Hay for the Horses

Gary Snyder - 1930-
He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
        behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the 
        sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."

More by Gary Snyder

Four Poems for Robin

Siwashing It Out Once in Suislaw Forest

I slept under     rhododendron
All night    blossoms fell
Shivering on	a sheet of cardboard
Feet stuck   in my pack
Hands deep    in my pockets
Barely  able    to   sleep.
I remembered    when we were in school
Sleeping together   in a big warm bed
We were     the youngest lovers
When we broke up     we were still nineteen
Now our   friends are married
You teach  school back east
I dont mind     living this way
Green hills   the long blue beach
But sometimes	  sleeping in the open
I think back    when I had you.

      A Spring Night in Shokoku-ji

Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.

    An Autumn Morning in Shokoku-ji

Last night watching the Pleiades,
Breath smoking in the moonlight,
Bitter memory like vomit
Choked my throat.
I unrolled a sleeping bag
On mats on the porch
Under thick autumn stars.
In dream you appeared
(Three times in nine years)
Wild, cold, and accusing.
I woke shamed and angry:
The pointless wars of the heart.
Almost dawn. Venus and Jupiter.
The first time I have
Ever seen them close.

           December at Yase

You said, that October, 
In the tall dry grass by the orchard 
When you chose to be free, 
"Again someday, maybe ten years."

After college I saw you
One time. You were strange.
And I was obsessed with a plan.

Now ten years and more have 
Gone by: I've always known
         where you were-- 
I might have gone to you
Hoping to win your love back.
You still are single.

I didn't.
I thought I must make it alone. I
Have done that.

Only in dream, like this dawn,
Does the grave, awed intensity
Of our young love
Return to my mind, to my flesh.

We had what the others
All crave and seek for;
We left it behind at nineteen.

I feel ancient, as though I had 
Lived many lives.
And may never now know
If I am a fool
Or have done what my 
        karma demands.

Mother Earth: Her Whales

An owl winks in the shadows
A lizard lifts on tiptoe, breathing hard
Young male sparrow stretches up his neck,
                   big head, watching—

The grasses are working in the sun. Turn it green.
Turn it sweet. That we may eat.
Grow our meat.

Brazil says “sovereign use of Natural Resources”
Thirty thousand kinds of unknown plants.
The living actual people of the jungle
        sold and tortured—
And a robot in a suit who peddles a delusion called “Brazil”
        can speak for them?

        The whales turn and glisten, plunge
                and sound and rise again,
        Hanging over subtly darkening deeps
        Flowing like breathing planets
              in the sparkling whorls of
                     living light—

And Japan quibbles for words on
        what kinds of whales they can kill?
A once-great Buddhist nation
        dribbles methyl mercury
        like gonorrhea
                      in the sea.

Pere David's Deer, the Elaphure,
Lived in the tule marshes of the Yellow River
Two thousand years ago—and lost its home to rice—
The forests of Lo-yang were logged and all the silt &
Sand flowed down, and gone, by 1200 AD—
Wild Geese hatched out in Siberia
        head south over basins of the Yang, the Huang,
        what we call “China”
On flyways they have used a million years.
Ah China, where are the tigers, the wild boars,
                   the monkeys,
                      like the snows of yesteryear
Gone in a mist, a flash, and the dry hard ground
Is parking space for fifty thousand trucks.
IS man most precious of all things?
—then let us love him, and his brothers, all those
Fading living beings—

North America, Turtle Island, taken by invaders
        who wage war around the world.
May ants, may abalone, otters, wolves and elk
Rise! and pull away their giving
        from the robot nations.

Solidarity. The People.
Standing Tree People!
Flying Bird People!
Swimming Sea People!
Four-legged, two-legged people!

How can the head-heavy power-hungry politic scientist
Government     two-world     Capitalist-Imperialist
Third-world     Communist      paper-shuffling male
             non-farmer     jet-set     bureaucrats
Speak for the green of the leaf? Speak for the soil?

(Ah Margaret Mead . . . do you sometimes dream of Samoa?)

The robots argue how to parcel out our Mother Earth
To last a little longer
                    like vultures flapping
Belching, gurgling,
                    near a dying doe.
“In yonder field a slain knight lies—
We'll fly to him and eat his eyes
                    with a down
         derry derry derry down down.”

             An Owl winks in the shadow
             A lizard lifts on tiptoe
                         breathing hard
             The whales turn and glisten
                         plunge and
             Sound, and rise again
             Flowing like breathing planets

             In the sparkling whorls

             Of living light.

                      Stockholm: Summer Solstice 40072