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This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 6 Number 6, 1976.Three Poems
CENTRAL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA
I drive my appurtenances,
slant-six and battered body,
my headlights out of whack -
but it's not night now -
my raucous Plymouth, bent
and patched-up piece of America,
into this desert valley.
The antenna shakes as the wheels
judder over the cracked tarmac.
The broken-down radio, its loose connections jumping,
bursts into life, goes dead, and bursts again
into a Savings and Loan ad, 'guaranteed
federally up to forty-thousand',
then a baroque sonata.
I drive past mountains
bristling on the skyline with dead trees,
hillocks in the foreground
stippled with browns and greys,
past tentacular roots sticking out of the sand
and rocks wind-tortured into fat
birds, faces of old men, noses, a hand:
a bomb-site in the sun's equal glare,
a landscape ravaged by the eye.
There should be ghosts here
and I try to see them:
of pioneers, of gold-prospectors;
and of those who stalked invisible paths,
ghosts of a ghosted race, with whom I share
too little of their trampled rituals.
But it's no good,
even the word 'ghost' seems out of place;
No one is here.
Unreal America spreads its wave-bands
over a desert air.
My alien eye
conjures a violence from nowhere.
People my verses do not teem with hurt
more than the fleshed-out memories
that get to them. Lying inert
in the mortuary of unfinished thought
they fester and rankle. I hanker
to breathe into them new life. I cannot.
Past words, flesh-touches clutch
and recede, leaving the mind
blanker than mind can contemplate.
I would be Aeneas
but the shades that haunt me
don't turn to Marpesian rock. They wander
formless and forming in the mind's glades.
They do not beckon. But I come.
I have tried Lethe and the upper air;
each time regret pushes me down again.
It rises up at me,
Silence, the echoless wall,
No voice can penetrate,
Nor hear itself repeat
Itself in nervous rings.
I may not knock it down;
For then my words would drop
Senseless to the ground
Through charging on and on,
No foe to make them stop.
This poem is taken from Poetry Nation 6 Number 6, 1976.