Climb and Fall
by Nels Hanson
As the jet took off, dipped a wing
and banked, climbing with ease
above the smog-bound city, I felt
immediate relief. The random glint
of a warehouse roof or parking lot
signaled an imminent murder or
violent attack and North Fresno’s
10,000 swimming pools of the rich
formed dashes and dots of a foreign
code I no longer needed to decipher.
Fingers of new subdivisions reached
for vineyards and orchards planted
in neat east-west rows and I could
see the next square that would fall.
The vast checkerboard, the emerald
San Joaquin, looked gray through
the dirty air. Ten minutes I stared
at the brown and scanty pine forest
of the Sierra Nevada, felt shock and
then a pang of comfort that Ellen
wasn’t alive to mourn her beloved
mountains. The 727 cleared the tree
line and Chinese Wall of scarps with
stained glaciers to cross the Great
Basin, the Nevada desert a tonic, its
tan wasteland intact, empty and dry.
Gratefully I absorbed the pristine
desolation of pale rock and sage,
watching the parched land an hour
until the rippled surface of the blue
inland sea, spreading veins of coffee-
colored brine, white shore and specks
of gulls who once ate the grasshoppers,
then greenery again, and temple, as we
set down before the creased granite of
bare Wasatch Mountains in Salt Lake.
Copyright © 2017 by Nels Hanson.