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A Hundred Gourds 4:3 June 2015

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page 9  

Mark H. Minster - USA


from Hard Walking


March 28        Napa Valley

some make it an art
depicting ten thousand things
that look like letters

The slipknots, for instance, with which I close
the thin plastic bags of snacks when I shop.
Each looks a little like the letter P.
Almost every evening around the bay,
I have undone and opened, one by one.
One night I tossed the plastic in the fire
and it shriveled to an S like a snake,
writhed and melted away. Those dioxins
I may be responsible for always.

In winter and early spring, these vineyards
are famine for letter-photographers,
the gnarled trunks pruned to awkward stumps and tied
with wire. It is not the season for grapes.
So here is the alphabet of vineyards
in winter:

the stems of I
the crosses of T and t
the umbels of Y

              Today I’ve been a number-
photographer instead, with no camera.
I walked entirely on state highways—
28, 162—past limit signs—
50, 45, 40 and on down
to 10. In the swale along the margins
of highways, I kept finding things people
lost or threw, ballast, treasures. I found fragments.

I found a flashcard
0 x 10 = what?
remember the rule

one times something
is something, anything times
nothing is nothing

acorns and oak galls
competing seeds of oak trees
zeros in the swale

lots of number 1s
cigarette butts, antennae
a coyote tail

Artists who work in junk could make something
from anything tossed in a ditch, plastic
car parts for color, plastic bags for loft,
chunks of chassis for mooring. From acorns
and oak gall, the artist could leach tannins
and stuff and mount all the flattened rabbits.

All I wanted was the one raptor talon.
I took it as talisman, as totem.

all the tourists say
speeding 10 times as fast
this is paradise

By now the vinedressers have pruned their vines
hewn and burned the inessential, keeping
only the needed, taking scions in
a genealogy of this vine from that
which goes back to that other and so on.
Thus, through succession, everywhere once was
paradise.
              But oh the vinedressers cut
so severely sometimes. What of the roots
and what of the grafts, what of what remains?



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