Society featured

Cache Creek

April 14, 2023

The animal community, that is mammals, birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians, has shrunk on average 68% between 1970 and 2020, according to the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London in the Living Planet Report.

Again the truckloads of tomatoes, and the road
speckled with drying skins, there are tractors
and factory farms, whirlpools of dust, just east
of cache creek, clouds of yellow butterflies, lost
in the red-brown haze, my nostrils twitch with
faint smell of smoke and a long long line of
white-flowered oleanders curve around the bend
into a long stretch of hay, baled and stacked,
trailing truckloads of tomatoes, the road speckled
with the drying skins.

No beer, and no zin, even less caffeine these days
iʻm off on a slower ramble, tracking backroads
and newly noticed geologies, i sense the earth’s
weeping fragmentations as if i were a pore
of its skin, sense her ancient sedimented memories,
see the flooded stones flooring an expectant creek, or
is it all a mirage, miles ahead the surface of the road
dances, as if liquid, and the car rocks and a field
of dirt gathers in the unsettling wind and carries
the soil in dusty eddies beyond the cemented edges of
the crematorium.

Just off shore new weather systems are birthing
re-channelling the earth’s relentless energy, today
only a soft wind, the valley hints of thin scents
of oregon smoke, peppertrees drip with yellow
near red gulch slough and sunflowers parade,
heads puffed with pride, like an unknowing
army going to war, the corn tassels blare and
honeydew melons wait for the curved blade
of unvalued human backs bent like scythes
to their task, iʻm following rows of letters,
rows of lines that disappear over the horizon,
sometime in the future i saw myself weeping
at the edge of a field, where is the source,
the spring that will river our compassion,
from a distance, i saw myself standing
in a dusty haze at the edge of a field,
for your voice, listening
to the raucous sound of jays bring the fresh
of the riverʻs evening breeze, and the odor
of road kill stirring the compost of emptiness
smoldering in my heart

Amid this dance of bounty she had said we are
like two year olds throwing tantrums, this idea
we have that we are the crown of creation,
behind the post office tall billowing clouds
frame a flag at half-mast, my body aches
from remembering, lately i have
been to too many memorials, it seems
every month or two,

And is it not all connected, the long rows
the long weeks, the long seasons, the long
winding altar of commodification, a mechanical
river of destruction souring the planet
and its once-magical waters, an acidic river
that scorches flora and fauna and people, i toss and
turn, shadows dance on the motel wall, trucks
of produce roll by in the early dawning, if i
close my eyes it sounds pleasant, like surf,
i step outside into the setting moon, a faint light
appears in the east, and a soft rain
washes the angry dust from my uneasy spirit,
from the field
i hear an eerie rattling,
do skeletons only dance
on the Day of the Dead?

I am calmer these days, my sorrow focused
and now, i realize, i am not alone…

A tomato rolls from the rolling gondola…


Teaser photo credit: Cache Creek, in a canyon with native chaparral and woodlands habitat vegetation, in Lake County, northern California.

Terry McNeely

i began writing, mostly poetry, shortly after my wife, Mickel, died in ʻ95. Death figured prominently in my thoughts, my own loss, my own alcohol abuse, the manʻs ecological destruction of a planet, the impoverishment of billions. Through these parallel dyings, i learned everything changes, there is nothing to hang onto and i came to find compassion, for myself and the larger world, and through compassion, i believe, we can find meaning in our lives, in our actions. To that end, i write. Iʻve lived most of my life in northern california, until i moved to hawaiʻi in 2003, where i live on the big island in Hilo. I have worked at various jobs, mostly USPS, but also owned a small bookstore.

Tags: eco-grief