Now Is the Season: Loma Alta, California
It’s good to forget my winter mind.
Good to confuse the longer light
with grace and to lose my dog
in tall grasses.
I tramp past wild iris and milkmaids.
A wren startles the air with a beak
full of what I swear is my dog’s shed undercoat.
Gray squirrels race up a bay trunk— all zip
and blur. Quail percolate behind a live oak
and in a shaft of light a fawn grazes.
It’s always like this with me, isn’t it?
Every year I fall in love with spring,
the portal to a peaceable and lush kingdom.
But nature does what it does:
the young deer’s ears will prick
at my dog’s approach
just as these green slopes
will crackle with heat come July
and fires will bloom with frenzy everywhere.
This sweetness can’t be held.
But for now, let me
mistake this season
a while longer.
Ode to the Moment When Nothing Happens
Thank you for this:
Mild sunshine on my arms.
The even pok, poks from a hidden tennis court.
You undress my fears.
You are a scaffold built
from all my exhales.
Somewhere, someone’s cocking a gun
with its safety off, a boy is yanked
under a sneaker wave,
mail thunks onto the floor
of a home only feet away
from a woman’s body.
I’ve known moments of helplessness
when fear stutters
my heart’s beating.
It’s my limbs flailing, my lungs burning.
Those Moments of Everything Bad Happening
seem to stay for days.
Then I pray for your coming,
dear Moment When Nothing Happens.
Bring your blandness, I plead,
even your pal, Boredom.
Take up residence, spread out.
Stay a while.
And here you are now.
A Steller’s jay occasionally dazzles the air.
My dog shrugs off the afternoon, her limbs twitch—
I lie back, well-thumbed mystery in hand,
the air full of reprieve.
A heavy rock squats
near my garden’s entrance.
When I’m feeling dull, I lift
a jagged corner, letting the sunshine
surprise whatever lives beneath.
Months ago, I discovered two newts
sharing the under-the-rock-darkness
with a scorpian.
The newts snoozed,
but the scorpian squirmed into a hole,
claws up, pleading and shy.
It’s early autumn, and the sedums are pink
and swarmed with bees. The hyssop
is busy with hummingbirds dipping
into its mauve trumpets.
When I lift the rock now, there are three
scorpians and no newts. All jab
their pinchers up and curl their tails.
The biggest is covered with something pale, alive.
I bend closer—hatchlings.
I think how quickly I could kill them all
with my adze, but I put the rock down slowly.
I need this reminder death is here, almost
contained and so alive in my garden.
Kate Peper lives in Northern California where she paints watercolors, hikes and writes. Her chapbook, Dipped In Black Water, won the New Women’s Voices Award from Finishing Line Press. She is a five-time Pushcart nominee and her poems can be found in Baltimore Review, Gargoyle, Rattle, Tar River Review and others. www.peperpoetry.com