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Summer 1994

Covers the Ground

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"When California was wild, it was one sweet bee-garden..."

Down the Great Central valley's
blossoming almond orchard acres
lines of tree-trunks shoot a glance through
     as the rows flash by—

And the ground is covered with
cement culverts standing on end,
house-high & six feet wide
culvert after culvert far as you can see
     covered with
mobile homes, pint size portable housing, johnny-on-the-spots,
concrete freeway, overpass, underpass,
     exit floreals, entrance curtsies, railroad bridge,
long straight miles of divider oleanders;
scrappy ratty grass and thistle, tumbled barn, another age,

yards of tractors, combines lined up—
new bright-painted units down at one end,
old stuff broke and smashed down at the other,

cypress tree spires, frizzy lonely palm tree,
steep and gleaming
fertilizer tank towers fine-line catwalk in the sky—

     covered with walnut orchard acreage
irrigated, pruned and trimmed;
with palleted stacks of cement bricks
     waiting for yellow fork trucks

quarter acre stacks of wornout car tires,
dust clouds blowing off the new plowed fields,
taut-strung vineyards trimmed out even on the top,

cubic blocks of fresh fruit loading boxes,
long aluminum automated chicken feeder houses,
     spring fur of green weed
     comes on last fall's baked ground,
          "Blue Diamond Almonds" farther see
identical red-roofed houses closed-in fencing,
stretching off towards the tower that holds catfood
with a red / white checkered sign

crows whuff over almond blossoms
beehives sit tight between fruit tree ranks
eucalyptus boughs shimmer in the wind-a pale blue hip-roof house
     behind a weathered fence—

crows in the almonds trucks on the freeways
Kenworth, Peterbilt, Mack
rumble diesel depths,
like boulders bumping in an outwash glacial river

     drumming to a not-so ancient text

     The Great Central Plain of California
     was one smooth bed of honey-bloom
     400 miles, your foot would press
     a hundred flowers at every step
     it seemed one sheet of plant gold;

     all the ground was covered
     with radiant corollas ankle-deep:
     bahia, madia, madaria, burielia,
     chrysopsis, grindelia,
           wherever a bee might fly—

us and our stuff just covering the ground.

     (Said one John Muir.)

Gary Snyder

Gary Snyder, whose poetry incorporates Beat, Zen, and Native American influences, lives in rural California. His books include Turtle Island and Mountains and Rivers Without End.


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