The Outdoor Poet: Ryan Masters


Burned by your chaparral
box canyon brushfires,
shaken as a baby
in St. Andreas arms,
we have danced upon your plates
and lain buried in unmarked
mudslides beside the bones
of those Indians not found
in any Mission records.

the lighted exit signs shine
from the corners of your darkened
theaters, we are up the nowhere
staircases down the shrinking
hallways of your Winchester
Mystery Houses. At home
among the disorientation
of your cloverleaf freeway ramps
and business park sprawl,
we were born on any one of your
ten thousand El Camino

In your deserts littered
with chunks of turquoise,
obsidian arrowheads and the ground
glass of coolie opium vials,
we have dug through your strip
mine tailings, sailed cold dark water,
the flow of your underground
streams, your seeping fissures,
your water flowing upwards
into deep ocean trenches
to bathe your cabezon and monkey eels,
your fragile, catacomb-structured
jellies which hurl themselves
upon your shores and glisten
like puddles of mercury
in the sand.

In your blonde hills
teeming with thirsty garrapata
and the crowns of oak,
where Ishi and his wise sadness
finally descended to Parnassus
long after the gold was gone,
we have sunk our heads
into your skin and drunk
of your buried sluices, rusted
pans and busted bottles,
your shovelheads, your
decayed handles, hands
long ago grated raw
while screening flakes
of a hidden dream
through the 1/16th-inch
mesh of our desires.

Among your woodpiles
alive with black widows
which crawl out onto our arms
like shiny bulbs of blown obsidian
when we carry your grape stakes
from one end of this property to another,
in your Fertile Fields
of sharp boundaries and lines,
we were fed upon the calluses
and folksong of migrant labor
from a Golden Age of pesticides.

We have weathered the wind,
the arch and crash
of your boom times like winter
waves in deep northern
bays where tides rip
through thunderous mist
and the dazzling light
of low-rise sun,
we’ve witnessed the infants
clinging to your breast
of steel and brick
like things revealed
on a minus tide, their mouths
spray-painted wild with murder
and renewal.

And after each gold rush
we hosed the blood back
down the storm drains
and into brown Bay
Delta of rich black soil,
its water still and warm
and sticky, big mouth
bass hovers fat and calm
in the Central Valley sky
while we wait for the thunder
to peel all the way to Fresno
from here.

We have sucked your fumes
and held our breaths
while we polished the detailed chrome
on our automobiles,
we have lost our minds
wandering your deserts
with empty birdcages
of wrought iron,
we have developed
skin diseases
to bask by your side.

we have fallen
so desperately
for our reflections
in your sun bright
and winking eye.

About the writer Ryan Masters' poetry has been published in a wide range of literary journals including The Iowa Review, The Pedestal Magazine, California Quarterly, The Absinthe Literary Review, The Porter Gulch Review and many others. A chapbook, below the low-water mark, is available from Pudding House Publications. He also edited the Anthology of Monterey Bay Poets, (Chatoyant Press) which NEA President Dana Gioia called "terrific...Individual poems demand appreciation — yet the collective success exceeds any one poem's strength." In his spare time, he fronts local band The Suborbitals.

The Outdoor Poet is edited by Robert Sward, author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, New and Selected Poems: 1957-2011 (Red Hen Press). He lives on the Westside with his wife, the artist Gloria Alford, and a poodle mix named Cosette. Participation in The Outdoor Poet is by invitation.

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