Potwasher Hour

Forest fires outside the valley
meant there was no power in the park
and it was blacker than bare feet bottoms.
Everyone seemed to have flashlights
and candles except me. I was night blind,
avoiding the stumps on my way to the store
for beer and maybe a flashlight.
Inside lanterns glowed over crooked lines
and they were out of lights
so I just bought some warm beer
before walking up toward
the abandoned tents above the store.

My oversized Birkenstocks
carried a lot of sand on the rise
to the granite beneath Glacier Point,
where over time granite slabs have peeled down
and become shattered piles forming the Terrace.
A few stars flickered through the tree tops
as I shook sandal sand loose
and the rugged Terrace rose
seventy yards behind the store.
Working east in the twisted woods and boulders
I tripped through a landscape memorized
as rough granite grays and forest greens
fading into surrounding blackness.

Finally opening a beer in the shipwrecked boulders
I drank with immortal logs stretched longer
than horizontal rockets and kept swallowing,
nodding up at towering evergreens
the smoke filled valley smelled of burning pine
while the abandoned tents
seemed a gathering of stripped frames.
Leaning against one of the two by fours
a woman’s voice echoed from the far end
of the naked frames maybe asking for a companion.
She didn’t ask again. I opened another bottle
without pursuing her in the darkness, then swallowed
more beer on the way down from the Terrace.

Out of the woods and boulders,
I kept going down toward the meadow.
The power was still off after the beer store closed.
And when the apple grove opened onto the meadow
you could see how the western end of the valley
captured most of the smoke from El Portal.
I walked further and sat alone in the grass
surrounded by granite abstract,
except for the same few stars mixed with drifting ash.
Then the wind changed and I found
you’re never really alone with the surrounding abstract
as a few half words floated from the grass.
Three beers left, I opened one
and watched the lights on the canyon walls.
They were big wall climbers flashing lights
at some rangers bellowing back through bullhorns.
Swallowing my beer as voices swam from the meadow
telling them to switch the goddamn horns off.
Then the wind and moon descended on the sea of grass.
And a pot washer hour turned in the northern sky
while time stood still in the western haze.
Smoke drifted away and I went deeper into the sheep grass.

I was laying flat by the trees
when a leafy kind of woman’s whisper
surprised me wanting a cigarette for her journey.
I hand rolled her a Drum, then lit it
with one of my last wooden matches.
The woman had a sun stained face
above some worn travel clothes
she inhaled deeply as the fire still climbed
to that Spanish word for door
with the sound of an employee’s child
conceived in Boy’s Town.

Then she put her face into mine
whispering she’d found a man
hiding in the woods from the rangers.
Her English wandered like a low river.
I nodded as she kept whispering
that the man was a big wall climber
writing a book on physics.
I nodded again so she quickly placed her hands
lightly on my face saying he’d combined two kinds
of weirdness, what kind was mine?
Her question got my hands aching.
Somehow she must have understood
dropping her hands from my face
to crack my fingers one by one
while I asked myself what kind of weirdness was mine?

After my last finger cracked
I told her I’d been writing a letter to an imaginary woman.
Then the pot washer hour continued
and the wind blew over dry grass
before she asked if my woman had an odd name?

I said maybe,

She reached for a Drum and said her name was Johanna
Rolled two and after we smoked,
told me she’d been up in the boulders.
Was she hungry and broke?
No, but she needed to get cleaned.

We got up and Johanna moved through the grass
wearing a kind of dark cloak, brown, black or even green.
We turned right at the road and then we turned left
toward the ice rink and cleared the trees around the parking lot
where she stopped and stared
up at the south rim of Yosemite.
Standing and staring in a maroon cloak, maroon because
some halogens on a pole told me the color.
Nearby was the big green rental tent
and stupid battered trucks.
Johanna turned and faced the north wall.
A smoky kind of place
with the granite’s water stains
stepping down to the tops of the trees.
She looked at the wall for a while and asked my name
which was Roy, and Johanna said
she knew a place called that in New Mexico.
Then after moving a few yards away,
she spoke my name quietly.
And again throwing her head back at the granite.
Kept slowly turning around gazing at everything.

When I joined her,
she asked what was my kind of life?
A farming desert where I kissed my wife
after changing night water in the moonlight.

Is there anymore?
Well, over by my tent someone has a tomato
in a protective wire cage but the raccoons laugh
knowing the fruit will never come
because they hardly grow in the cool,
and I have a towel for you
and a key to the women’s shower …