Dana Gioia’s poem “Becoming a Redwood” appeared in our Summer 1991 issue. His latest collection is Pity the Beautiful.
Stand in a field long enough, and the soundsstart up again. The crickets, the invisibletoad who claims that change is possible,
And all the other life too small to name.First one, then another, until innumerablethey merge into the single voice of a summer hill.
Yes, it’s hard to stand still, hour after hour,fixed as a fencepost, hearing the steerssnort in the dark pasture, smelling the manure.
And paralyzed by the mystery of how a stone can bear to be a stone, the painthe grass endures breaking through the earth’s crust.
Unimaginable the redwoods on the far hill,rooted for centuries, the living wood grown talland thickened with a hundred thousand days of light.
The old windmill creaks in perfect timeto the wind shaking the miles of pasture grass,and the last farmhouse light goes off.
Something moves nearby. Coyotes huntthese hills and packs of feral dogs.But standing here at night accepts all that.
You are your own pale shadow in the quarter moon,moving more slowly than the crippled stars, part of the moonlight as the moonlight falls,
Part of the grass that answers the wind,part of the midnight’s watchfulness that knowsthere is no silence but when danger comes.
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