no poem. not once. recluse, unqualified.
mother. I can’t hold only one vision of you, much as I think trying to be single minded.
Llagas creek, near where you grew up, beside a road ready to leap into the western valley hills, more scrub and oak and red-skinned Manzanita. a scent my body recognizes as home, no matter what.
green spring grass rushing head-long into dry brown summer fleece. should I apologize. no, I don’t.
a small graveyard in my hometown. far far days older than me. so many unfaced stones who aren’t even stories to me.
gravel, dirt, stone, concrete, iron. all things being unmoving now. we hear our silent steps when we walk. a couple conversations I could wish to resume.
a large old house standing above the ground. but even it won’t stand still in my memory. it too goes back farther than my reach. although what I see now, you’d probably see them too as ghosts.
high stairs to the coat room, behind a front door. unlocked (I forget when).
matching East side stairs given way, becomes a screen enclosed small room for grandmother’s plants. the place, sitting on a stool, where I ate my very first-in-life-ever grilled cheese sandwich. obviously, memorable.
my great uncle’s shed. for tools. for memories. for bottles of old nails removed from salvaged planks, hammered, bent right again, sorted by size, enclosed in glass with a lid. where he taught me, how to fill the spaces between hammers and saws, beginning with wood. old farmers practical thoughts. this is how we eat the land.
someday none of this would be mine, because it was forever his, even if he didn’t know it was. I loved him all the while. he sheltered me in his thoughts. kindness, kindness. no ordinary man.
shape shifting. really, it’s real. sometimes it means, right next door. that’s where we were moving to. mother and me, fifty feet farther West.
in between was a driveway made of grass, a line of three plum trees, ripe. I’d climb onto the roof to pick all the high fruit within my reach. Summer, plums were soft to the touch, sweet, past my lips. many never made it off the roof.
at night. in the dark. beneath the sheets of my bed. scratching on the bottom of the floor. mother possum attending to her kids. I met her once outside in the dark. she was not glad, meeting me. jaw opened, a hiss rolled out like a tongue.
big old English walnut tree claimed half of the back backyard. long arms reaching out, dropping leaves too acidic for anybody else to be taking root. strength came from a black walnut trunk, more sturdy than the grafted tops, rough like broken skin. farm folk who studied herding trees. bags and bags of walnuts gathered every year. a certain reluctance left behind.
uncle Robert, the youngest of grandmother’s boys. not like the rest of us, not a farmer, not even a seed. rather, an artist and adventurer. me, too young to be his friend. then he went away. no one said where. he would have been a right father to me, but no. no return.
a half-sister I only know from photographs. beautiful. olive skin, long dark braids. early wishing learned.
this is how a bird builds its nest, thread by thread. who would have ever guessed this result this far away. not me.
all this is dangerous, remembering.
but I keep remembering, is my life not poem enough.
If a life could own another life –
a wolf a deer, a fish a bird,
a man a tree – who would
exchange a life with me?
Dark in the forest a path
goes down, soft as moss
a voice comes on: my hand
on bark, my stilled face alone –
Then water, then gravel, then stone.
William Stafford, Identities
image: Llagas Creek is a perennial stream in Santa Clara County, California. The headwaters rise near Loma Prieta, from there flowing northeast till reaching Uvas Road, then turning south. The creek passes through Chesbro Reservoir and the cities of Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. Continuing southward it joins with the Pajaro River (meaning bird in Spanish), which eventually flows into Monterey Bay.
credit: Wikimedia Commons, Wahn, View of Llagas Creek from bridge on Oak Glen Ave in Morgan Hill, California. Photo taken March 28, 2017.
pronunciation guide. If unfamiliar with Spanish words & names, a double-L is given a “Y” sound, so Llagas is pronounced like “Yagas”.
4 thoughts on “real living thoughts”
Beautiful & powerful.
Two words of yours, one, really. Cindy, undisguised, gratitude. Thank you.
Technical difficulty (boring), but leaves short right now. Fingers crossed, this message will do as should.
Those worlds are always somewhere inside us waiting to spill out. (K)
Thank you Kerfe. A reasonable way to express the process, as you said.