Thursday, March 17, 1988

Steve Torre Workshop, Mark West School Poem fragments


I remember finding charge stumps
still glowing with red eyes.
I had no way of knowing
if they had been smoldering
from a recent burning,
or if they had kept a fiery vigil
all those years
long after the loggers were gone.


in the morning sun
we watched the old guys
split the cedar shakes
Turn the stump
Turn it again turn
To keep the grain even, he said
The sweat drizzled his whiskered cheeks,
And I sank deeper into the lake.

Like loggers we rolled the logs
below Shafter Dam in the greening pond.

Have you ever noticed the fields by the coasts
punctuated with charred stumps?
Machines with spiked teeth
stripped the bark from trees
as if they were made of eggshell,
instead of wood.

I abandoned my own farm
and a friend runs cattle there now.
The horses they chewed on the barn
until it fell back into the earth.
Unseasonable sawdust
and the mare, Binty choking on that splinter.
Poetic karma.

long shadows of barns
straddle the thin peninsula 
from Tomales Bay to the Pacific 

On Tomales Head 
walking along the windswept land 
the lonely whitewashed barns 
cattle and rocks grazing 
on the windswept grass 

We are losing a landscape of culture
look to your place in the landscape 
your childhood 

I never found the wilderness 
though I spent five years looking for it 
until I realized I was looking for my lost childhood.

What I've lost is like a Kodak snapshot 
with its off blues and deep reds of the 50s 
my mother's carmine lipstick, 
the floral skirt that later became pillows for the couch

People living solitary lives 
personal history 
skin changing imagine

Along the windswept land
solitary whitewashed barns
rocks and cattle grazing
on the matted grass.

Long shadows of barns
straddled the thin peninsula
from Tomales Bay to the Pacific.

Families nailed row after row
of abalone shells to the sides of barns,
not realizing they were finite.
My aunt remembers how the car,
lost in the fog, was also nearly lost
to the sea on Tomales Point.

The horses would chew the sides of the barn
until its back broke and fell back into the earth,
broken spine and unseasonable sawdust
the final splinters lodged in the gray mare's throat
fell her as well.

Schools of tule elk
the extraordinary curve of horn
a coyote pelt nose down on the wall

Our shadows watered the sawdust
our eyes all bloodshot
our hearts like a blast of wheat
through the clear ribs of morning
light sank through my body
like alder and pine
and sheep biting the red clay
as the huge cable snapped
gutting the darkness
 and I saw the sun standing
in a pool of ravens

there is no bridge in Hayfork
the big bowl of the Valley
is surrounded by mountains.


Stephen Torre workshop