Work and the Work at Lake Balboa

for Jason Molina

photo by Lucas Schleicher

I

He would not go to sleep until
the old dictionary
yielded the right sounds and times.

II

The still egrets stood
at Balboa’s
busy shore, exultant.

III

Nothing made the words come faster. He fussed
and complained and hammered at his patience.

IV

When visitors dropped crumbs
nearby
the egrets waited, thin poles in the grass
unmoved by the coots.

V

I do not write with equations,
do not cede to the first thought
or first phrase that results, as if one
and one made two, as if
words added up.

VI

Dagger beaked bitterns suspended
their daggers, camouflaged
over ruddy ducks wading
and cool common loons
cooling
their checkered mantles
in the oil dark spotted water.

VII

Sleep is a friend, but work
is our faithful partner, who watches
our backs and burns through the dim watts
between the hours
and the hum of diesel rigs.

VIII

The bald cherry trees lean
like reeds over the dust and short grasses.
Cormorants
and grackles mirror them as they bend
against the lake.

IX

A natural rhythm is earned
ironically,
by lumbering in circles.

X

Near the ground, the egret
flattened to white paper,
either erased or overfull,
dreamer or image dreamt.

XI

Framework, patchwork, going to work
in and working
through, the work reworks
the persistent work
until the work is completed.
Soul is work.

XII

Birds fly lakeward.
The water must fall palewise.

XIII

The work was in what they saw then,
in the new red
Bottlebrush blooms and the old
clay rooftops, under
which friends spoke with friends.

XIV

The tight shrieks and tree trills caromed
through the park. He heard them again 
later, thinking of something else.