Mount Hamilton

(John Muir said it–start with anything and you will find it attached to everything else in the universe.  This poem is an attempt to find that connection through some of the many varied events I’ve experienced on Mount Hamilton over the years.)


I traced the falcon’s flight above

sere grasses flayed by summer’s heat.

Binoculars confirmed a Falco mexicanus

as I thought–and falcon, not the tercetlet.

So I did not see the feral swine

until their grunts betrayed their fear

as off they raced, midway between

the city and Lick’s most scientific mausoleum.

I paused beneath an ancient oak–

safe beneath the mistletoe–to watch

them run while death swooped down

and talons wrenched the squirrel’s last

scream–then up the falcon bore its prey

toward the hungry hatchlings she must feed.


Yet once, two decades gone, I stood

this very spot and buckled to my knees,

regained my feet, and buckled yet again,

then lost my sight.  “Sir,” I cried, “I’ve lost

my sight.” He did not comprehend.

“Sit down beneath that oak,” he said.

“I cannot see it, sir.  I’ve lost my sight.”

Confused, he lead me to the oak, and there

I sat alone (the other scouts returned to camp

while he stood off yet gave me watch)

for twenty minutes til my sight–at first

dim blots of shifting light, then blurred,

uncertain hues–at last returned.


And once I used those very eyes to peer

through Lick’s refracting lens at things

beyond, and saw a dying star,

its cast off shell a ghostly halo

in the depths of lifeless space.


My memory contains these images

and mind must make some meaning,

attaching strings to all the universe

through swine, nebulas, squirrels,

prairie falcons, and eyes too blind

to see the things that I have known.


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