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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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