Gary Snyder (b. 1930, San Francisco, California, USA)


Written by Gary Snyder

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Night Song of the Los Angeles Basin, 1996

Owl
calls,
pollen dust blows
Swirl of light strokes writhing
knot-tying light paths,

calligraphy of cars.

Los Angeles basin and hill slopes
Checkered with streetways. Floral loops
Of the freeway express and exchange.

Dragons of light in the dark
sweep going both ways
in the night city belly.
The passage of light end to end and rebound,
—ride drivers all heading somewhere
etch in their traces to night’s eye-mind
calligraphy of cars.

Vole paths. Mouse trails worn in
On meadow grass;
Winding pocket-gopher tunnels,
Marmot lookout rocks.
Houses with green watered gardens
Slip under the ghost of the dry chaparral,

 

Ghost
shrine to the L.A. River.
The jinja that never was there
is there.
Where the river debouches
the place of the moment
of trembling and gathering and giving
so that lizards clap hands there
— just lizards
come pray, saying
“please give us health and long life.”

A hawk,
a mouse.

Slash of calligraphy of freeways of cars.

Into the pools of the channelized river
the Goddess in tall rain dress
tosses a handful of meal.

 

God bellies roil
mouth-bubbles, frenzy of feeding,
the common ones, the bright-colored rare ones
show up, they tangle and tumble,
godlings ride by in Rolls Royce
wide-eyed in brokers’ halls
lifted in hotels
being presented to, platters
of tidbit and wine,
snatch of fame,

churn and roil,

meal gone the water subsides.
A mouse,
a hawk.

The calligraphy of lights on the night
freeways of Los Angeles

will long be remembered.

Owl
calls;
late-rising moon.

 

© 1956-1996 Gary Snyder, in Mountains and Rivers Without End, Washington D.C.: Counterpoint

Address: Strandpromenaden 2, 0252 Oslo

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