I was talking about the surreality of California’s climate and the oddly filtered quality of the light there with a new friend, when I suddenly recalled a poem I wrote many years ago on the exact subject, right after moving to California to go to law school and finding the adjustment from the East Coast a bit more than I expected.
So here you are, a displacement poem. Let’s say it’s to note the pleasure of making a new friend, of the kind that instantly leads to candid, vulnerable conversation.
Living in California
Orion is not where I left him, wistfully boarding my plane to the West.
At dusk, the Palo Alto air surprises, dropping ten degrees,
erasing daylight with a chill. Winter brings green tendrils to these starving hills like some absurdist variant of spring.
Among the jagged palms and eucalyptus, sawdust tricks the air
with pine and musty rot.
I’ve lost some paper that explained all this to me — when and why to tilt my head, bring a sweater or wear shorts.
Visceral signs of my curious fit with the weather, drenching storms that have no rage, no crystal shocks of lightning, their flair and mortal flash.
Sun is leveraged here against a spotless sky. The clarity of things is no surprise, and few remark on gorgeous days.
This diffuse, democratic light induces generosity, but seldom edges, or a need for hats, for gloves, a million
useless things, my understanding of the permanence of stars, a spatial lesson that I did not know I knew,
that somehow still displaces me within this wider sky,
these well-intended, lovely days.