“Anger, Cattle, and Achilles,” by Gary Snyder

Two of my best friends quit speaking 
one said his wrath was like that of Achilles.
The three of us had traveled on the desert,
awakened to bird song and sunshine under ironwoods
                    in a wadi south of the border.

They both were herders. One with cattle
and poems, the other with business and books.

One almost died in a car crash but slowly recovered
the other gave up all his friends,     
                    took refuge in a city
and studied the nuances of power.

One of them I haven’t seen in years,
I met the other lately in the far back of a bar,
musicians playing near the window and he
sweetly told me “listen to that music.

The self we hold so dear will soon be gone.”

from Little Star #3 (2012)

Gary Snyder is a poet and essayist who lives in rural northern California. See our comment of last fall on a recent reissue of his books Riprap and Cold Mountain Poems and The Practice of the Wild, and a film based on The Practice of the Wild with Jim Harrison.