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)
More By This Poet
Pity the Beautiful
Pity the beautiful,
the dolls, and the dishes,
the babes with big daddies
granting their wishes.
Pity the pretty boys,
the hunks, and Apollos,
the golden lads whom
success always follows.
The hotties, the knock-outs,
the tens out of ten,
the drop-dead gorgeous,
Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned...
More Poems about Nature
I want to put down what the mountain has awakened.
My mouthful of grass.
My curious tale. I want to stand still but find myself moved patch by patch.
There's a bleat in my throat. Words fail me here. Can you understand? I...
Whenever you see a tree
how many long years
this tree waited as a seed
for an animal or bird or wind or rain
to maybe carry it to maybe the right spot
where again it waited months for seasons to change
until time and temperature were fine enough to...