Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Sudden Oak Death Syndrome

Down the long body of California,
ramalina drapes the dead shoulders of oaks
with her bent hair.

Lace lichen. It’s the color of sadness,
of rain that goes on for a long time,
of things fading into the distance.

Behind its veil ooze black
cankers of phytophthora ramorum.

We are in plague time now,
these dead too many to bury, shrouded
in lace the color of smog, fallen

like kindling over the stucco-colored hills,
behind dry lakebeds
where are tattooed the lost shapes of reeds.

Here I name them, the old friends:
live oak, scrub oak, white oak, black oak,
coffeeberry, huckleberry, buckeye, bay laurel,
rhododendron, manzanita, madrone, sequoia.

In the fires, even their roots will burn.

We leave our children a place with no eyelids.
They will die thirsty,
telling stories of our green shade.



Crow Teaches the Song of Himself

Crow Teaches the Song of Himself

I walk out into kelp-smell, clouds of swifts rising,
and one fine crow, taking, like me, the air.

Through striped poppies with orange flauntings
sulfur-colored mustard, wild tomatoes –

and here’s that one fine crow,
swanking down the path ahead of me.

Ah, how he is taken with himself!
How he knows he adorns the day!

For the whole sky rides in his blue-black feathers
and the sun of his yellow eye.

And I too swank – I too in his wake
loaf and stroll and glint my shining eyes

at a pack of truant gulls whooping and helling
round a squadron of portly pelican beadles

at leapfrog terns and peregrines
and small black-and-yellow bees in the lupine.

And I nod to right and left over my gleaming
shoulders, fine as this briny day.