Brenda Yates

Transpiration
by Brenda Yates

We find only the world we look for.

—Henry David Thoreau

I

Walking now after the storm has blown away
is once again an ever-the-same but eerier,
more still, pursuit, in debris of what just yesterday
was blooming or branching on pine, palm, silky oak.
Hubris of flora? Of fauna? All broke.
Too tall this crown banging against the sky.
Too wide these limbs or trunks that will not sway.
Plenty strong, wings had seemed to birds in its eye
where there was calm and water mirrored like glass.
The egrets of seas or waterways, now out of place,
here in a fir, there a spruce, whatever the case,
bedraggled, slouched like lost travelers
shivering and far from where they want to be—
as if the wind still blew and they were floss.

II

Cold rain for days, a week, then more, just kept
coming. At last, while we slept
it cleared. Sun slivers on the horizon
before it breaks, brighter than ever over ridge after
ridge towering like Alps, like Himalayas.

Rain-cleaned air sparkles; crags and peaks
have grown bigger, taller, steeper, more real,
so clear I see the antennas on Mt. Wilson,
the snowcaps on Mt. Baldy proper, and lesser,
the rugged faces on the third ridge. I can feel
their fierceness, though they’re on the far
side of the valley beyond this and the next,
as if mountains before these were mere
images, weightless as the ideas
of places encountered on maps or in books.

III

But what would I see, what would my eyes tell me
if clouds didn’t hug foothills, suggest a valley?
What if, at this instant, mist weren’t floating
between slopes the way it does in a Chinese painting?

IV

In the sun’s angled rays, chilly air stirs
as if warmth were bringing it to life. Vapors
rise from puddles, from flooded
intersections, from grass as it begins
to glitter, from pines letting go
of raindrops trapped between needles
as the trees and hedges that had
been holding their skins
closed, open themselves—exhaling
and for just one moment,
all of us stand exchanging
long, wet breaths, mingled
in the morning light.

after Robert Lowell

 

Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 15, Issue 2.

Brenda Yates

Brenda Yates is from nowhere. After growing up on Air Force bases here and overseas, she settled in California. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee (thanks, Cider Press Review!), recipient of the Patricia Bibby Memorial Prize at Idyllwild Arts, and winner of the Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Poetry Contest.

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