Saturday, August 15, 2009

Landscape as the Latest Diet (Southern California)

Instead of butter, the ten a.m. light of June
on Little Island, masts blending the mist
until it clarifies into nothing.

Instead of salt, the sand beneath
Balboa pier, cool even in July, trimmed
with wrack and empty cans, the blue haze of spray
and breeze between the pilings.

Instead of bread, the violet stains
on the sidewalks of South Pasadena, the jacarandas,
their small cry tuned to rhyme the sky.

Instead of eggs, the foothills under smog, the sage
and scrub oak browned by drought
and the tick of ozone in the air.

Instead of meat, the arroyo at sunrise, the gray
inside gray and tulle fog and
coyote, coyote bouncing down
the deer trail, a pigeon in its mouth.

Instead of sugar, the date palms along
the dry wash gathering wind
in their fronds for the hourly reprimand,
an endless hush.

Instead of wine, the smell of oranges
and ocean water, the smoke
of smudge pots before dawn.

Instead of supper, the song of bells
in the harbor, the seals draped
over buoys like fat uncles on the furniture.

And everyone at ease in the middle distance, in repose.
And the meal, like memory, a cure
for nothing but hunger, but forgetting.

-James Harms