Tuesday, July 03, 2012

July 3 - Hircine

Today I took a bit longer than normal to find time to sit down and write my poem-a-day, but for good reason.  I had the wonderful opportunity to donate some time at The Sitting Room in Cotati. A wonderful local resource where anyone can go and enjoy a quiet place to read and write.  It's also where early next month I'll be teaching a workshop of writing about local history.  But enough about delay, let's get back to poem-a-day. And boy, was today's prompt a tough one.  Hircine means of, pertaining to, or resembling a goat.  Goats are (and were) often used to help clear land around here.  Especially during the time when early settlers came.  I imagined the first day the couple came to the land they had purchased and what the task of a hill covered in large bodied oaks and tall pines, limestone and scrub brush looked like.  It must have been overwhelming.  This draft imagines that day and the idea of buying some goats to help with the clearing of the field. 

 A Hircine Hillside

The day we found it the hillside was stone laden and dense with tall pines and thick oaks and scrub brush.

There were no human paths. Only the careful thin trails of deer wandering like cursive in and out of brush.

“The man in town say’s we’ve got to dig all the oaks out. Even the roots. Or they’ll cause our apple trees to rot.” He said.

So on the first day we sat on a limestone outcropping feeling the weight of it all: the bodies of the tremendous oaks we’d need to fell and split. The scrub we need to clear.

For a week we dug until our backs tightened and ached. At night we sit side by side by the small fire pressed down by the powdery stars.

He thought of the goats first. Why not? He asked.

The next journey into town we loaded the wagon with flour, salt, sugar and two full-grown goats. I’d traded my mother’s coral cameo for the lot.

Each day we’d tether the goats to a new patch of shrub and they’d eat it clean as a washed slate. Each night the stars would loosen their powdery stare.

The bodies of oaks fell with a loud crack. You could feel the weight of them carried from the soil to your knees to your heart.

It’s the wood of those trees we used to build the house. Each one carefully sanded down.

Some days looking out of the house toward the hillside now covered in trees I still see that wilderness pressing back in. Some days when the fog is low I still hear his voice as if it is trapped.

But the words I begin to use to answer back are made of air. Are left lingering in the tops of redwoods.

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