Eugene Hollahan is the editor of Studies in the Literary Imagination. His recent publications include Saul Bellow and the Struggle at the Center (AMS, 1994) and Hopkins Against History (Creighton UP, 1994).
Mutatis Mutandis, One Of These Days
Morning and evening, dawn to dusk,
we are out the door or out the window
scouting the expected and the desired,
what our painterly friends fired us with, promises,
not merely the predictable, old gold, butter,
sulfur, mikado, and olivesheen, but more,
Indian pink, Claude, purree, goldenrod, and crash.
Amazing us that when the green was leaving
leaves would alter to hellebore and cardinal,
to Goya and carnelian, sienna and Pompeii.
On the north slopes we could expect ruddle and murrey.
Whiling, we set out a dish of salted nuts,
caring first to napkin off the deadly salts,
for a red-tailed squirrel who handily
and more than handily shape-shifts our gifts
so each one twitches furrily, screeches, and scurries.
We hunger for any hue, provided it's yellow or red.
Meanwhile, but not gladly, we suffer
green's uniform toehold, in rhododendron and ash
a verdigris and a cobalt, in laurel and hickory
a jade, leek, and zinc. Name-droppings, too,
of Kildare, Lincoln, Paris, and Nile,
to our annoyance, impatient, envious,
wherever we brood on the tangled bank.
Very Lawrence, So to Speak
(M.R.H., Capt., USMC)
Yucca, Yucca, Yucca japed the desert
when you jeeped from Capistrano to Quantico,
between duty on the west coast and the east.
I shotgunned for you. That is, I dozed,
nightmaring the wild bunch, the dirty dozen,
wilding Las Cruces and Silver City.
I went along for the ride, so cactus and sagebrush
composed my closeups and middle distance.
Your sand hills were my Death Valley dunes.
My element was Mohawk and Cochise, my medium
ersatz shale, flint, jasper, and tourmaline.
True grit or false grit? I dubbed the whole scene,
cactus, mesquite, sagebrush, spongy succulents,
with healing properties from Paramount's back lot.
The wide absences were Tombstone, Dry Gulch, and Bowie.
Lizard and horny toad thrived at Growler Pass and Silver Bell.
Desert rats owing survival to an oasis
dreamed blue eyes in a downpour at Mexicali.
Some auteur or other supplied the script.
I plumed myself filmic and germinal,
uttering a grammar of Hollywood glamor
until I heard the yucca's mockery,
slapping, slapping, slapping like broken film.
You had it in you to laugh in its teeth,
fresh from Arabia Deserta and directing traffic
to the score of Saddam's torch song at Sabriya.
You were the authentic iron man, coast to coast
like Runyon's character in one unbroken line.