The Creek

(25 June 1990) after Percy Bysshe Shelley

The great woods have died back and fallen into my arms; laurel and oak billow at my sides against the parking lots and roofs. I wind behind back yards, beneath the streets, from the foothills to the bay, and when it rains, I drain the dry hills, I drain the parking lots and roofs. The brown water scours my banks deeper, washing out the silt from willows and briars, leaving tires and rusting shopping baskets in the gravel. Any seed that can grow in my sand can claim me as a friend. Under the bridges, in their cardboard shacks, I am home for the homeless. I open my beds for the drunkards, receive the temporarily hard at luck, protect the dead who hover near the places where they had lived and suffered, and I stretch out in my arbors of wild secrecy for the adolescents of the middle class. I mind them neither more nor less than the poison oak on my banks, or the thistles at the gravel’s edge that trap scraps of paper and human hair. Raccoon and possum venture from my banks to steal cat food from their neighbors. Scrub jays nest in my trees and commute to school yards to jeer for crumbs. Squirrels climb the trees and cross the wires to harvest backyard orchards. Am I the conduit of crime? I do not condone the crime or its causes. I cross all boundaries, but I am used to divide. My love is wind; my love is rain. Within my banks each creature has an equal chance; I recognize no mayoralty, no chairmanship; all are animals with legs and mouths; all are capable, nervous or careless, of tossing litter and tearing twigs. I bless the bacteria and microbes that increase without minding the chance of life. I am no respecter of property; I scratch away loam beneath green lawns. I do not fear the law; I fear the bulldozer; I fear the truck that pours stiff gray walls. My love is gravity; my love is water. I would run naked into the deep sea. Deep in the sea, I would lose my leaves to accompany the creatures of no companions.