Behind their voices I hear the sky. It moves patiently but briskly, the way a deep river flows but is glass. I feel the depth of the soil; I feel its color waiting in the darkness. I follow it to the hill, weaving between the gray-night grasses, the rabbitbrush, the sage. At the top, the clouds have moved over the stars. The wind carries something empty. It is a good emptiness; the emptiness of oceans and redwood trees, of wide, old, ancient places where silence still exists. I can imagine myself alone here, standing among the sagebrush, their roundness, their whispered company. I can imagine the sky bending around me, the heat of fear and stillness in my chest.
I wait at the bus stop, in the grass, as the cars scuff by. There is a hint of sunset behind the road, behind the skyscrapers, and the houses feel empty as dawn. In this moment I look up. Three turkey vultures circle each other; they dance like kites, smooth, their shadows lengthening, their features charcoal-dark, existing only in silhouette.
We walk in the time before sunset. “River,” we ask. “River,” we call. The air smells of sagebrush, that fresh after-rain perfume. We don’t see the rain but the wind speaks of it– the warmth it holds, the velvet-soil fragrance, the red paintbrush and wild peas. “River,” we sing above the wind-flow and the slow-moving clouds. Look, river stones, smoothly tumbled, the same red-pink and green-blue of the horizon. The water runs fast. It is the color of dandelion pith. If we stand still enough we begin to drift. The river untangles into a placid stream, slowing, slowing, until it is the stillest place on Earth. It is us–we are moving, faster than the curve of the Earth, faster than the sky. “River,” we say, but he can’t hear us anymore.
A jar full of shells.
A beeswax candle.
A jellyfish captured in glass.
A paper lantern from Seattle;
its cranes, yellow, splashed by the sea.
Dried lavender in a vase,
the flowers still purple,
the stems both brittle and damp.
A carved wooden owl.
A Himalayan salt lamp.
A carton of pencils made to look like branches.
A coconut purse from Hawaii,
unused, made only for the shelf.
Two rows of snow-globes,
all from a different country or states,
a collection begun in elementary school.
blue and bone-yellow and worn-away pink;
shake it, and you can hear the ocean.
How soft the rain sounds,
like pebbles flushed through a stream,
click, and click, then all at once, like the inside of a wave as it breaks,
polyphony, the voices and their colors.
the shifting powders of soil, the ants and pill bugs drowned in soup-like puddles,
the robins warmly puffed up, their eyes crossed and glinted as they stare east,
at the corner above the fence
where the sun will be.
They stretch long;
the wings of birds pulsed up in flight,
silhouettes positioned on rust,
orange as the backs of deer, sunlight quietly waiting.
With each step the rocks are new
Pink sunset, blue distance, pale but not brittle
Against all my judgement I have the feeling that the rocks are alive
We all move in the sun
Naked, curled trees; one smooth branch of juniper in a slot canyon
Raven on the sandstone gluck-gluck-click
I am not alone here
You never loved the water more.
You blink at the stream and feel that you are home,
but even the cottonwoods are darker, and carry the bulk of firs.
The stream is not so shaded that you can’t see your reflection
and the naked mountain behind your head.
This is your great river now; this is your shore;
that is what you think, in the quiet above the shallow waters, and because of that, you are home.
I am the one who glides; where the air has become cold–that is what I call the sky, and I stay below it, among the shadow-birds, and at nightfall we slow, so the wind moves faster than us, a silken pulse that bristles our feathers, that carves away the shadow-birds until they are the spray of the sea, and when I am alone in something gray and boundless, I look to the shore, and the sky, and I see the birds again, but this time they are not shadow, they are light, and I am glad not to be alone again.
There is a certain wind that comes off the water; a wind that smells like rain as it’s drying; peach-colored mist on wood or pavement. Something, yes, remarkably dry, wrapped in all the smoothness of water, like roots beneath the earth, bundled and secret. This wind is new in its ancientness, like it may have lain undiscovered for thousands of years, stunningly silent, a black and white television on mute, unstirred except by the airbeats of robins–until now. This wind that carried the first rains to the lifeless oceans, this wind that now rises with the chill of the creek, is so distinct, and so instinctual that when you turn a corner and hear nothing, and see nothing, but feel that wind, you know immediately that there is water nearby, and, without thinking, you run to it.