Sunday, September 24, 2006

Poem: Bill Hotchkiss

I am extremely honored to be able to post some poems from my early teacher, mentor, and good friend, Bill Hotchkiss. This poem, and those that I will be posting in the coming weeks, are from a new manuscript, The Grave Witnesses: Poems 1980-1992 (forthcoming). Bill lives part of the year in Williams, Oregon, where I grew up and where he will be retiring after this school year.


AT DUSK we drive to the canyon bottom,
Where a half-grown porcupine, not expecting us,
Outraged by our presence, scuttles up a bank —
He bristles, dull claws
Dig at dusty red earth and stones.

We park at an abandoned log landing, get out.
I find yellow and red shotgun shell casings
Scattered, a piece of crumpled metal
With holes in it, target for twenty-two practice.

A bridge across the creek, logs
With overlay of packed dirt, nearly
Washed out — what remains will accommodate
Foot traffic, one at a time, no more.

We cross. On the other side of Oak Run Creek,
The road unused for the past year.
We walk quickly downstream, hurry
In day’s last hour of light. The creek
Is noisy in the draw, hidden by wild grapevines
And maples and young Douglas firs, flow sourced
From springs, water bubbling from under caprock lava
At the foot of Green Mountain and Clover Mountain,
Peaks that were also mountains of fire
A few thousand years back, just north
Of the Tehama upthrust and Mt. Lassen’s cone.

Mule deer crash through brush, vault themselves
Up canyonside. One stops in shadows,
Stares back at us — big doe, half-hidden
Now by a thicket of young oaks.

Bats dart in twilight, creekwater
Hisses through a litter of black stones.

Oak, maple, pine, fir, dry grass, musky flowering weeds,
Some odor Lilith and I both associate with childhood.

Half a mile down we stop, decide to return —
The light’s rapidly failing. I stare
Upward at pale violet sky,
Visible between dark walls of conifers,
Detect three stars. I gaze at an arbitrary point
Of open space — waiting for glow
Of another star to appear, as I know one must.
First a glimmer, then pulsation, then a far sun,
Exactly where I’ve been staring. “Of course,”
I think, and wonder why I’ve never played this
Precise game before, not ever.

The creek continues to hiss among stones, the trail back
To where we left our rig hardly visible in vanishing light.

Sky ravished with stars as we cross
The partly-washed-out bridge that links dream
And consciousness, though I’m not sure which is which:
We open the doors to our truck, get in.

1 comment:

Muser said...

Thanks for posting this one. I took classes from Bill at Sierra College. He is missed.