Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Light in All Directions on U.S-Canad Border: "Pine Speak"

The narrator in Paul Simon’s “America” walks off to look for it. I drove a Prius. Public transportation is greener, but I’m in hurry. What’s the opposite of “green”? If you’re a tree, I suppose the opposite is brown. Red leaves like the one on the Canadian flag are transitional.
I’m in a red hurry between teaching summer school and starting classes again in two weeks. So I drove off in the Prius to look for “America.” Just outside of Grant’s Pass, I saw a shed in a field with a big sign that said, “Wake Up, America!” Will waking up America end the American Dream? Does someone who shouts, “Wake Up, America!” not participate in the American Dream? Do they have insomnia? Have they been snorting meth? Are they even tired?
No time to find out. I want to find the American Dream in as many permutations as possible, America being a land mass extending from the northern to the southern hemispheres of the world. I think I can fit the North American neighbors of Canada and Mexico into my sleep cycle before the maw of the fall semester swallows me.

I want to carry poems across borders. So tonight, I’ll perform “Men in Trees” and a few other pieces from Light in All Directions in Vancouver, B.C.
Yesterday, I was in California, sitting on Hatchet Falls with my cousin Evan. He asked me what this book is about. Literally, it’s about the sun; metaphorically, it’s about what my last book was about: sons who become fathers. We fuse. We implode. We radiate…at least that’s what the long view of the cycle looks like to me. And the cycle repeats. And it can end on any step.
One of the poems in the book I’ve been thinking about lately is “Pine Speak.” It was a poem I’d written in the voice of a pine tree. Not your usual pine tree with the wind whispering through it. This pine was imbued with my attitude, so it was guilty. The first line goes, “I stand here by the grace of my scars.” I recalled the poem for Evan as looked at the forest around Hatchet Falls where people might not see the place had been burned over unless they looked at the tallest trees in the right way.
I said the whole poem, and Evan said, “I like poems like ‘The Wake of Sam McGee.’ You know, they have that rhythm.”
I took it as a good omen. The next day I would take Lights in All Directions north to Canada while the Northern Lights were going to be visible in the south because of an explosion on the sun. The Americas were moving closer together at turns by nature and by human obsession.
Here’s an early draft of the "Pine Speak." The part about “My wood can burn or rot for all I care” seems in retrospect to be a variation on the fuse—implode—radiate cycle.

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