WORLD’S END: NORTH OF SAN FRANCISCO
At the continent’s end, fortifications
linger for the end of the world. They greet
each California morning, these barracks in the fog.
Below, the lagoon is gunmetal, or mercury poured.
I saw a river otter, lithe as compacted water
arch through the tule basin. A heron.
A poker-faced coyote loping in chaparral.
The pelicans, ancient Christian emblem of charity,
dove, hard spears mining water.
I know and they do not how they are Renaissance symbols.
How here hummingbirds are Miwok gods.
II. Ghost Town
At the Nike Missile site, one curated missile
rises for tourists on Wednesdays.
Other days, it is guarded by a mannequin
who sits in barbed wire, his enclosure
lost in thickets and foxtails.
Hikers spelunk through each bunker.
Battery Wallace: Battery Alexander: Battery Townsley.
Labor cemented these hills. 1907. 1938.
They are almost Roman, these ruins
guarding outpost California.
Each gun could have destroyed this world.
Now conquest is going on elsewhere.
At dusk we watch hill-shapes waver in the lagoon.
Imperfect reflections. Tree forms obscured.
Out to sea, through the Golden Gate,
I see the Hanjin Sea Princess
sail west, west, towards China.
As a girl I named the plants here. As a pioneer
I crossed prairies by train: My life delivered me
at this mouth of the Pacific. I learned the plant-names in English.
Miwok gods fed at the bottlebrush in our backyard.
At home I discovered the East
through 19th century novels and movies about New York.
The East was the past: My family came a long time ago.
After lunch, I crest the ridgeline,
thinking about what we drag behind us,
inadequacies of language to place.
I think nothing, too, examining fur in coyote scat.
Ochre in fault-line sandstone, in jarred, upended plates.
I am running on a sea floor sedimented 600 million years.
I am running on willow thickets the Spanish called saucelito.
The fog is a bridal veil, but ghostful.
The foghorn sounds perfect fourths.
Below, latticework fields, the chartreuse
mustard flowers. Plum trees from Portuguese farms
wild back into the hills.
On a serpentine outcrop, a crow rasps. His call
ripens off towards the ridgeline.
Poison oak glints among sticky monkey.
I stand on a crumbling fortress making bouquets of thistles.