Composed a Few Miles North of Los Angeles

Composed a Few Miles North of Los Angeles

                                […]—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs
That on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
—William Wordsworth, “Composed a Few Miles
above Tintern Abbey”

South on Route 5
the almond trees appear
midway through bloom.
For miles, nothing
but row after row,
branches covered
in small flowers, the faintest
hint of pink in the blossoms.
Between rows, pale petals
have settled
to a blanket of snow, almost
like winter
five years ago, when
Ben and I stopped
at Versailles to walk
the grounds, where a thin
carpeting of white
ran between bare rows
of beech and ash. It was
February, I remember,
and that winter in Paris
seemed to lack any chill.
Today, in California,
March is almost
here, and spring has
already arrived. Poised
at ends of the almond rows,
beehives stacked in piles
of sixteen crates mark
every eighth mile.
I want to tell Ben
that the road here
is lined with almonds,
miles of even rows; and bees
have been trucked in
to pollinate their flowers.
Bees sweep through
branches, traversing
the almond trees,
passing overhead, some
striking my windshield.
First one, then others
thump the glass
like fat drops of rain.
At the storm’s edge
the bees disappear,
and then the trees
as rain begins to pour
against the car, sheets
of water falling so fast
the windshield wipers
can’t do a thing.
We all cut our speed
in half, slow to a crawl
to follow the red lights
of the car in front, each of us
becoming a guide
for the person behind, each
the lead and partner
in a dance. Rows
of flowering almonds,
stretched and twisted
ballerinas in repose,
shed their remaining petals
to the ground; the rain cleans
the bees from my windshield.
In the distance, in the quiet
of the sky I catch the faint
light of sunset, blossoming
the clouds.