I passed Slimgullion, Morgan Mine, Camp Seco, and the rotting Lode. Dark walls of sugar pine --, And where I left the road
I left myself behind; Talked to no one, thought Of nothing. When my luck ran out Lived on berries, nuts, bleached grass. Driven by the wind Through great Sonora pass,
I found an Indian's teeth; Turned and climbed again Without direction, compass, path, Without a way of coming down, Until I stopped somewhere And gave the place a name.
I called the forests mine; Whatever I could hear I took to be a voice: a man Was something I would never hear.
He faces his second winter in the Sierra
A hard brown bug, maybe a beetle, Packing a ball of sparrow shit -- What shall I call it? Shit beetle? Why's it pushing here At this great height in the thin air With its ridiculous waddle
Up the hard side of Hard Luck Hill? And the furred thing that frightened me -- Bobcat, coyote, wild dog -- Flat eyes in winter bush, stiff tail Holding his ground, a rotted log. Grass snakes that wouldn't die,
And night hawks hanging on the rim Of what was mine. I know them now; They have absorbed a mind Which must endure the freezing snow They endure and, freezing, find A clear sustaining stream.
He learns to lose
She was afraid Of everything, The little Digger girl. Pah Utes had killed Her older brother Who may have been her lover The way she cried Over his ring --
The heavy brass On the heavy hand. She carried it for weeks Clenched in her fist As if it might Keep out the loneliness Or the plain fact That he was gone.
When the first snows Began to fall She stopped her crying, picked Berries, sweet grass, Mended her clothes And sewed a patchwork shawl. We slept together But did not speak.
It may have been The Pah Utes took Her off, perhaps her kin. I came back To find her gone With half the winter left To face alone -- The slow grey dark
Moving along The dark tipped grass Between the numbed pines. Night after night For four long months My face to her dark face We two had lain Till the first light.
Civilization comes to Sierra Kid
They levelled Tater Hill And I was sick. First sun, and the chain saws Coming on; blue haze, Dull blue exhaust Rising, dust rising, and the smell.
Moving from their thatched huts The crazed wood rats By the thousand; grouse, spotted quail Abandoning the hills For the sparse trail On which, exposed, I also packed.
Six weeks. I went back down Through my own woods Afraid of what I knew they'd done. There, there, an A&P, And not a tree For Miles, and mammoth hills of goods.
Fat men in uniforms, Young men in aprons With one face shouting, "He is mad!" I answered: "I am Lincoln, Aaron Burr, The aging son of Appleseed.
"I am American And I am cold." But not a one would hear me out. Oh God, what have I seen That was not sold! They shot an old man in the gut.
Mad, dying, Sierra Kid enters the capital
What have I changed? I unwound burdocks from my hair And scalded stains Of the black grape And hid beneath long underwear The yellowed tape.
Who will they find In the dark woods of the dark mind Now I have gone Into the world? Across the blazing civic lawn A shadow's hurled
And I must follow. Something slides beneath my vest Like melted tallow, Thick but thin, Burning where it comes to rest On what was skin.
Who will they find? A man with no eyes in his head? Or just a mind Calm and alone? Or just a mouth, silent, dead, The lips half gone?
Will they presume That someone once was half alive And that the air Was massive where The sickening pyracanthus thrive Staining his tomb?
I came to touch The great heart of a dying state. Here is the wound! It makes no sound. All that we learn we learn too late, And it's not much.