Childhood Hymn Without Music
native grasses (unworthy of names, I guess):
the prickly pews above a red clay floor;
my first church was
on the other side of the backyard gate
On still days, it was hot,
filled with complaint,
but the hymn of the wind
was near constant—
in flow out flow—
fed by an ocean ten miles distant
and a desert
fifty miles over a blurred ridge of mountain.
My first faiths:
in the cool afternoon breeze,
in winter rains, and
in spring after spring:
the miracle of life, shelter,
sanctuary, contact with
what I would learn to call
I was lonely,
but never alone:
rocks, dirt, weeds, insects, birds,
the sudden burst of a jackrabbit from the sagebrush….
were my accompaniment.
All I needed was a psalm
to explain this companionship.
Old enough that mysteries unsolved
do not grieve me at the edge of a soft night;
drifting moonlight calls no thought from me
of desire or romance.
In darkness, the junipers
lose their stunted posture,
and blend into star shadow.
I never learned the names of stars,
can no longer hear owl or coyote
(or the startled cry of their prey).
Old enough, I find comfort
in the moon's glow on red dirt,
but still cannot sleep:
another shadow under fading stars.
First came the rain,
a rain that would last for days,
and then came the cold.
I don’t remember any snow,
but I remember the mice came next.
I heard them at first,
a discordant song in the walls,
under the floor.
Then I smelled them:
the odor of wild piss,
followed by the stench
of dead meat. There was silence, briefly,
before the flies appeared, lots of them.
I was stuck inside my house
in the next rain,
that would also last for days;
trapped inside, with flies.
Then, it was dead flies.
Everything went back