BOOKS AND THE CULTURE Poems By Bill Hoffman The Texotic Men cleared the trees, the brush piles were burned, and for a night the haze of the fires drifted, almost fragrant, as far as the old war memorial highway; for a day maybe two you could hear the surveyor’s man driving the stakes into the ground where he was told and then you could see them but not hear them the two of them working waving in large gestures, making notes of a crevice, the dimensions of a rock until precision became a third companion and conformity a fourth, until the boundaries of the place were plotted and fixed; so many acres of limestone outcrops; of cactus and caliche pan, dry land, the side of a hill, and a zone of barren ground to make a fence that animals from ruin could not jump. Harbor Island Eyes flicker in dreams like fresh water passing through an estuary on its way to the sea. A few white pelicans drift this far, turning in slow circles at the surface, feeding. Day and night the elaborate deck: the hoists, the booms, and catwalks of the tanker lie off in the distance at its mooring. And with one pass the scoop of the dredge can raise what seems like an acre of silence and drop it on the steel deck of the barge. Traditions of Use Where irrigation is the dialect scarce rain falls like a greeting in a language no one speaks; fresh water wells penetrate the hardpan only to remind us that there were never native speakers there is no written alphabet, there are only pockets of conversation: the intonation, the mythology, the cause, the purpose, the reason are each irrigation; from its primitive vocabulary the oratorically gifted grains have learned disease and drought resistance, and have gone on to write of alien need in row after row of the same indecipherable script. It is on this margin of man and nature, under this regime, this achieved order that the man that owns channel seven buries Cadillacs in a field in a line, nose down like arrows shot in the air from the bow of our industrial dream. Goose Lake Written like a first sentence in a brief note, a line of eight cranes appears jotted on the edge of the horizon. The words, though not always the same, suggest the same thought which has been carried back and forth across continents between friends for years. Bill Hoffman lives in Dallas and works for a college textbook publishing company. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21
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