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.