Here, the sedimentary rocks
of the town where I was raised
lift up, the layers of ancient seabed
exposed in ridges running left to right,
time turned on its side–
Eocene, Miocene, Pliocene.
At this height, the twilight rises,
a tidal shadow deepening
the cold of the cloudless atmosphere,
sharpening the view until it seems
every level is visible, beginning
with an ordinary puddle.
This shallow rain-filled basin
is a dish for living algae, a colony
caught on a monolithic hump,
the back of the sandstone whale
sounding the depths of the dark
shales that surround us.
Beyond, a solitary hawk
sits silhouetted on a prow of rock,
listening for the soft-footed mice
to slip from chaparral. A frieze
of oak trees holds black limbs still
in the winter solstice air.
Far below, the minuscule windows
are jewels on glowing webs,
luminescent growth in the valley of
a hundred thousand, their tide of
streetlights and headlights rising up
the mountain where I stand.
It’s getting late, and the keys
are already in my hand, but before
I make the steep drive back,
the surface of that transient puddle
takes the firmament of galactic fire
and lays it at my feet.