|Oct/Nov 2002 • Poetry • Special Feature|
Not Concerning Rain
After four years of drought
The few snakes at Toothache Spring
Cannot venture far from the meager grass
Which lines the trickle of water from a rusty tank
Forced into the minority of everything;
Their lives, meager prey, scattering of rocks
Both depend on and define their imprisonment
They will not be rescued by any means.
They will not wander off. There are Eagles.
All the hikers will of course
Be compelled to sit under the single tree,
An elaborate bonnet against the Sun since
The early settlers were confined to
The Santa Fe Trail, unable to stray from
The wagon tracks even for an afternoon.
In the dizzy heat we can still hear
Echoes of the clang and crack as
They rolled the piano off the wagon,
As they decided on fewer blankets,
We have snacks and drinks
And wet bandannas in the shade
The Prairie Rattler coils in the heat
And aims itself at the presumptive
People, alive and dusty, warm as mice.
I could tell them he is there
But they would startle and raise dust
Instead I point at the old wagon ruts
And talk vaguely of the permanence
Of hard things, hard times, of scars of people.
Leaning on the tree trunk eating small things
An occasional raisin or cashew falls to the ground
Not food for a snake, it will lie for years
Until it is as much a desiccant as everything
Near an ancient tree and furrowed ground.