Nightman in a Winter Valley

Using a lover’s old pen
and wearing a broken down harvest hat
I’m a Yosemite pot washer
offering you cold compass skies and cemeteries
with a sense of two a.m. on the grave stones.
South through the cedars
the moon colors snow streaked granite walls
like an old man’s hands.
And when you glance up
toward the timekeepers in Yosemite
they’re Lindbergh’s successors
leaving superb lines night after night and you hear
the same strange offerings to Woodie Guthrie.
Someday all my bones will be washed
in a sand colored river lined by black oaks
under a black sky in the nuance of the half life
But I’m here by the graves and scaffold branches
making an offering to absent trees
before the granite chairs and benches rise
to ramparts on the high ground
where the halflife on the high ground has a hard voice
with an entry fee lookin’ down and you work to stay there.

Apropos of nothing, I believe it was the political writer
Richard Reeves who said we hire them
for four of five decisions: the kind
that will last down the generations
Makes me wonder what kind of day
Abraham Lincoln was having when he decided
to set Yosemite beside thence, forward and forever free.
These moldering bodies and stones can’t tell me
but some minds see a long ways
past the graveyards and what’s to come.

Bob Dylan’s the cold copper name
of a suspicious old man on a national journey
telling us where he’s been.
His twisting voice has a nasal bass line now
and twelve string Rickenbackers in the background
of a perpetual mirror watched by strangers.
The blown harmonica thoughts hover over the land
with elbow driven pianos and pounding cat paw drums
on the high ground washing down to the downstream union
we all hold in our televisions.
Some time ago the voice evolved
from old stoves or a young boy’s radio.
Over the years lyrics are stubborn thieves
around our fires and easy chairs and there’s eight kinds
of voices in the nuance of the half life.
And sometimes the voice under the moon
becomes a nighthawk over the national diner
above that special land where the harmonicas have meaning.

I imagine that kind of half life is tiring
after climbing over the mountains
and stumbling into anthems.
Maybe it makes you feel like I’m nodding
at an unknown boy’s hole in this Yosemite graveyard
next to where the rangers sleep.
Instead I’m heading through the trees
toward the oneway road
where a white blanket covers eight acres of meadow
and the exchange of ideas has gone plastic.
The original climbers came in old Fords
with packs of Camels without knowing very many routes.
And their canvas baggage was heavier then.
Now the surrounding granite impounds big wall climbers
and changes the nature of marriage
when the jail’s behind the cedars.
Closer to home, there’s eight acres of meadow
with stars bursting over my canoe on the snowy asphalt
and where the hell is Mars as the snow falls
on my hat from overhanging trees.
My socks are swollen scum after washing
the residue of airport food in the Pot Room.
And the sky is shooting light over the Royal Arches
while I’m beggin’ on my bended knee
for more constellations and ships at sea.
But as my shoes track past the moonlit meadow
the larger granite asked if complex tools are necessary.
There’s always a man running straight up the slab
who doesn’t use any tools except for his hands
as the meat bees chase his ass.
And as the black meets the white shoulder blade
of HalfDome. I recalled how Guthrie fell
between the Brooklyn State Hospital
and the Grand Canyon at sundown.
But after he’s gone, I’m just a pot washer
walking from a Dylan graveyard in the pot washer hour
because the voice fifty miles out to sea
needs the universe to swallow him whole.
And the howling moon, she’ll feel lucky that the half life
pounded and whipped him into shape …