Friday, October 28, 1983

WINTER DOLMEN Only have Napa workshoped copies, not final v.


I.  The old horse trails have merged back into the brush
becoming interlaced with the newer deer trails—
a netting thrown over the steep hillside.

The humanness of my scent 

will divert the night's deer 
and they will weave another path around my trespass.

The ground is bathed in red leaves.
At the Rock, I sit and watch bluejays dive
over rounded shapes of live oaks.
As they follow the shape of the tree down in their dive
breasting the top of the tree,
they sculpt the air along its side.

At the switchbacks,my mare would stop to catch her breath,
her soft nostril flaring, her softer eye blinking.
Sometimes I rode her down from the top of the hill
sometimes I ran on ahead of her.

At the switchbacks, her strong front legs would lock, pivot and turn
as the momentum of her hind end swung around
widening each turn. Sometimes, in my dreams I see her 

roaming free in the hills.
Now all that's left are subtle ridges hidden in the brush.
The foot finds a surer path even as the undergrowth 

beats back the body.

II.  From the steep height of the Rock, 

I take mental notes. Measurements without numbers, 
angles without degree or scale
and compare it with the sheer cliffs of Yosemite.
As a teenager, I hung out over the edge 

of El Capitán without safety ropes. 
This rock juts out with the same purpose. 
My legs dangle down into lush green space. 
Below my feet, civilization falls back 
revealing toy houses, woodpiles and cars 
scattered in the folds of the hills,
looking off into this vastness, the word becomes smaller.

III.  I always wanted to be a red-tailed hawk
because I understood how the curve of its beak matched
the symmetry of its talons.
When I fed the injured one yellowed chicken necks
the hawk's beckoning eye approved of the shape 

of its cousin's puckered neck.
After the meal, the hawk sharpened its talons
waiting to carve my cheek to fall away like softened butter.
I turn the other cheek too late.

IV.  The deer cross the burned clearing,
their coats the same shade as the burned grass stubble.
In the charred landscape, the movement of white legs
pinpointed against the grass
are like reverse shadows cast by a negative.
In the tall grass their legs cast no shadow.
Their backs dark against the gold.

 On the slopes of Mt. Barnabe, 
crocheted to the flanks and gullies, 
trees leave gold meadows encircled like jewels. 
The trees hid the Indian graveyard. 
My grandfather knew where it was hidden 
but refused to tell anyone, saying, 
they needed their place of the dead, too. 

I spent years in those wooded folds
searching for stone altars and moss covered ribs.
Under the soft bleached bones I thought I'd find
dark garnets winkling slowly in the mottled light.
Instead, great rib bones of Herefords pushed up through the rocks
along the dry creekbeds. Tufts of hair, sinew and gristle--
dried clean, hard like amber.

I'm still trying to follow the old paths.
My feet remember smoother paths but the newer trails
are clogged with the detritus of fallen trees.
The god I believe in allows me to measure
the free fall of a bluejay's dive, the height of a hill,
the color of grass.

Paths, like river packed with log-jams during spring thaw.
Living on the edge of this winter dolmen
is like the crisp wind blowing off fallen snow.
The years are the true movers of paths.

(an earlier draft–the final version was corrupted, no final hard copy. See below.)