Central Valley Sun


Ceaseless fire-bathing
in the solar shine
since May:

Stagnant wallows of heat
have loitered on clay
to bake ceramic Sacramento.

Sniffing in the sun,
not quite lizard,
I read hot air
on a moist tongue.

It is with mirage
that I temper
each day.
With mirages.


A boy scuffing in milkweed and dirt
swirls dust about his knees.

Cones of cinnamon-speckled
air rise up behind his stepping
like tissue paper thrown away
once the bouquets have been bestowed.

The legs of his pants are shucking kernels
of seed as he brushes
dried flyaway grass, whose rootedness
no longer matters. Clearly
he himself is only softly set
under these native skies
that rise so light above his head
to place the summer sun.


Once midday has passed above,
all afternoon there comes a constant
buzzing from the earth.

Its well-established whisper
speaks accustomed tales of gravel
heaped against the Folsom foothills,
palladium-red hardpan laid to geologic rest,
delta-mellow vapors
rising to the cycle
till the gates of sinking gold
swing evening's respite into view.

One further day accumulates:
the dust of Sutter's mill
assayed and gilded
from a valley gone.

Voices of beloved dead
buzz too, and from the levee
leak the Yuba City floods of 1955
to sate the thirsty hops,
to soften and ferment our days of sun.


Meager-floating dust accompanies
the boy; barbs of silver thistle─
botanic wasps
at naked heels─are stabbing him.

Palms cupped with aqueous pollywogs,
a tap dance, bare charade of feet
stubbing muscle and mind
across dirt-clod fields.

Even asphalt patches pass along
golden weedy smells
of nostril and nostalgia,
dual demigods of summers past.

─ Richard Hacken