A Lesson in Time

 
We stood on a forest road at the meadow’s edge
so Joe could teach the story of geologic time.
Mateo set a little flag—red tatter

on a rusted wire—to mark the miasmic
gathering when earth first clenched dust
by the stern affection we call gravity.

In the meadow, grass wavered, and was still.
Then Charles began to step off eons
through the Hadean Period, as low sun

lit the pines gold. We arrived at
the Iron Catastrophe. Mateo set a flag
and Ruby laid down a stem of grass.

Under a sky made blue by oxygen
bacteria had formed, once volcanism
spewed steam from burnt stone, we

marched on. At each extinction, or
new creation, Mateo set a flag
and Ruby placed her stem of grass,

until Joe pulled two hairs from
my head to set in the dust. “The thickness
of these two strands,” he said, “we’ll call

the span of civilization.” Mateo set a flag,
and Ruby placed a stem of grass.

 

 

 

Do You Need Anything from the Mountain?

 
Could you bring me a smudge of camas blue,
and the whisper whistle of that one pine
at the edge of the meadow at dusk, when day

gives a lost, last breath? Bring me the road
that becomes deep duff as it trails away
into the forest, young firs ten feet tall

along the hump between the old ruts.
Bring me a story you hear in dark silence
after the last light, the gone that gathers dew

in the fingers not to hold, carry away, but
only to feel. Bring me that skein of fire
that hangs in intimate eternity, after

the dark but before the thunder, when
the bounty of yearning in one cloud
reaches toward another, in each being’s

endless, impossible desire to complete itself
before falling away.

 

 

 

Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, where he has taught writing since 1979. He is the author of a dozen books of poetry and prose, including The Muses Among Us: Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft and A Thousand Friends of Rain: New & Selected Poems.  His most recent books are 100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared, and Wind on the Waves: Stories from the Oregon Coast.

Photo of wet leaf on forest road courtesy Shutterstock.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons