At Pinole Regional Shoreline,
the sun at its zenith threatens to throw
sparks off the waves, start a fire or a
riot in the grasslands’ haze, in this week’s
frieze of strikes and counterstrikes.
In autumn, we count on the rains to come,
though soon this will be an error we
make systematically, to
err on the side of water.
To assess what’s no longer there, we
sashay our way through the dappled shade of
immigrant eucalypts, where Elymus carpets persist,
and in a shadowed ditch (to our delight) find
a stand of SYCH, our acronym for the
native aster, Symphyotrichum chilense, making a
symphony of seed that hangs on the breeze,
floating on a long arc not bending toward
justice, or any other ice but I.C.E., a
melting fall the speed of which has been
calculated, according to physics and the
thermodynamic laws of future fossil fuels.
Seed hulls under the Bay were a bank this way,
which we tap for oil,
and on the darting BART I yawn by a thousand thousand souls under pressure,
seated next to me and held fast by sediment,
the groan of carbon plied into these forms.
These, too, could be recycled, on a longer time horizon:
this train, this track, this ear bud, dense silence, but
the tenses are turning concurrent,
tidal tongues telling of our broken
contracts, and treaties, and codes.
The grassland is waving,
mouthing words at us from across the platform,
the train lurches in reproach,
signaling its approach with a roar:
it wasn’t war at all, but we
misread our role or were miscast in power,
a coercive lover, all prowl and prowess,
trust and secrets.
The egrets have fled the eaves of the
trees that were their rookeries,
the expense of our parched progress
is coming home to roost in the
maw of the tunnel, flying into the
hard expanse of this sentence:
We have earned no forgiveness as a species—
not the treat of July’s peaches—
nor September’s expression of light.
Laura Booth sells books and restores tidal marsh habitat around the San Francisco Bay. She holds a BA in environmental biology from Columbia University. Her writing focuses on urban ecology, and has appeared in Alpinist and The Nature of Cities.
Photo by Fares Hamouche.