Following My Nose up the San Juaquin
River from Highway 99 to 41
by C. W. Moulton
Well I don't like fences anymore than you
do Jason, Huckleberry, whatever you name is.
I think a man oughta have enough grit to . . . walk
through the autumn leaves.
~ John Wayne
Without an Invitation
My Dear Voltaire,
Thank you for the spunky letter. I don't agree with your
imagined projections concerning urban sprawl. Even if it
is on all fours, as you say, I'd much prefer going back
to nature to orbiting the moon in an aluminum outhouse.
Thanks, but no thanks.
~ J.J. Rousseau
It is not so much that the villainous tyrant cannot endure
nature in his heart. It is more that his attempts to do so
thus far seem feeble and timid.
~ Marlon Brando
Mutiny on the Bounty
Now I see a man standing in his custom
residential tract house talking to the window
. . . talking to the curtains. Now earth is
falling softly from his mouth onto a green rug.
He is stupified. He wishes things were different.
He puts his hands to his ears but the digital
clock, the freezer, the submersible pump in the
yard, the airconditioner up on the roof, go on
sucking lightning bolts out of the storm
It is not necessary
to destroy the best part of nature so the successful
can have houses to live in away from the ugliness
they are satisfied to leave behind.
When the beauty
of nature is destroyed, it makes us all look bad.
There's more technological
chivalry in a dandilion than there is in the aircraft
One jackrabbit is worth more
than all the land developers in Fresno.
A muskrat has
more courage than the world congregation of churches.
Frogs and hoptoads
are prettier than banks and shopping centers.
Now I'm breaking the law
peeling a pure orange and
tromping a NO TRESPASSING sign
into the ground
(what the old goaded knee does of lust)
Now I'm standing on a beach
as big as Avila and I cannot
hear the noon whistle.
Five white mounds of sand here.
Like a toddler I'm marching up
the one that fascinates me
sticking my fingers into the soft
white breast of sand.
Trying to write a poem here:
stiffness leaves my neck.
Now I am naive.
Now I am walking down a green road
through a deed of small
chartreuse lakes which are
a foundation for an air-bridge
trammeled down by ducks, coot and
cinnamon teal that will flutter
making the sounds of knowledge
as they skid web-footed
into evening water and form
above black bass and bluegill
that will incline and feed
tonight among moonbeams.
Now I see the spot where
some 40 years ago
I spilled my young seed
squirting it into sticks
and an angel that followed
behind a plyboard cutlass
to the far end of the island
and hovered with me there
in a thin sand bar
of glittering water and
Now I am edging
along a realized shoreline
that I see, and I see that beaver
do not hang around joking
with chainsaws. They have their own
headaches. They have a calmness
surrounded by mystery.
Now I'm crawling under
and electric fence after killdeer.
A cottontail dances off
into trees and I'm after him.
Inside a splay of cottonwood I sit
and see how sky is caught
and scratched in splendor.
A speckling of light frenzied
around glowing pieces of cerulean
frozen as in an inlay.
It is quiet so I sit.
When I move it is not destroyed.
Things loosen, angles dislocate;
rearranged, the sky swings,
and as the limbs come forth
with their shiny inventions
there are, friends, places
for resting the armpits
as beetles crawl from the mind, fall
into the green grass
Cities are vanishing from my mind
tense, box-like houses, straight
a ground squirrel runs into a bank
making metallic sounds like coins
being thrown down and comes out
figuring credit and deficit
contemplating, squatting on the shore
looking at the wide world too.
Now I see the white egret's defiance
like white fire in cattail.
He rolls his wings
and touches his beak
and I form a political alliance
promising to obey all his rules
and enter this into ledger.
A homing pigeon strays over
wild with enlightenment.
I see the otter swim upstream
not sidetracked by minor issues.
His filmy eye
demonstrates an outlook
of creative mobilization brought
into personal focus.
He comes out
standing on his own shoulders.
Later I find a trap
and take it into my mind
and set it
for people who trap otters and owners
of wildlife areas allowed to live
in ignorant panic.
Now I have come a long way
and am waddling across a fairway.
Golfers are waiting for me
patient and polite
in their red-blooded vibrations.
They won a beauty contest
this morning, but I don't care.
Now I'm taking a crap in their latrine
and there is a bluebird on top of this
stone cottage singing
Opportunity he says,
and I'm making a hole in one.
"Fortune," cries the bluebird.
Yes we're all rich as kings.
pours itself out to us daily
in signs and portents.
Now I am sitting in a small
junkyard at the end of Polk St.
with a jackrabbit who is
sitting in a small junkyard
at the end of Polk St. We
are looking at the river.
If we could burn a house and
get an owl and put him
in a tree, maybe He'd stay.
Or replace one of the three
golf courses with a bramble
of blackberries and some families of
blackbill flycatchers. They would be happy.
Smaller than a golfball
and more accurate than putters,
the blackbill flycatcher is able
to leap small shacks in a single bound.