rough notes

Dana Gioia, California Hills in August

with 2 comments

Dana Gioia, “California Hills in August” (1982).

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 that one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.


Written by mitchellirons

January 15, 2008 at 1:36 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Lovely poem, as always.

    Lewis Turco

    February 9, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    On the Occasion of the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, Dana Gioia, Breaking His Left Foot While Hiking on His Family’s Property in California.

    Muses, make ye mournful sound!
    Gioia’s piède-sinistra broken
    On his native stony ground
    Ere a pathway could be found
    Or a gasp of pain be spoken.
    Dryads! Nymphs! Yea, Nereids!
    Come and mourn in myriads!

    Artists, take thy paints, thy palettes,
    And compose ye endless posies;
    Jongleurs, pen ye cheerless ballads;
    Chefs! Attention to thy salads,
    For our Gioia discomposes
    While the sorry Nereids
    Mourn in doleful myriads.

    This is, alas! catastrophe
    For Athabaskans as for Nome —
    Shall those Alaskans atrophy
    Who practice craft at work or home?
    Shall those Oneidas nigh to Rome
    Join the weeping Nereids
    Mourning in their myriads?


    Alas! Alas! Catastrophe!
    Minstrels sing their sorry ballads!
    Athabaskans atrophy!
    Chefs weep buckets in their salads!
    Lachesis, Clotho have their trophy
    And the seeping Nereids
    Sniffle for long periods.

    Lewis Turco

    March 11, 2008 at 3:02 pm

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