Baby Blue Eye

A SHORT STUDY OF BREATH

Once again, speckled towhees have returned,
the buckeye leaves rust-colored. You chose
to waste away and die and now
have less weight than the brittle leaves.

Once, among the larkspur and Chinese houses
in the shade near the creek, we inhaled the breath
of the flowers, and though
we seemed unable to do more

than return our breath, I thought
each breath was enough. I listen now
to my breath as a towhee, hopping
a little and eyeing me, rustles

dead leaves. Suddenly a huge animal
scrambles across dry leaves
in the creek bed: only a squirrel
that spirals up a tree.

Pounding Stone

__________

We rubbed stalks of rosin weed and held
our fingers to each other's nostrils,
inhaling deeply. Late summer, the air
opening a small slope in the brain

that flowered with ever-increasing
abundance, the neural energy shooting out
vines, panicles, corymbs, spikes, racemes, umbels--
burgeoning, blossoming, dying back

and supplanted, our breath taken in
by these creatures and given back
so tenderly and diffusely--no one yet ever
recording the impact from the breath

of this flora on people or vice versa. The year
my grandfather was mustard-gassed in France,
Native Americans were setting up their last
encampments in these hills. A hundred

and forty years or so after the Spanish
first wandered here, my father was shipped out
to Okinawa where he remained as Friant Dam
was constructed, altering forever

the flora and fauna on the valley floor,
the first firebombings causing great fire storms
that sucked oxygen from the air, incinerating
those caught in merciless winds. You proposed

a short study of breath before time finally
catches up to these hills. I proposed that, for
a decade or two, we watch the flora growing
on this small slope where the barbed wire fence

suddenly ends, before the subdivisions are dropped.
For the price of a stealth bomber, we would ensure
that numerous experimental subjects are healthy
and fed well enough to experience fully

the unspeakably lovely flora growing
in their own thoughts while they breath.
Then we would determine the exact
connection to us of all wild, breathing creatures.

Baby Blue Eyes and Goldfields near House Pits

__________

Thanks to you
I know when I'm close
to blue curl by its scent
and go down

on my knees
before the tough stalk
with tiny purple steer skulls
that shine like ribbons--

chanting blue curl,
blue curl, because
its breath summons a nearly
forgotten feeling,

one by which
I might know
you again
after all this time.

Memorial

__________

I have wanted to leave memorials
without wasting breath, perhaps
without any words at all--so many trying
to be forgotten. Instead

I leave everything at dusk
finding a clump with shining eyes
still by the road, certain
that it remains unseen,

suddenly flapping,
looping erratically
and vanishing
back into the earth.

Poppy Fire

__________

It rose above an ancient trail,
up a steep slope carpeted by pretty face
and tidy tips, nearly swallowed
by monkey flowers choking a spring,

strong enough to ruffle the fur
of a coyote next to Holland Creek. Long ago,
near that stream you had found peace, lost
in the invisible web spun by swallows

swooping around your head, so, as you wished,
it returned, swirling over a pounding stone,
into a mortar where you had found lizards
curled around a pestle, the ancient tribes gone

ages ago, your last breath still flowing
in countless veins
of lupine, fiddleneck, goldfields,
and squirrels, rabbits, bobcats....

Find a path back.
Find a long path.