Highway 395

        One hundred and twelve miles
of road sways along 
or snaps straight its yellow lines 
pointing at the next ridge.
Four cars;
one old truck full of hay that unhesitatingly passes us at full speed,
one hugely oversized, chrome-splashed,
RV towing an SUV,
escorted by three fat motorcycles.
        And this:
We float over low hills laid like 
bare fingers 
across the soft palm of spring.
We zigzag up a knuckle then
wind down tree-lined, creek-fed valleys
in the web of the fingers.
Below us, each wide plain
something new and simple.
The tender, too thin, skin of the earth 
supports low flying clouds of yellow wildflowers
and islands of grey-green sage and olive coyote bush. 
Decayed wooden posts hold sagging, rusting, barbed wire.
They stand along the road like 
half stifled exclamation marks.
We pass through a cattle ranch;
acres uniformed in tall green grass 
rolling like a golf course 
or flat like a pool table, 
where shiny black cattle wade up to their chests
in food,
eight balls, scattered around after a good break.
The ornate gates leading 
from one pasture to another 
are tied open by climbing roses and matted weeds.
A vague band of mud clods and manure 
cross 395 to another open gate,
another pool table filled with invisible cows.
        The land, pale and distant,
blends into the pale blue, soft air.
Overhead, the sky is cobalt blue as if the atmosphere was so thin
satellites can look down on the line of highway
as if looking over the rim of a dry well.
        The clouds are a stage set.
They grow on the left and shrink on the right,
decked out to give the illusion of
perspective and depth.
        The clouds are the dust kicked up by the feet of 
a herd of horses once seen galloping West.
        Ahead, an alkaline lake. (Lake Abert)
An eye-burning white line thrust beyond a
tumble of dark red-brown rocks.
The water, a line between the white shores,
sharp and shiny as a shard of glass.
The high row of perfect white and grey puffs 
is mirrored there.
An abstract painting of silence and waiting.
A superlative reflected by a superlative.
        It could still be morning
The air is cool and clear and still.
A small bird whistles and flits 
from one low bush to another.
        I am the day on the edge of my seat.
I am the greedy eye, taking it, 
bringing it all home like a thief,
and leaving it in Oregon
permanent 
like a cloud.

Lake Shastina, February 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Mountain

My eyes are numb with sleep.
I struggle to understand the cold fog
of conversation coming from the distant kitchen;
something about coffee and eggs.

From the 20 foot high window, Mt. Shasta grabs me;
The mountain is golden, pink,
then lavender and cobalt,
then gray and black.
Everything is multiplied
in the black gloss of the lake below,
smudged by dull streaks of ice.

Snow crystals stripped off the top of the mountain
by silent, distant wind
catch the silver of sunrise,
form and faint at the mountain top
hoops of light and snow flying,
lace
or feathers,
a halo.

You know it’s cold up there,
the stubborn wind blasting the
snow skyward,
chaffing the mountain bare.

Sit in the warmth,
drink the coffee,
leave the ice in the camera for later.

Wild Geese

The wild geese on the island
walk up a rocky
slide into the black trees-
like old ladies clutching shopping bags
climbing the steep stairs of a bus,
complaining aaIMG_0211bout bum knees.

 

Nine Bald Eagles

Seven of them were spattered brown youths
hunched on a patch of lake ice
like old men bundled in rag-wool coats,
and two were perfect, gold-coin adults,
white helmets, bright yellow feet, floor to ceiling wings.
They glide, stall, swoop, pump,
beat the cold, still air-
kites without enough wind
wings flapping like sheets of newspaper
claws skittering across the ice.aIMG_0209

Canvasback ducks, thousands of them,
swim and chatter on the lake,
flashes of black and white as
they dip and flutter on the surface.
Their voices blending into uproar instead of birdsong,
a cloud of flickering emotions and games –
the chaos of a crowded school yard.
The eagles cruise the line of ducks
their down-beat ruffling the water.
The ducks keep feeding,
flicking water at each other, drifting out of the way,
nudging against the edges of the ice.
They spread away from the eagles
as if parted by a puff of wind.

Then, sudden screaming,
the ducks run across the water with a single mind
and collect at the edge of the ice,
climbing each other’s backs
flapping madly.
This is life or death, but why?

An otter materializes in the harsh black water
for just a moment
then submerges.