for my mother

switches back up the grassy dome and loses itself
in unbroken fog. I apologize for the weather,
California promises so much. “I’m not hard to please,”
she tells me, losing breath as we climb
the clay path, hoof-packed and lined
with broad saucers of shit. And I believe her,
or just let it rest. A single way
ramifies up the hillside, each spur
dead-ending in cropped grass and thistle.
A small cluster of cows inspect us as we pass.
We latch the gate behind.
                                                       And when the fog burns off,
a thin strip of ocean marks the middle distance
from where we are, watching lizards
scatter in sudden sunlight. The cows stand frozen
in portrait below, casting their doubles down the slope.
For us, a bit of wishful thinking has made
this hill a mountain, and we are now descending.

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 36 Number 1, on page 28
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