Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Purple Vetch and Fiddleneck

My new life began on an avenue 
that twenty years ago was miles 
from the edge of town, the pastureland, 
vineyards and orchards slowly erased 

by houses and businesses. Near
the freeway, close to the river 
on the south side, secure subdivisions 
crowded together along 

the bluff. For years, I had taken 
the rural avenues north of the river 
to witness the seasons, never guessing 
the city was sprawling so far north 

Fiddleneck and Popcorn Flowers at Sunset

as I drove past orchards in bloom 
or bearing fruit or bare, in spring mustard 
and vetch choking the roadside and the rows 
of some orchards. No longer grazed, pastures

bloomed with fiddleneck and owl's clover, one, almost wild, 
with harvest brodiaea, the umbels crowning blonde grass 
with purple, the leaves of vineyards brilliant 
in slanted sunlight. On the first afternoon 

of my new life, I drove the avenue homeward 
and saw on Avenue 40 the first bulldozers lined up 
in the only place I had ever sighted a yellow-headed blackbird, 
not far from a wooden post where once a roadrunner perched,

Fiddleneck at Base of Foothills

the only one I have sighted on the valley floor. Ahead of me 
stretched thousands of acres of grasslands and the plateaus,
the base of the foothills. The county had rezoned
the land so that in twenty years a city 

could grow there as far as the eye could see, 
from the river all the way into the foothills and mountains. 
By then, my new life could be over,
my last life with land where song birds

cannot forage, with flowers 
whose seeds cannot grow, a land without roots, 
a river with roots of rain but with water 
that can never find an ocean. 

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