Becoming a Redwood By Dana Gioia

Stand in a field long enough, and the sounds   
start up again. The crickets, the invisible   
toad who claims that change is possible,

And all the other life too small to name.   
First one, then another, until innumerable
they merge into the single voice of a summer hill.

Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,   
fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steers
snort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.

And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone   
can bear to be a stone, the pain
the grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.

Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,   
rooted for centuries, the living wood grown tall
and thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.

The old windmill creaks in perfect time
to the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,   
and the last farmhouse light goes off.

Something moves nearby. Coyotes hunt   
these hills and packs of feral dogs.
But standing here at night accepts all that.

You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,   
moving more slowly than the crippled stars,   
part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,

Part of the grass that answers the wind,
part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knows   
there is no silence but when danger comes.

Dana Gioia, “Becoming a Redwood” from The Gods of Winter. Copyright © 1991 by Dana Gioia. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: The Gods of Winter: Poems (Graywolf Press, 1991)

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