horseshoed by mountain range,
neatly nestled on the West
of these United States:
Shasta, Lassen crest your edge,
where verdant forests crawl;
Man-made lakes & rattlesnakes
in sun-dried grasses sprawl;
from Shasta’s foot springs flow,
bless the lakes for Summer days
and through the sluices go
Slow through Keswick reservoir
then fleeting under feet
water finds its winding way
past beds laid under street.
In the Spring your river’s full,
in Summer thirsty yearns,
Fall’s ash-days lay as a pall,
in Winter rain returns
On your East lies Lassen’s peak,
Tehama’s noble heir —
Vulcan’s steward of power bleak
and awesome in its stare
Down from water drawn in winter
upon its slopes condensed
melted in the Summer’s sun
a thousand creeks are sent
through its meadows, bringing lush
and fertile flush of food
gathered from the trees & brush
in plentitude for good
waiting out the rainy months
both healthy and in hearth.
Bears, raccoons, and deers and skunks
all share their equal part.
Shasta, mystic of the North,
a root and crown of power,
draws from Heaven & sends forth
each glory as a flower.
Its South exposure holds to sky
we Pilgrims travelled long
tasting of the world so nigh
that we must join in song
with the stones which now rejoice
to praise The One who formed
the crystal lattice, singer’s voice,
the rocky slopes sun-warmed,
naked in the mid-Fall’s kiss
with tattered snow-clothes draped
as ecstatic dancer’s bliss
that peaks til fire fades.
Some have seen another world,
a portal or a door —
I have not, just cloud-forms swirled
that tell there is more
to your grace than can be known,
I count it grace befall’n
me to live beneath your crown
to share the light of all and
all that shines from crystal peak,
that runs in amber creeks,
glows in glass of gleaming wheat,
will drink me when I sleep.
Mountains, make my words as stone
and River guide their course.
In your house I’ve made my home.
Your treasures fill my purse.
I know few of stories old;
that will not feed my fears.
I long for your stories told,
the ones I’ve heard for years.
Look upon these lines I write
and judge me not severe —
work with me to bring to light
what has transpired here.
Told am I “write what you know”
and now I know enough
for the conversation, so
please look on this as rough
as it may be; grant me please
that I have loved you so
as I scribe these words in trees
I do that more also.
Let me breathe your budding song,
in poem sign your lines.
Land and town, I’ve read you long —
now let me write your rhymes.
Before men wrapped the world around,
the valleys, creeks and mountains filled
with teeming, rife and streaming life
that currents slowly milled.
A tide of life from crystal peaks
ran through the valley’s fertile plain
and filling lakes and ponds and creeks
meandered on its way.
Then to this land from frozen North
came sapiens wand’ring far from home
and found here in your fertile berth
a garden filled with loam.
They tended you for centuries
& partnered with you and your soil
to fill the land with fruit and trees
in plenty and with toil.
Natinook-wa & the Maidu,
Karuk & Chasta, Yahi, Winto
Nomlaki, Modoc, Atsugewi,
a thousand more like these
Their tents, their hair, their woven ways,
their lives, their years, their moons & days,
there stood, there grew, there shone & knew,
like clouds in brilliant blue.
While boundless lifetimes played upon
the rolling grasslands bathed in dawn,
a schism formed by lightning flash
closed in a thunderclap.
Swords transformed by years of war —
those long bred in icy folds
ēstranged brothers came ashore
brandished iron forged and sold.
Reckless minds set on escape,
fleeing European wastes —
centuries of life in caves
turned them wary and afraid.
When their land had fin’ly thawed
then they desparate farmed the land;
they exhausted field & sod
stripped the clay and loam to sand.
To the dream of western sands
near rich fields the world across —
foll’wing legends of the land
they would reach at every cost.
They set foot upon the shore
set in mind for years before
when they camped on foreign ground.
That ground on which they slept
was dearly kept
too few gave second thought
that they had found what they had sought:
the truly legendary —
the land of brimming bees and berries —
far too many and too fleet
saw only grass for grazing sheep.
Planting flags and flying them high
in defense of feuds they slew;
at the end stood red and white
but all the green had turned to blue.
With waving bright banners all unfurled
they dug the hills in search of gold —
they marred the grandeur of the old world
for a treasure sought in worlds old.
In Keswick and Iron Mountain Mine
they stripped the timber and the ore
where once had grown the great and fine
there now lies no trace of that before.
For they piled extracted dirt & rocks
and lit them to a noxious fire
in rows that stretched Kennet-town’s blocks,
there they burned the land’s funereal pyre.
From forest & mountain to the coast
they came with saws of stolen steel;
framed photographs still boast
of the girth of gentle giants killed.
They laid bare the hills, & stripped the plains,
the grasses killed, fertil’ty flayed.
Your blood they spilled, in vast array,
they built massive mills run night & day.
In snaking trails across the plains
on iron beams all built by slaves
came their racing, burning trains
to take the tar they’d use to pave
To seal the soil, to bring the oil
to steal the toil of native royal
trees and leaves
that wilted in the stream of steam
that teemed from trains.
Few of these men had dire intent —
they came for family, king & God —
and so believing those who sent
them to the newfound land they’d trod.
But hearts of men are wont to stray
and oft we know not why we’re led
and we will fain avert our gaze
when we have heard what money’s said.
So while the harm was done by few,
for damning damage done to you
in form of dam and ram and ewe
we each owe reparation due.
Your hills have blessed my each retreat
and here within your grasses’ sway
a gentle lesson, a dreaming sleep,
a ripe, archaic, ready way.
From long ago but still among
your breath is mine & mine is yours
and for the time I share with trunks
of trees and men it shall be ours.
So thus I pray that I begin:
to heal the land — to make amends —
to speak the truth as not yet heard —
to weave a spell within these words —
To right — to turn — to teach — to learn —
to soothe — forsooth, for each still yearns
for balm, for truth, for prayer, for touch,
for to be known, for to be loved,
for to be one with God above.