“Academy Cemetery,” “D. H. Lawrence Ranch,” “A Eucalyptus Grove, South of San Juan Batista on Highway 101”

“Academy Cemetery,” “D. H. Lawrence Ranch,” “A Eucalyptus Grove, South of San Juan Batista on Highway 101”


Photo by Anna Seeley on Unsplash

Academy Cemetery

Academy, California

Valley oak

And rolling grasslands

All wildflowers in the spring

Dotted with graves

Backed up to the foothills

Blue mountain peaks

Uplifted behind them.

A grove of willows

Near the creek,

Gather sweet music

In the northwest wind.

Where Mendocino Avenue

Forks at Dry Creek

North of Tollhouse Road,

An arroyo lost in the sand.

Two rock and cement pillars

Are the signposts

Holding up the metal gates.

The Academy Cemetery,

Orderly burial sites

Of the local ancestors,

Generations of pioneers

Engaged in raising cattle.

Many of the founders

Have ornate metal fences.

Most headstones are crafted

Of black Academy granite,

Quarried a mile away.

Families who could not

Come up with the money

For marble or granite,

Wooden grave markers

Burned in the wildfires.

I came here once with a girl

Intent on making love

In the shade of an enormous tree

When no one was around.

She brought a blanket.

Unusual, but not unheard of,

A picnic in a graveyard.

D. H. Lawrence Ranch

1924, the 160-acre “Kiowa” Ranch was a trade

Between Mabel Dodge Luhan and Freida Lawrence

for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers.

Freida, D. H., and Dorothy Brett,

Settled at the ranch on Lobo Mountain,

With hopes of building a utopian society.

The married couple lived in the big house,

Brett lived in the small log cabin,

At 8,600 feet elevation in the piñyon forest.

Located eighteen miles north of Taos,

On State Route 522, the Arroyo Honda Road,

Four miles from the gate.

In 1930, after Lawrence died in France,

He was buried near Vence.

Freida sent her Italian lover,

Angeló Ravagli, to exhume, cremate,

and return with Lawrence’s ashes.

It took nearly two years.

Freida and Ravagli then

Built a memorial shrine to Lawrence,

Up the hill behind the house.

A white plastered building, 12 by 15-feet,

Small altar, statue of the phoenix,

An industrial pulley over the door.

Mabel Dodge Luhan and Dorothy Brett

Wanted to spread his ashes over the ranch.

Freida dumped the remains in the cement

Used to make the chapel’s altar,

A concrete cube in the heart of the chantry

With Lawrence’s initials painted on it.

Freida is buried to the left

Of the steep path to the shrine.

After her death, Ravagli divulged

He dumped Lawrence’s remains overboard,

Returning by ship to the U.S., to avoid taxes

On the ashes, substituting it for dirt.

A Eucalyptus Grove, South of San Juan Batista on Highway 101

On both sides of Freeway 101,

in a wide section, east of Cannon Road

at the 101 Livestock Market,

a hundred miles south

of the city of San Francisco

in the Gabilan mountain range,

West of Mission San Juan Baptista,

on the El Camino Real,

in a broad segment of freeway

(where Highways 101 and 156 meet),

this is California.

The foggy regions near the coast,

in a large Eucalyptus tree grove

towering and fully-leafed,

steeply forked limbs

with patchy and partial shade.

This is California,

the Pacific Ocean, west of Moss Landing,

and the crescent of Monterey Bay.

A place for lovers,

Orson Wells and Rita Hayworth

driving through eucalyptus trees

south in a long convertible,

San Francisco to Hollywood.

Her red hair blowing,

all smiles and in love.

To the cliffs of Big Sur

where he built her a house on the rocks

they would never visit.

Where Jimmy Stewart, and radiant Madeleine,

Kim Novak, drive through the trees,

the Mission, and imaginary bell-tower.

To replay a love scene of obsession once more.

The slow-hand of fog finds its way upward,

In light, and the dark leafy trees.

The road young Benjamin Braddock drove

at high speeds north through the trees

in a convertible Alpha-Romeo to Berkeley

pursuing love and the beautiful Elaine Robinson,

dark eyed, chestnut-haired and herself in love.

This is California.

About the Author

Stephen Barile

Stephen Barile, a Fresno, California native, educated in the public schools, attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. His poems have appeared in numerous publications, in both print and on-line. Stephen Barile taught writing at Madera College, and CSU Fresno. He lives in Fresno, CA.

Read more work by Stephen Barile.