Days in Paradise

The bird was on the wire and then it wasn’t,
though the wire still stretched from pole to pole.

You saw it perched and still, except for the defensive
tilt of head, the tail feather flickering alert

and silhouetted through the setting sun.
You saw the sun set the eucalyptus trees on fire

and burn the land that once was sea.
You saw the sea in tides of dust and sand

that swept across dry fields and vacant lots
and in flocks of gulls and stranded pelicans.

You saw it in the cloudless days, the house trailers anchored in their parks
and palm trees, like massive tube worms, waving in the sky.

You saw its shadow sweep across the broad flat avenues
laid out in grids, in the bare mountains that ringed the valley,

the citrus groves bulldozed for houses. You smelled it
in the irrigation ditches and canals, the flooded playing fields

and golf courses. The bird was on the wire, the land
had once been sea: Go ahead, I urged my friend, who’d been showing off

his father’s pellet gun and knew exactly what I meant.
Go ahead! It felt good to say the thing that needed saying,

to hear the barrel’s pfft of air, to see the pistol’s blur as it recoiled.
The wire stretched from pole to pole, the sun set everything on fire.

Michael Collier is author of five books of poems, including Dark Wild Realm. He has received an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.