West Wind

(12 June - 4 August 1989) after Percy Bysshe Shelley

The wind blows everything except the fog curling over the foothills. I can smell the salt in it, as I pump my bicycle up the hill. It smells like a nursery, and it smells like a grave. I ride this road to get to work, not to visit every empty lot, look behind every tuft of wild grass, or throw myself before the cars, but the wind follows no road; it throws itself everywhere, grasses bending into dirt, leaves fluttering on twisting stems, sea gulls sailing invisible waves. Across a field, a double row of eucalyptus once lined the road from the station, but now the trees are falling in the wind, sloughing off leaves, bark, limbs, and in their limbs the ocean depths draw back the waves in leaves. Without intending, leaves roll across the road, seeds and gnats scatter without shelter, a crow lifts from the dust on black wings, a message rushes through the bushes. In my ears as I ride, the margin roars. I hurry; I am late. My head down, the wind blows my hair, and when I lift my eyes from the road, the wind blows in my face. It dares me like a friend, jeers my laziness, my self-absorption, taunts me with dead birds beside the road, feathers blown the wrong way, or flattened in hardened blood. Sacred things don’t keep behind walls, or move simply between work and home. They live in the wind, a family of baby gray squirrels learning how to get out of the way, and a dead squirrel that no one buries or moves from the tar. But a bird, flapping across, throws me before the car. I imagine we hit, and the mass collapses, pulls inward.