On a Nature Walk in the Southwest Desert
So many species to identify—
desert poppy, Swainson’s hawk,—
my woozy brain reeling
in a whirlwind of precisions.
Soon, one petal blurs into another,
wings multiply into an ecstasy
of feathers, my memory
overwhelmed with eye stripes,
leaf serrations, lobes.
Indigo bunting, the book says,
blue grosbeak, but I’m looking
only at the azure sky, thinking
this is what I’ll take.
There’s a movement in the mesquite
and I’m whispering “birds,”
there’s a wavy hillock of color
and I’m seeing “flowers.”
Now the sky is roiling
into a storm which, I’m sure,
has a name, but “storm” is just
what I want to call it,
as large a noun as I have
to account for every unexpected turn
maybe veering my way.
And isn’t happiness unexpected too,
impalpable, floating lightly upwards
from the heart and lifting us with it?
There’s my wife pointing at the palomino,
calling it the yellow horse,
and I’m pointing back at her
thinking what a spectacular being she is,
all my words suddenly more ample,
“Honey,” I say, looking at her red hair
and her low cut jeans, “you’re it,”
and that makes her feel as extravagant
as anything else I’ve said today
the warm improbable rain falling now
over the whole expansive desert
making both of us think
of voluminous words like capacious
and jubilation each roomy enough
to contain everything brimming
around us, all we identify,
all we leave unnamed.
We were on a screened-in summer porch
drinking beer and complaining that mosquitoes
had slipped in through the cracks,
the black flies were being pesky.
The thinnest wing beat,
the most trifling bit of blood on the arm
We couldn’t know how some of us
had hearts timed to go off soon, tumors
that were already ringing a heavy bell.
Someone inside was singing off-key
and maybe we didn’t mind listening to it.
There was a mushroom cloud forming
in a patch of sky, but it was just a cloud.
It felt almost pleasant to stay where we were
fooling ourselves and wanting to be fooled
in the golden afternoon light
and the daytime moon shining faintly beyond,
looking diaphanous, as if anyone
could see right through it.