Dawn Horizons

Fringed in purple as the sun creeps up
behind them, the hills seal off
the horizon, their texture
abraids the sky in the rough relief of
trees and boulders; deep-cut grooves
wind within the bushes…

The morning wind bites as it cools
and I imagine myself a snake in dirt
as I survey the mountainscape—
as if I could see the cold as surely
as I could feel it, could see
precious heat bleed and fade into the morning
like blood soaking through a bandage.

Engulf, blanket—not quite the right
words to describe what the morning fog
does within the air—
fields along this valley transform
into oceans of mist and even a dog
wondering the sidewalk seems as alien
as a glowing angler fish deep beneath the ocean…

The world in these deep California valleys
renews itself, each morning a subtle phoenix
that ascends from the mist and streaking daybreak…
I know a secret, too, and I’ll share it, though
the Spanish priests knew it, too:
this is a sacred place,
this whole of Southern California,
for beyond our dreams and freeways
is mystery within mystery,
with the California sunlight
as crisp as a cut on the tip of your finger…

Refugees. Saints.
And to witness every morning in silence
is to recite a common prayer
that this is the final place
—just before cliff-face and ocean—
that America has one last promised land
that arises anew each morning
within the misty valleys, the fog-swept beaches…

Traffic lights tick on along the streets,
the freeway entrances slowly build to a hum
eventually, but still
in the still of the dawn
they don’t feel out of place—
the notion that I could race across the valley
like a lost seagull or a local God
remains as common as putting one foot
in front of the other…

And as the sun rises on a tile floor in a Spanish mission,
as the freeway lanes bleach and brighten in daylight,
and as the mist fades into the faintest taste in the air,
I know each daybreak affirms
our transcendence…