What’s left of the light smolders
in this dark furnace.
Out in the fields, thistle
like incandescent snarls of wire.
Everything’s still too hot to touch.
Certain thoughts scorch.
Hard to sleep, knowing
midnight will taste of smoke.
The old sandstone creeds have crumbled.
Unconvincing dust and a few spires—
needles without eyes.
It would take paleoarchaic faith
to live here.
That and a lizard’s skill set.
We have neither—and no patience
for pictographs that refuse
to explain themselves.
Stick figure arms signaling
hello or goodbye
as if there were no difference.
Dead grass speaks a living language.
Its tongues, quickened by the wind
at random, repeat
aphorisms older than human wisdom.
Nothing we’d listen to even if we understood,
considering it beneath us.
Tell it to the fire, we’d say.
Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. He is also the first Poet Laureate of Kern County. His latest book of poems, A San Joaquin Almanac is set to be published in November 2020.