Because the Dirt Here is Poor
… It’s important you know
I drove Highway 50 from the Great Basin
… through the Sierras
back to the San Joaquin imagining the earth
… cradled in the shovel’s jaw.
It’s important you know the story of my trespass,
… how in a stranger’s
untilled field somewhere outside Sacramento,
… I spent the dead hour
filling the back of my truck with soil from the valley
… of my birthplace
to bring back to the empty-raised beds I’m building
… in the high desert.
It’s important you know I did this to grow something
… worth the earth’s time,
and so you know all that’s left of me in California
… is the shape of a grave,
and I stole even the soil to fill it in.
We May Clear the Land but What Lives There Remains
I could already see the severed head
beside the body’s constant writhing,
could already see the birds’ shadows
cutting their circle over the bare earth
where the slender, scaly darkness grew
in each furrow, and you found me there,
shovel raised in that blind instinctual fear
ready to ruin, and we both knew it then,
standing in the rows of haphazard green
tomatoes and lettuce, that neither of us
could cure our hunger for the world,
for others, because we had no roots to tether
us to this place. Exile, we used to say
back then, it was something of a totem
we carried under our tongues, rolling
it around in our mouths, heavy as a stone,
as a wafer of ecstasy dissolving under
our split tongues wanting anything to pull
us to somewhere outside ourselves,
an old air plane hangar, or warehouse,
broken beats giving way to deep trance
that familiar four on the floor thumping
through the flashes of intelligent lights
as we danced side by side, yet separate,
alone, following the music till morning
where you pulled off your stockings
like snake skins caught in the dry grass.
That should have been warning enough
along with those headless tails we failed
to grasp, slick as new scales, sliding
away from us into the thick brush
where the sun lay broken and quivering
on the ground like light from a disco ball.
Snake, we said, and wondered at all
the abstractions we placed there. Garden,
we muttered, and it was almost too much
in the fever blush of that cold blooded,
sun-soaked fear as my hands held the shovel
before its chore until I lowered it slowly
to let the snake swell fat with sun, which makes
this now about ignoring that instinct,
our constant impulse for more, more music,
more flesh, more pill-blue nights, and that morning
you knew it, so you followed those headless
tails into the under growth, while I stayed
in the darkening furrows, scratching
at my old skin that reddened, as it tightened
under the sharp, summer heat.
Plums as Chinese Lanterns
After dinner you light a cigarette
in the last remaining slant of sun.
The smoke twisting above your mind
is something opening its wings.
The dog and I watch you through
the glass door. I’m trying to find
a new word for sorry, trying to say,
lit-fruit in the growing beetle-dark.
I’m trying to remove language’s
leash, but the plum tree behind you
keeps saying, Chinese lanterns.
Saying, soft glow, then the dog clicks
her paws against the glass. The dog
wants out. The dog wants in.
Lindsay Wilson, an English professor in Reno, Nevada, has co-edited The Meadow since 2006. His first book is No Elegies, and his poetry has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Verse Daily, The Missouri Review Online, among others. He is currently the poet laureate of Reno.