We heard that first summer coming,
sounding low like heralding drums rumbling
far away, like a desert freshet, like a torrent
of rain all-enveloping, cascading down
a stone-dry arroyo unstoppable.
And some of us saw it coming in declensions
through the distance, the spinning bowls
and rolling barrels of its hot brasses glinting
among the cloud shadows on the plains
and on into the darker buddings of the forest.
And we felt the sound of sun sprouting,
pushing and parting bindings of sizzling
chee and wheat grasses, an airy swarm
of midges, scattered lacewings, checkered
whites, bee breath everywhere, the hard
beginnings of pomes and pips. We heard
the vines, already smothering, bosky
pea bush, rabbit bush, snakeweed flowering
one after the other, all repeating their chords
of climbing blossoms, blinding the ears.
Prairie swallows, kingbirds, blackbirds, larks,
swirled and darted over the flows of the land,
sounding their triangle notes, into the delves,
attacking and courting, frantic with purpose.
We believed in light and its roiling forms.
The fragrance of this new born summer
was the purest force, rank, sweet, meaty,
and rotten, heady powder, lilac talc, one brief
dusting of paprika-pepper plucking like a guitar
barely there, a remembrance of cinnamon.
That first summer came suffocating
with temptations of pain, not ardor, though
we called the ardor pain, the way it could take
anyone unwillingly and the body had to move,
to run to catch up, the allure, once a cry, once
the terror of laughter (a night singer throughout
singing an encore in solo), to follow, finally
grasping, swinging over, lifted, carried away,
every faith in the body holding on.
Musical and Motoring Cycles
Both have circles that span the globe,
a certain clockwork movement that spins
the countryside. They hold this in common
with each other and the stars.
Like roads, neither can exist without motion,
the interchanges of mingling tones and time,
whether traveling through the purple/auburn trills
and dirges of failing autumn plains or in the sudden
flights and treble falls of canyon landscapes.
I can hear the scores of broken rock runs rising
and descending in the distance.
Who will say that the swelling and flickering
lights of city streets, the harrow of grate
steam rising, the flash of chrome, cymbal
or brass, witnessed as one rolls along,
that these have neither cadence nor coda?
And who will claim that chords and cadenzas
do not possess travel with their many wheels
turning inside their own branching sequences
of light, those measures resembling in resonance
the shadows of winter sycamores and oaks lining
the way, imitating in form the rumble rhythm
of a bridge, its open steel beams crossing over
and past one another, as perfect in their timing
as partners in a dance?
Does the pace of our motoring, the pressures
of swelling and waning momentum, make
the music of our travel? Or does music create
the motif we hear repeated in a ritual forest
of pines sedately lining our way, in the wheezing
and widening harmonic net of birds wheeling
to escape, tall seeded grasses showing their white
sun-sides in unison blown by the rush of the passing?
Once, traveling the edge of coastal cliffs,
I heard in meter the theme of the earth
and ocean wars I saw waging below.
Although we allow our musical and motoring
creations to carry us, we can rarely distinguish
within their cycles which destination
is a beginning, which beginning a finale.
Pattiann Rogers has published 14 books, most recently Holy Heathen Rhapsody (Penguin, 2013). Rogers is the recipient of two NEA Grants, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Award in Poetry. She is the mother of two sons, has three grandsons, and lives with her husband, a retired geophysicist, in Colorado.