Brent Harold: ‘Yuba Romance in Perspective’
There is a river in the West
and 50 years ago
of sweet Sierra snowmelt running in a dry, hot gorge.
In pools deep and green we swam
amongst smooth, white boulders sculpted by the ancient flow.
Scorning both clothes and lotions,
we spent hours draped upon those altars,
inviting the sun to finger us most deeply,
“burn us to the core,” as I liked to put it when skin was young.
Once I spent a whole day bounding alone, naked,
from boulder to boulder upriver,
when I came upon a little brown man
crouched on a narrow ledge above a large pool
caught between granite cliffs.
Above the rocks a hut of sticks, driftwood shelves
with jars of beans and rice.
Made his home there, he said, his peace
(while elsewhere raged war and riot).
It seemed a sort of perfect life.
It went without saying (or so it seemed to me)
that those Yuba days would somehow expand,
become the future.
But although I have made pilgrimages
over the years and even brought my infant son
for baptism in the sacred flow,
lugging him along the narrow, dusty path
to the usual pool,
those early times were unto themselves,
all we were to have of that utopia.
Now, body thickened, skin a palimpsest
of old basking (the sun itself long
in disrepute), I’m fighting an urge to corral
the language of Yuba romance
I wonder what became of the little brown man.
Gary Snyder built a groovy house near the Yuba.
I read about it long ago in a magazine.
Brent Harold lives in Wellfleet, Mass., on outer Cape Cod.
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