Don Thompson

California Aqueduct, Elk Hills Road

The Aqueduct has no politics:
Not a shrug, not a ripple of discontent
hints at its opinions. Water
just flows, submitting only to gravity,
that ancient stare decisis.

Whether it drips from a faucet
all night, keeping someone awake,
or trickles from a spring, half ice,
cold enough to numb lips into silence,
it’s all the same to water—all the same

if you drown or catch a low-hanging branch
and live on for years, dehydrating
until the sixty percent you’re made of
finally dries up,
without a shrug or a ripple.

Redondo Beach

A nondescript finch of some sort
flutters in the shrubbery,
displaying a greenish gray-brown

I’ve seen only in those finger paintings
messed with on my 2nd grade desk
until indecision dissolved them

into that exact murk of failure—
unless of course, a finch
has been dipped in it,

transforming it into the color,
immutable, of pure success,
which is simply being alive.

Stockdale Horse Ranch

Hard to tune out, the insistent pedal tone
of a dove, so annoying,
sustained beneath sparrows and what-have-you

that chirp in random keys without rhythm,
ignoring the metronomic click
of a rainbird watering the pasture.

I prefer the music implied
by the swish of a bay mare’s tail,
andante molto tranqillo e semplice.

Inaudible, of course,
but if you listen into yourself long enough,
sometimes you can hear it.

On the Road to Santa Margarita

The hills keep their distance,
standoffish and dour.
When you drive toward them,
they seem to slip away;
ridges soften rather than coming clear.

But backed against the horizon
with nowhere to go, the hills
finally turn on you, all sharp edges,
shadows brooding in every arroyo,
and gather you in...

Up there hour after hour, alone,
taking the wicked corners too fast,
you become mountain-minded,
reluctant to descend to the lowlands
where your kind exist.

Don Thompson was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, and has lived in the southern San Joaquin Valley for most of his life. Thompson has been publishing poetry since the early sixties, including a dozen books and chapbooks. For more information and links to his publications, visit his website San Joaquin Ink (