Friday, March 22, 2013

Three Poems by Larry Crist

Return to Redwood Valley

Curiosity draws me back
thousands of days, hundreds of moons ago
That same sun-drenched heat
the same smells—a kind of dark baked licorice
infusing the redolent air with a sweet tang
of uneatable apples
Dragonfly descendants, cricket and butterfly ancestors
Slow moving green & blue-bottled flies, laze, buzz
weave through the pollenated air, as i crunch over
weeds, wild flowers, purple thistles, bits of broken
colored glass, concealing ancient patches of busted
asphalt and reclaimed concrete
from these trails we used to tread
38 years -- a fraction of a drop in the cosmological bucket
but long enough, apparently, to have erased all trace of
us, we who tore through our lives in dog and pony years
I sift through the tall dead grass, searching for Rosebud clues
Where did all those rotting trailers and car husks go? The large
spool tables, rusted appliances, stolen contraband, cassettes
and 8 track players, the million and one beer cans and whiskey
bottles we used to line up upon decrepit tilted fence posts and
execute with stolen rifles? Where did those horses go?
Or the fences that we used to perch on and watch the yellow
mountains fade in the brilliant sunny gloam?
The reaching oaks and tallest redwoods
high above, with us
so inconsequential in their sights?

Something stirs then within the thick walls of glistening poison oak
and i freeze to listen, thinking a deer will come bounding out, until
a definitive snort and snarl, brings the hair on my neck upright
and quickly, silently, i tip-toe back the way i came, recovering
from nostalgia, and ample slaughtering distance to where i left the
car, its windows open, a sandwich still on the back seat, a rekindling
of old forgotten terror
the kind we used to take to town
all those years ago

We nearly succeeded
in killing them off
Not the brightest of beasts
socially adept, bad eyesight
stampedes easily
ready to race off a cliff
or into a ravine
with its head as hard as a hood ornament
an ass barely in attendance
They like to rut and butt
romp and stomp and roam
saunter briskly through flower filled fields

Too lean of meat for caucasians
but all essential for the Indian
back when the west was being won
as so much was increasingly lost

Here in Yellowstone, where these beasts
are no smarter than anywhere else
they have no memory
of what a gun blast can do
and have lost their fear of us, and
ordinarily that is not good
but for now
it doesn’t matter
as they click and clack
across the asphalt
holding up
all the smiling traffic
it’s more than okay
as we fire away
getting one after another
with our digital cameras

this creature once so common
we have come so far to see

The Frenzy of the red berry
They appear en masse like some outlaw biker gang
descending like locusts, raining like toads, pelting the earth
like children spilling into the playground,
drunk and tumbling pie-eyed into the 2 a.m. dawn,
racing full throttle around the yard, swooping then flashing
in rust colored autumnal solidarity
Swoosh swoosh, they dive, their wings beat frantic like all existence hinged on it

Beating one another out as if embroiled in multidimensional chess
without deliberation, like huns chasing down the Sabine Women,
screaming, shrieking Aerial dynamos, daredevils, hot-dogging hotshots,
rebels without a pause
Engaged in some cosmic carte blanche ribbon cutting all-you-can-eat heat

Orbs of red clusters, vulnerable as testicles, bright like lanterns
beacons of temptation, picking them off in their yellow beaks
gorging greedily, ripping at ‘em like Promethean entrails, stealing and
resting their feathered corpulence on bobbing branches, hearts rapid-fire,
pitter-patter swallowing as they seize another and another, more and more

They are everywhere in a flash—20, 30. . .
hurtling and Hitchcockian, spinning, twirling like spastic lariats
dashing dipsomaniacal, magically avoiding collision
without yielding one feather of cartwheeling cocksurety

Four robins, i imagine to be the senior sages
splash, giddy and gaga in the concrete birdbath
the anchor of this hub
Wiser perhaps, fatter it seems, more mature, possibly, they vie for perspective
like old men with little hard-ons they cheer the youngsters on
splash and wade with uncontained zeal. The flurry of
berrymania, berrypalooza, berryphillia, filled with an insatiable gluttonous crimson
fed narcotic-fused, feather-stuffed, birdbracing ecstasy
these seniors shake their heads, pump their birdy fists, catch their reflective colors
splash with glee and rejuvenating joy, dip, flap, flutter, lowering their
bright plump bellies, displacing the brackish water, shake the wet from their wings
before rejoining the youngsters
Join or Die, and maybe join then die
in between which—fly fly. . .
And then it is over
as instantaneously as it began, as if some secret alarm had sounded
and they take to the greater elsewhere, the big blue, beating passage
returning the scene back to the calm that prevails
as the yard settles
beneath the yellowing maple and its stripped bare branches
its nearly fallen leaves, spinning twirling seeds, concluding
with bunches of untapped berry clusters
left behind like random booty from an interrupted robbery

The air reverberates with their departed energy
like a battlefield after the fact only no where near as sad
as a big sleepy orange tabby crawls out from under somewhere

This brave voyeur saunters out, watchful cautious, travels the seed
laden lawn, the crab grass, moss, clover, twigs, scattered berry husks
shell-shocked worms, nervous beetles. . .
leaps up upon the birdbath, sniffs the tainted water
does not drink
gazes philosophically into the sky
then continues on, disappearing slowly
into the dying azaleas and fallen foxglove

Larry Crist lives in Seattle and is originally from California, mostly and specifically Humboldt County. He has also lived in Chicago, Houston, London and Philadelphia where he attended Temple U, receiving a useless MFA in theatre arts. He has been widely published.

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