“At The Shore”
From Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet Frank Bidart
All over the earth,
elegies for the earth.
The shore is in mourning. It mourns what it must soon
see, the sea
implacable, drowning chunks of the intelligible, familiar world.
Creatures of the earth filled with the instinct to wound
the earth. We fear that by an act of immense, unconscious
will, we have succeeded at last in killing NATURE.
Since childhood, you hated the illusion that this
green and pleasant land
inherently is green
or for human beings home. Whoever dreamed that had
not, you thought, experienced
the earth. We needed to rewrite in revenge the world that wrote us.
My parents drove from the Sierras (Bishop), to the almost-
city of their parents, carved from desert (Bakersfield).
To get anywhere you had to cross the Mojave Desert.
It was World War Two. In the Sierras my father was a big shot.
He said It’s better to be a big fish in a little pond. The government
refused to enlist—rich
farmers. So to my mother’s dismay, night after night in bars
drunk, wronged, he fought soldiers who had called him a coward.
They drove their gorgeous Lincoln Zephyr across the steaming
Mojave at night.
carsick, I was in the back seat, inside,
Unprotected. Phantasmagoric enormous
tumbleweeds in the empty
landscape rolled aimlessly outside the speeding car.
The preceding is from the Freeman’s channel at Literary Hub, which features excerpts from the print editions of Freeman’s, along with supplementary writing from contributors past, present and future. The upcoming issue of Freeman’s, a collection of writings on California, features work from Tommy Orange, Rabih Alameddine, Rachel Kushner, Mai Der Vang, Reyna Grande, and more, is available now.