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POETRY HIKING NEAR PARADISE Near Paradise Pass, where the icy solitary stream sent up vapors, I rounded a bend and my heart thumped a beat to find him down, prone in the road, his head pillowed on one arm where he lay smoking. It was the only time I went off alone with him, overnight, the firs sighing overhead as we trudged along an old logging road. His eyes opened, when I got close, and he simply said, “Reach into my pocket?’ I never felt as shy with him as I did then, fumbling at my father’s jacket, its lint-lined plaid pocket. A gray-brown whiskered fieldmouse hid there, trembling and squeaking like a bedspring. When I asked he said, “No, you can’t bring it home Two gentle natures, the mouse’s and his, how I still think of them napping heart-to-heart a few minutes there before I came along. I realised it away from the stream, the road, far from any dangers I could imagine, near a half-rotted nurse-log carpeted by moss. It disappeared so fast that my hands never seemed to have cupped or held it, never reached into his pocket that long-ago day, the deserted road impossible to find now, overgrown and gone. BUMPER CROP Ping and ricochet off the flat carport roof, they hit and bounce on the deck’s wide planks. At night, they drop with the footfall of a live beast onto the house, rolling toward the edge in dreams. All September the litter of them rained down from the tall oaks, nugget crack and report on wood, metal, glass. On the house’s west side, they marbled the ground as in a comedy routine; see if you can walk here, upright. As children, we gathered them in kerchiefs or hats, picked up the brown smooth ones and the green ones, capped still, and fancied them human like us, some tassled, some plain, giving them names, placing them in the fragrant Corona-box houses under hinged lids where we closed them at night in leaf-beds, two by two. Or cracked them open, the way we split rocks behind the garage, forbidden because it sometimes led to throwing rocksyou could put her eye out. A child’s secret, the odd urge, to hoard them for supper alone, closet dark, corduroy coat with the pockets I filled, seeing myself as a refugee running offa story sketched by a book, where a girl fashioned a new life in a hollow tree she found. I still see the white meat tinged with green in each acorn, how long it took to dig out, fingernail or knife, what only crumbled then in my palm, never enough to nourish or sustain, its taste bitter as the windfall crab-apple, the knot of belly-ache far, far into the night. Patricia Clark PATRICIA CLARK is the author of North of Wondering The Atlantic Monthly, Poetry, Slate, Iris, Nimrod, Runes, and The Cortland Review. She teaches at Grand Valley State University in Michigan where she is also the university’s poet-in-residence. Patricia was awarded a Creative Artist Grant from ArtServe Michigan for 2003. She has been a resident of The MacDowell Colony, Ragdale, and the Virginia Center for Creative Arts. Naomi Shihab Nye 1/7/05 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21