Friday, August 31, 2012

California Hills in August

I'm almost too late to post a poem with this title in a timely manner, not that the hills won't look pretty much the same for another month or more. This year the grass is especially brown and parched, and we have lots of fires making the sky brown, too.

Over three years ago I posted this poem by Dana Gioia, which was the first time I wrote about him. Just now by putting his name in the search box at the bottom of this blog I discovered that it's come up repeatedly.

I understand that Gioia has returned to our fair and thirsty state after serving as president of the National Endowment for the Arts for a few years. I wonder if he gets out of town far enough these days to feel the summer as he so aptly conveys it in this poem.

California Hills in August

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain –
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

©1986 Dana Gioia


Jeannette said...

Thank you for sharing this poetry...I wish you a restful lovely September.

Farm Girl said...

I love this and it says it so well. I think that only someone who has lived here and stared at our golden hills in the summer or been surprised in February as they turn green I think they are always changing and are pretty to look at. I like all of the different browns. The smoke has been hard this summer. It does make colorful sunsets though.
Lovely poem.

Sara said...

He certainly captured the landscape didn't he! Thanks for posting this great poem again; I did not see it the first time around.