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California Hills in August


I can imagine someone who found

these fields unbearable, who climbed

the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,

cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,

wishing a few more trees for shade.


An Easterner especially, who would scorn

the meagerness of summer, the dry

twisted shapes of black elm,

scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape

August has already drained of green.


One who would hurry over the clinging

thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,

knowing everything was just a weed,

unable to conceive that these trees

and sparse brown bushes were alive.


And hate the bright stillness of the noon

without wind, without motion.

the only other living thing

a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended

in the blinding, sunlit blue.


And yet how gentle it seems to someone

raised in a landscape short of rainó

the skyline of a hill broken by no more

trees than one can count, the grass,

the empty sky, the wish for water.


                                    Dana Gioia



From Daily Horoscope, Graywolf Press,

© 1986. Reprinted by permission of the author.

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