John Haines


Fourth of July at Santa Ynez

Under the makeshift arbor of leaves
a hot wind blowing smoke and laughter.
Music out of the renegade west,
too harsh and loud, many dark faces
moved among the sweating whites.

Wandering apart from the others,
I found an old Indian seated alone
on a bench in the flickering shade.

He was holding a dented bucket;
three crayfish, lifting themselves
from the muddy water, stirred
and scraped against the greasy metal.

The Dream of February

In the moonlight,
in the heavy snow,
I was hunting along
the sunken road
and heard behind me
the quiet step
and smothered whimper
of something following...

Ah, tree of panic
I climbed
to escape the night,
as the furry body glided
beneath, lynx with
steady gaze, and began
the slow ascent.

And dark blue foxes
climbed beside me with
famished eyes that
glowed in the shadows;

The Girl Who Buried Snakes in a Jar

She came to see the bones
whiten in a summer,
and one year later a narrow
mummy with a dusty skin
and flaking scales
would break apart in her hand.

She wanted to see if sunlight
still glinted in those eyes,
to know what it lighted
from a window on the mallow roots,
leaf mold and fallen casques.

And to ask if a single tongue,
one forked flicker in the dark,
had found any heat in death:
in the closed space and chill
of that burial, what speech,
what sign would there be.