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.