SUNDAY DRIVE IN YELLOWSTONE
It's a road of hellos and goodbyes
and this day, Sunday, is mostly a day
where leavings take place in moments
full of ways confusing us all. The last thing
in beginning calls for grand children
to get out of the community pool
and assemble by the teepee
for photographs. One child will go
with us following pictures.
It's Sunday, as I said,
all in all things are ok.
Nevertheless, it's a sad time.
It's a sad time all over this country
and there are gaps in the story.
I've been reading geology,
a man not good at numbers.
Wife, granddaughter, and myself,
drive through Yellowstone
crisscrossing the Continental Divide
every few minutes. Wild rivers
meander. I collect names of creeks
for a friend who writes creek poems.
Three days ago on the Nez Perce Trail,
I wrote the year, 1889,
that a photograph was taken of Chief Joseph,
that hangs in a mostly empty restaurant
in the town of Kooskia. Highway 12 West,
following the Clearwater and Lochsa rivers,
wild ones, was completed in 1962.
John McPhee's epic, Annals of a Former World,
the copy I'm reading, is old enough to be placed
on the free book table in the sun outside
the Ellensburg Library. Lakes don't last,
he says, and I remember this sentence
as we drive by Yellowstone Lake.
The Great Lakes are only 20,000 years old.
My granddaughter, turned 10
on Summer Solstice. Her parents call
on grandma's phone to tell her they've gotten her
an IPhone 5 for her birthday.
Lakes don't show up on the geologic record,
McPhee writes. In rock columns,
more time is missing than is there.
What is there commemorates moments,
drops of rain. Reason enough
to risk everything for love,
that short everything and all
that may even be forgotten
in the course of a long day,
of a Sunday drive. Those sad goodbyes
of grandchildren are not even permanent.
It's true they're all away from home,
but they'll see each other
on the 4th of July, bank on it, even
surrounded as we are by violence
and, well, if you're in America,
you know. Nothing's wrong
I say to my wife, what is more natural
than children's tears? Sunday morning,
I read my first poem in days:
a father kayaking with his daughter
worships in the Church of the Outdoors.
Fifty years ago, a soldier in the Canal Zone,
wearing dress Khakis studying Wallace Stevens,
I memorize Sunday Morning,
and when I muster out after returning
from the war in Vietnam, I write
an essay comparing Sunday Morning
to Kristofferson's, Sunday Morning Coming Down.
Late coffee and oranges, I say to my wife
as my granddaughter naps in the back seat.
Other things happen on this day,
good things, I remind my friend
moving into, for him, a new house.
We'll have a sage ceremony.
Another poem reminds me
all places are sacred,
not only this first national park.
It jolts me, bitter irony
in the naming of Old Faithful.
Children incredulous with adults
look off in child-scream
eye-speak in deep magma.
Field workers in accelerated time.
25 June 2017
Jackson Hole, WY