Thick fog has filled the canyon overnight
And turned it to a sea of milky gray.
The steep-sloped chaparral and streets below
Are drowned from view; hilltops across the way
Form a low-lying archipelago
Upon the fog’s smothering gulfs and shoals.
The scene, in the uncertain pre-dawn light,
Recalls those Chinese landscapes on silk scrolls

In which mists haunt ravines, and clouds surround
Remote peaks fading to remoter skies.
The scene suggests, too, the apocalypse
The earth may suffer if sea levels rise.
This very deck might be a ghostly ship’s
And I a lone survivor, cast by fate
Out on a flood as lifeless and profound
As the one Noah had to navigate.

Yet soon this world’s specifics will revive
And banish fanciful analogies.
Some mourning doves, on airily whistling wings,
Will light in canyon-overhanging trees;
Damp breeze will test the tensile strength of strings,
Jeweled and soaking, that a spider’s spun;
Cars snaking up along Mulholland Drive
Will flash their windshields at the rising sun.

The fog will drain; the canyon will evince
Toyon, buckthorn, and yucca, and restore
The ceanothus thickets that hide deer;
Houses will surface on the canyon’s floor.
The only ocean will be south of here
And glimpsed through a green hollow in a ridge,
Pacific in its sunny sparks and glints
Beyond San Pedro’s Vincent Thomas Bridge.

 

 


Timothy Steele’s latest book is All the Fun’s in How You Say a Thing (Ohio University Press).

This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 23 Number 8, on page 25
Copyright © 2017 The New Criterion | www.newcriterion.com
https://newcriterion.com/issues/2005/4/daybreak-benedict-canyon