Dana Gioia

CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.

An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.

One who would hurry over the clinging
thistle, foxtail, golden poppy,
knowing everything was just a weed,
unable to conceive that these trees
and sparse brown bushes were alive.

And hate the bright stillness of the noon
without wind, without motion,
the only other living thing
a hawk, hungry for prey, suspended
in the blinding, sunlit blue.

And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

From 99 Poems: New & Selected by Dana Gioia (Graywolf 2016).


BEWARE OF THINGS IN DUPLICATE

Beware of things in duplicate:
a set of knives, the cufflinks in a drawer,
the dice, the pair of Queens, the eyes
of someone sitting next to you.
Attend that empty minute in the evening
when looking at the clock, you see
its hands are fixed on the same hour
you noticed at your morning coffee.
These are the moments to beware
when there is nothing so familiar
or so close that it cannot betray you:
a twin, an extra key, an echo,
your own reflection in the glass.

From 99 Poems: New & Selected by Dana Gioia (Graywolf 2016).


 

Dana Gioia is Poet Laureate of California. An internationally recognized poet and critic, he is the author of five collections of poetry, including Interrogations at Noon (2001), which won the American Book Award, and 99 Poems: New & Selected (2016). His critical collections include Can Poetry Matter? (1992), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Award. He has written three opera libretti and edited 20 literary anthologies. He served as Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2009. He has been awarded 11 honorary doctorates. He is the Judge Widney Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at the University of Southern California, where he teaches each fall semester. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Sonoma County, California.

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