by Jim Milstead
i walk a path meandering over hills crumpled
by ancient forces. in this place solitude,
trees camouflage themselves as islands,
branches, altered by the threat of gale, hyphal invasion,
and static charge, persist gracefully, adjust metabolic regimens,
adapt to cold. awakening to the warmth of a flaring sun,
roots pierce the earth with quiet urgency, merge silently,
cells move toward light, and water. elements transpose
themselves to new collectives, fallow lands fill with green
abundance, shadows lengthen over thirsty ground, soft breezes
stir parched grass, light meets a tangle of leathery leaves,
gnarled branches partition the wind, mandibles scissor, cuticle
disappears, debris falls steadily upon the sere understory.
spined soldier bugs, their needled maxillae poised for sudden
thrusts, creep slowly along twigs in search of prey. rigorously,
season upon season, in pistillate allure, in staminate profusion,
templates emerge to surge skyward, provides haven of renewal,
a soft preserve for other beings, their crowns a canopy of voices
casting their fortunes once again to the lottery of the wind.
JIM MILSTEAD was born in Chicago, IL, in 1927. After graduating from high school he served in the Marine Corps before returning to marry deYonne Franklin, complete a B.A. in Biology at Fresno State College, and become a proud father of two daughters. Leaving Fresno in 1951, he spent a year as a radiation monitor at the Linear Accelerator in Livermore, CA, before moving to Berkeley where his two sons were born. At U.C. he began a career as a graduate student and Staff Research Associate in the Entomology department, completing a doctoral dissertation in 1977. During two leave of absence periods he began taking courses in English and creative writing, publishing 3 poems in an anthology of Underground Poetry in 1972. Retiring from U.C. he moved to Bellingham with his wife Mary, enrolled at Whatcom Community College, the Academy of Lifelong Learning, and joined the Personal Writing Group at the Bellingham Senior Activity Center. He is currently a member of Mary Gillilan’s Independent Writers, the Village Books Poetry Group, and routinely reads poetry and prose at open mic.
Photo: “Rider Park 2” by Nicholas A. Tonelli