Wednesday, September 4, 2019

How The World was Made 8: Redwood Country

Leading up to the
Global Climate Strike (September 20-27)
I’m posting poems
& Bits & Bobs
about The Climate Catastrophe
Throughout the Month of September. 

Celebrations of the Beauty/Terror of the Natural World,

Rants against the Fossil Fuel Economy 
& Human Insanity & Greed,

The Surreal & The Irreal,

Facts & Prophecy,

You Name It…
First up is a prose poem thing from  
How the World was Made.

It was written years ago. Everything, 
including the vision at the end, happened, 
as is.


Redwood Country

Every thirty miles or so there’s a sideshow carnival of redwood sculptures for sale: bears on their hind legs, roaring; solemn Indians with war bonnets imitating a Hollywood film; cowboys on horses, holding their hats high above their heads. Crocodiles, pelicans, fat Buddhas – all sitting in sawdust, expectant as Christmas trees, waiting to be bought by a passing tourist. If you bought an Indian in a war bonnet, tomahawk raised, where would you put it? 


We came across numerous falls that sliced down erosion gullies overgrown with fern and fallen trunks (all blood red, smoothed to stone). In some places, water poured across the trail, down a steep slide of sharp rock to a creek far below, making its way to the Eel River. The river emptied itself into the sea. And the sea, the sea was emptying her contents into our dreams. Thick-jowled creatures swam around our naked bodies while we slept. Phosphorescent lanterns bobbed at the end of long antennae. Each night, after they were through playing with us, they said a few words and made us disappear.



Reading the Sac Bee editorial about the revelations of The Drone Papers in the Weott post office parking lot: “In one operation in northeastern Afghanistan from January 2012 to February 2013, only 35 of more than 200 people killed were the intended targets, the documents indicate.” I immediately thought of the man behind the counter at the chip shop in Swansea who’d asked me where I was from. When I said “The U.S.” his eyes filled with hatred. He was from Iraq. Baghdad. My country had dropped bombs on his family. They were dead. An entire family wiped out. He had fled, a refugee. I never went back to that shop again.


In front of a huge waterfall – fallen slick-trunks and sliding pearls of air-in-water – the cold air tasted like shreds of red bark distilled at the bottom of a clear pool. Yin-teeth, moon-quills. How find the name for such a place? All true names must have some relation to how that place is interwoven with its surroundings. To name is to name the connections.


A group of young redwoods, hundreds of feet high, made a circle around their fallen mother. Most of the downed trunk had become forest floor. I put my forehead to one of the standing trees: there was something traveling inside the trunk, like the ocean from an empty shell. It had been traveling for centuries; ripples spreading through loam, fern, sponge-like bark, swelling from nowhere, passing through me, ring after ring.


Vertigo from a raven’s cry.


At the end of the trail, edge of the Eel river, strange spiders hopped out from the underside of the rocks, mimicking beach crabs. The water was so cold it made our jaws clench every time we dipped our feet in. We made a bet: whoever skipped a stone all the way across the river wouldn't have to make dinner. I found the perfect stone; knew I had won as soon as I picked it up. Seven skips over the surface and it rang against the pebbles on the opposite bank. Score! Did I help with dinner anyway? No.


Heading south, towards San Francisco, I glanced down into a mist-hung river gorge. I thought: “Condensation above the river.” At the same time, I thought: “The spirit of the river.” This wasn’t some New Age ephemeral wraith that was separate from the river, that would live on after the river died – that old separation of body and mind – but spirit rising from actual breath. Matter and spirit, inseparable. Then I saw the whole valley erupt in flame and I jerked back from the window, instinctively closing my eyes. When I opened my eyes again, the flames were gone. 

(Previously published in Hanging Loose Magazine)

Please Listen

No comments:

Post a Comment