and burying along the trail.
Wherever they settled, they’d
one day head to town and glare
into a lens for a family portrait.
What can you buy with joy,
their lampblack eyes would ask,
on this enemy Earth?
Here where Arapaho and Ute
hunted deer in summer, cut poles
for tents, told sacred stories—here
your people platted cramped parcels,
hammered cabins out of scabrous
pine logs, so that moneyed types
could flee the flatland swelter
and odious foreign laborers. Then:
1929. At big desks of burnished oak,
ruined men pressed pistol barrels
to their heads, leaving only a stench
of saltpeter and scorched pomade.
Soon the elite sanctuary’s gates
were flung wide to almost anyone
with cash. If not for those shattered
Easy Street fortunes, there’d be no
you pondering these pines, that grass,
that ginger-furred fox, that Taoist
flash of a magpie into the leafy brush.
Why this melancholy, then? You grasp
the meaning of your past, the present
with its evening sun bleeding down
beyond the ridge. No stories here
mention you. But true to your class,
you keep on dreaming of being let in.
Despite its swiftness, the current’s clear.
Grass weaves and unravels under the water.
Fish congregate among cottonwood roots
along the bank, swapping ancient tales
of Heraclitus as a boy—how he liked
to splash all alone in the murky shallows.
Out toward the middle, insect shadows
flicker over sunken plazas of sand.
How refreshing to walk there! But don’t
step in unless you mean to get soaked:
the creek floor’s further down than it looks.
Besides, big stones have shouldered up
here and there, sturdy enough to cross
over on. Instead, you linger. The interplay
of shade and sun-gleam’s mesmerizing,
and you love how the water seems to share
the secrets you need at this very moment,
while saving the rest to tell further on.
Field Notes Concerning the Bomb
The bald, jug-eared foreign policy expert advocates bombing Tehran.
The ex-Director of Mossad wants to bomb Beirut or Damascus, or both.
The CEO of Raytheon aims to grow the lucrative cluster bomb market.
The audience enjoys hooting and jeering when the stand-up comic bombs.
The gamer whoops when the dusky bomber explodes in a cloud of red pixels.
When Wile E. Coyote gets bombed to ash, the toddler cries, “Beep beep!”
The Sudanese med student wants to bomb the arrogant Danish cartoonist.
The talk radio fanatic suspects his neighbor’s gardener of planting a bomb.
The born-again President dreams of cramming a bomb up the Devil’s ass.
The émigré poet begs Jesus to bomb the dictator who raped her voice.
The pilot bombs a mud-brick hovel, then flies off above the ascending dust.
Glimpsing himself in a lobby mirror, the Jakarta Hilton bomber hesitates.
Its builders, dealers, devotees and victims mean nothing to the bomb.
The bomb needs nothing and desires nothing—not even to explode.
Anti-Buddhas: each bomb’s awakening makes even emptiness suffer.