Back to Poetry - Gregory Djanikian


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,

refusing exactitudes.


“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.




One Afternoon   


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

seemed consequential.


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.