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A recent spur-of-the-moment hike into
the back-country on the watershed
just to the south
In this fi fth year of drought
the Poison Oak has turned
the scarlet of October in
mid-June -- an early quitter.
Before noon feeling worn out --
hot and out of breath, glasses
sweaty, up here with scant water and
no food, he was resting on a shady
boulder out in mid-stream.
The little stream had led him on.
He had not thought he would
go so far up in. Dry
through much of its course,
here the Matilija still
ran -- slow, low, clear. (And
not potable.) Through the heat-tremors,
high on the stony slope, in full sun,
a scattering of that early scarlet showed,
in with a stand of the satiny white
fl ower-like dried bracts
of the California Ever-
lasting. It made a fi ne mock
wildfl ower stand astir
in the quivery glare
and gusts of baking air -- dry air
streaked with faintest tangs
(was he imagining this?) off
the chaparral, off Yarrow,
off the bitter and the minty