Dan Peters: “Letter To Students Who Are Not Here”

Letter To Students Who Are Not Here

in memory of Karen, Jessica, and Jason 

Words and books
Like a small creek off a high ledge
Gone in the dry air.

–Gary Snyder, “Piute Creek”

The hills are green and will be for a month.
Then, as the cheatgrass matures, they will turn red.
By the time you come home, fewer than before,
they will have changed to various shades of brown.
Now, though, they are green and some mornings,
when clouds cover the valley, you can squint your eyes
and almost believe you are in another country
where all year long, hills remain
as round and bright as these ridges today.

A year ago, I wrote another letter.
I said I don’t have anything other than easy answers
that seem tired before I can get them out of my mouth.
Much later, I saw some things were passing through me.
Maybe it was just so much had changed.
My friend drove me around for more than an hour.
He copied down this line: No one loves rock, yet here we are.

Outside my window the sound of a lawnmower
drifts back and forth. I am not where I was,
and you are not here, anymore.
The ridges change as they did before any of this happened,
before we lost so much.
That’s no kind of answer, but I’ll stand by it.
Across the valley, I can see pillars of smoke
where orchards stood. The trees behind your school
empty of blossoms in the wind and rain.
Those beside the river fill with leaves.

–Dan Peters

From Down the Road the Children Go (Blue Begonia Press); posted with permission of the author.

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