Striding the Bones of the Coastal Range

Hiking of solitary again, gaited steady.
      Striding the bones of the coastal range.

Granite flesh unstable, piles wind-riven ocean skin magmatic, that
      Wrinkling; obscures foundation osseus age below.
      So clean Our Mother's bones.

      Isolate the sky retreated the world,
Reared towering Guardian Over All: The Pico Diablo Mountain.

Was legend bear still roamed there, crag remote to dominate. Eagle,
Condor sails the fog-borne tastes and smells the sea-band life. . .
Airs breathed light and sheened a fog bourne drift of silver.

Brushing antlered pine and feathered hemlock, fibered cypress shag;
Deciphering cryptic sawyeries, trunks jig-mosaiced the sycamore planes:
Jump free the missiled propellors my head: squadrons downtwirl the wind.

      Sprawls reach majestic live-oak's bough,
      Druid kingship the meadow;
      Mistletoe bearded and green gray spanish mossed,
      Boles knotted mottled lichen.
      At their feet discovering sometimes a golden strawlike flower--
      I never knew its name but the smell was walnut honey.

      Summertimes tranquil the fog to scatter,
      Rendering them gold-leafed gentry the landed hills
      And deeper gilded gulleys. . .

Dipped there grace of eucalyptus, daughtered tall of foreign sunlights
Borne australasian shores. . . prolific enough her sistered genus, forest
      Complete the bush of its own.
Compatible titans equal their stands, side by side the milk-seed cotton;
Mosslike perpetual, tamarisk shed; white roble oak and pepper tree,
      China bells pinked undulate.
Light absents the densest pine. Visit but mournful soughing winds the 
Sentinel mystery darkling stands defining the edges of summer. And hope.
Melancholics, they do not venture sunlit meadow except crept formation
      Several, security patrolled. . .
And none but Mistletoe and Cypress do presage events more dire.

But holy the wood of redwood dendra. Perhaps their age. . . .Of them all
      Bienvenue accordant most the sun,
Footed the fronded fern, wreathed tall embracing light soft filtered,
      Stately the greenwood.
Copses holy appointment high meadow divinely adorning! Centuries regal
      The presence ordained: new coronate fresh.

      Clearheart girth abode alluring. . .
Slow accretion year by year advancing mass, tree-home penultimate dream
      In child-heart bower.
      Benevolence giant! Sequoia presence.
I thought perhaps some glimpse to steal of spirit tutelar within--

      Imagined hamadryad, sylvan nymph; intelligence not faun.
      Took more than thought. I stared and stared
      Till vexed the glaring nothing! I revealed.
      Others had described it, persuaded one the charm. . .
      Why then not I? Imagination? Oh I see.
      Foolish to be angry. . . just love the tree, instead.

      Came then softly the miraculous:
      Was loving me the tree and was its spirit! Found!

Wandering daisy-chained and buttercup meadows, dandelion and shuttle
      Cocked, hedged wild the grape and rose rife meadow titmouse;
Golden poppy paper chasings scattered unexpected; harebell fairy helmet
Capped blue as artichoke's wild thistle; and lupine, campanula speared.
      Foxglove belling 'ware! umbellate hemlock poison!
      Tipped red parasite indian paint-brush lady,
The open face of yellow primrose calendula, dry. . .myself a butterfly

      In boots that foxtail grasses creep perverse the socks
      Reverse to lock
      Determined as the salmon upstream bounding!
      Strives whither or what the foxtail?

      Beaver munched and terrapin,
      Where cress and purslane lay the creek bed;
      Made way mindful hare and rabbit! Spoor departed bunny lop!
      To cover alike of quail and ring-tail pheasant showy:
      Spotted bay laurel and brittle sinewed, the rud madroñe,
      Haven (uncertain),
      From muskrat and fox, thwarted entangling spines.

Breezes capricious, quail alarming may scarcely contain their silence. . .
      Devastated covert!
Little cries and poignant beeping running. . .instantaneous pounced!

Coteried dove mourns early evening, alone to be heard over silence;
      Birdsong of others' strangely quiet. . .
Wicker to rise. . .the fantail light. Fanning the wind-beating hover.
      Crescent to rise. . .the moon and silver horned.

West the sun betwixt east gathered moon-white-tail antelope gazelle;
      Touching faun grace newly living! the little elfin hoofs.
      Shanked reed-slender. Glass-blown airy. Informed by the wind.
Advancing his lookout warning, twittered them scolding eternally dear--
      Squirrel red-tailed and nervoused twitching.
      But entangled web spangled, her butterfly wing no avail--
      Extricates my hand little psyche butterfly, free.
      Her death flight otherwise!
      Thrice circles round my head before lighting back her world.
      Opossum might lumber here.
      Dappled glade occasional sloat discerned. Sly!
      As to sloths! Overhead boughs clasped upside down:
      Hiding? Silly things!
      Long in the claw, but hairless; long in the ear,
      Deaf, dumb, and blind for all purpose.
      Brain wave too slow to eat!
      How should poor creatures survive?
      Watcher high above, the brood wren. . .
      Nesting the eggs awaiting the throats young birds to sing. . .
      Known always the sound they will be. Wings impatient to fly.

Cliff-martin arias. Exaltation! choired cascadings descendings sacred;
      Canticled crystal, waterdrops diamond,
      Trails scattered the rising wing.

      Hovers the sparrow, darts at the hawk
      Desperate protection
      Of fierce with her terror in deadly engagement. . .
      Small blue eggs. Calm the hawk, intently
      Unburdened questions of unequal-matched.
      Life lived one! all existence. . . .Small blue eggs. . . .

      Consenting pause and silence: twohoots then the owl.
      Cries the first nighthawk. Bats skirling radar new twilight.
      A fir tree ribbons and cradles the moon. Crowned and shining.
      Soft in the pause she lights tree mother. Down and aglow.
      Slowly aloft on feathering finger, voyager canopied moonlight.
      Up. And away. . . .

      Great deer form, giant posed unearthly
      Where gray fog laps the trees. . .
      Sails slow the moss frond into the no-see. . . .
      You are here with me, My Mother.

      Departure the wood.
      Drifts breath damp life; odor shifting vaporous.
      The loam underfoot cooled shamrock.
      Bethinking bobcats were hunted here. Their bounty.
      I never saw one.
      Fetor, however ubiquitous skunk! Never the bounty them!

      Late dusk arriving the cabin. Good the day!
Pass through the gate to the highway, remains only the field to cross.
      And last and luminous presence: propinquity to ponder. . .

      Bedraggled Lily of the Roadside:
      Trumpeter Datura Derelitta.
      Think on it. Her blossom is so very pure. . .

Rank the stalk; and prickle leaf already claw gone thistle. Thorn-apple
Spikings come no surprise. Lethal. Fell. Is witch-wood entered here!
      Choose carefully your gait.

Circumnavigate My Pretty Little Pretty! Derey me! Dearie Lictious!
      One knows the cackle. Nightmare Crone.

This poem is an excerpt from Growing Pains: The Early Poems by Joyce James, published by Ladan Reserve Press and reprinted by permission. Copyright © 2003 by Joyce James. All rights reserved.