Bonefield

Land of the Esselen

Land of the Esselen

Take the bodies of the land and the sea.
Grind them together for thirty million
    summers
and something’s bound to chip off.

Look. Not even the heart is left
    unscathed;
hunks of Sierran granite spilled
up and down the coast;
the continent’s bones scattered
across the exposed sea floor
from Bodega Head and Point Reyes in
    the north,
past the Farallons, Pinos and Lobos
down to that plutonic shard the Spanish
    named
“the South,” where you may have heard
an older people, beyond the cliff,
up the canyon, under the shadows
of the white peak, the red giants; who
spoke in ways foreign to their neighbors.

In that country, all was life,
everything thinking;
rock was memory, and nothing
was too inhuman
to have a name.

© 2014–15 Kaweah

 

The Advent of Stone

a trap so baited was laid to catch you when the world began, before the granite foundation [1]

Before the granite was bedded to build the world on [2]

age-reddened granite that was the world’s cradle [3]

One of the themes that appeared in earnest when Robinson Jeffers published Tamar and Other Poems was the stone theme (hawks and eagles didn’t really appear until Cawdor, three releases and four years later). Tamar was published with shorter poems with titles like “To the Rock …” and “To the Stone-Cutters.” The next release, Roan Stallion, began with the poem “Granite and Cypress.”

Stone, for Jeffers, tended to mean granite, and even more specifically sea-granite [4], his term for the exotic granite that pushed up through the marine rock west of the San Andreas Fault. Before the Jefferses purchased those 16 lots at Carmel Point in 1919 [5], it is debatable whether stone ever meant very much to the poet.

Granite is not the dominant bedrock of Carmel-by-the-Sea or of the Central California coast in general. The coastal zone is west of the San Andreas Fault, and so its bedrock is primarily marine in origin. There are, however, exposures of granite throughout the coast of Central California. This granite is exotic to the terrain, as granite is not a marine rock. It is believed to have been sliced off of the Sierra Nevada Batholith many million years ago and moved slowly up the coast along the San Andreas Fault. Thus there is an outcrop of Sierra sea-granite at Carmel Point, and stone throughout Jeffers’s life work.



[1] Tamar (CP 1:38)
[2] Tamar (CP 1:54)
[2] Tamar (CP 1:80)
[3] Term used in The Cycle (CP 1:14) and Meditation on Saviors (CP 1:398)
[4] National Park Service, Historic American Landscapes Survey, HALS No. CA-56

Organic Architecture

I

When Jeffers had his house built at the Point,
He had it made to last, with local stuff—
Exotic sea-granite conveyed from the Sierra
Up the San Andreas and hauled by horse
From a nearby quarry he called the sea.

He even helped with the work, and then
    he added on a tavern, and
Gemmed it with non-native things
Taken from temples, tombs and poets and kings
    from all around the world.

A man needs a car, and a car needs a home,
So he made his car a house of stone
    he wheeled from the sea.

A man needs a dog, and a dog needs a fence,
So he raised a wall of slow-cooked stones
    he fetched up from the sea.

A man needs a wife, and a wife needs a tower,
So he built her a sea-stone turret, and he had it
lined with fine mahogany; décor’d
With Hindu heads, precious tiles, and sacred stones
Pinched from poets, walls, and temples and tombs
    from all around the world.

And of the sea stones, the poet built poems
About his house, his cliffs, and his tower,

    but not about the loot.

II

When Henry built his cabin in the woods,
He made it of native white pine that he felled himself,
    plus some secondhand brick.

He moved in, raised some beans,
Watched the trains steam by,
Surveyed the pond, and after a couple years,
Collected his journals,
walked back to Concord.

© 2013–15 Kaweah

 

Sierra del Fuego

He knew her best,
I have no doubt of it.
And didn’t he name her better
Than did the Spaniards? Hah!
What did they know?
They never even approached her.

Today I received another incident report
From the Range. She has
taken to burning again.

It’s inevitable.

If you’ve ever walked her wooded elevations
on a day like this, under the faithful
California sun,
you might reckon the thickets and the woods to be
on the threshold of ignition.

What isn’t burning is baking.
You can smell it.

The cold fire of alpenglow on the high peaks,
That is a reminder.

I remember, John, how you waited out a mountain
fire in the charred heart of a Sequoia,
that Giant among giants who needs
a little fire now and then.

I would have liked to have been on Paradise Ridge,
there with you, that night.

I would have been waiting, a little nervously,
for the right time to say,

Now tell me
you never considered

Range of Fire.

© 2013 Kaweah