The half dozen blossoms that appeared on the trumpet vine this year are gone, but the leaves are still deep green and flourishing. The ivy in the back corner of the yard is looking rather shabby. The lamb's ear stalks are drying out, and the clumps of thick, blue-gray leaves around their bases appear dusty even when they are wet. Along the fence the ground cover survives, though it is a bit thin. The trio of Italian cypress trees appear healthy enough, though as always they don't seem to be growing very much. They are just stunted versions of their robust Mediterranean ancestors.
Everything else is dry and brown— the unwatered lawn, the back half of the yard beyond the jasmine hedge where weeds grow through the gravel every year— there it looks like summer in real California, the sere residue of spring now littered with a scattering of oak leaves fallen early, desiccated by the heat. The irrigated suburban fringe surrounding it seems an intrusion.
But the task of keeping the intrusion alive a few more days is done, so this evening I will have only the front yard to deal with. That can wait for nightfall, after the day's heat begins to dissipate. And now I am writing an entry, so watering will be my only task (other than making dinner) after I return from shopping. I'll have a whole evening in which to vegetate! Of course I got up so early this morning that I'll probably end up falling asleep as soon as I get home, but I guess a nap is better than scurrying about to get things done.
And, for once, readers will be able to read Sunday Verse on Sunday, instead of waiting until Monday because I post so late in the evenings from this western outpost, mere hours from where the clock's days end.
The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
by Jack Gilbert
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind's labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.