Fourth of July at Santa Ynez

By John Haines 1924–2011 John Haines
         I
Under the makeshift arbor of leaves
a hot wind blowing smoke and laughter.
Music out of the renegade west,
too harsh and loud, many dark faces
moved among the sweating whites.

         II
Wandering apart from the others,
I found an old Indian seated alone
on a bench in the flickering shade.

He was holding a dented bucket;
three crayfish, lifting themselves
from the muddy water, stirred
and scraped against the greasy metal.

         III
The old man stared from his wrinkled
darkness across the celebration,
unblinking, as one might see
in the hooded sleep of turtles.

A smile out of the ages of gold
and carbon flashed upon his face
and vanished, called away
by the sound and the glare around him,
by the lost voice of a child
piercing that thronged solitude.

         IV
The afternoon gathered distance
and depth, divided in the shadows
that broke and moved upon us . . .

Slowly, too slowly, as if returned
from a long and difficult journey,
the old man lifted his bucket
and walked away into the sunlit crowd.


                                                    (1972-76)

“Fourth of July at Santa Ynez.” Copyright © 1993 by John Haines. Reprinted from The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Source: The Owl in the Mask of the Dreamer: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1993)

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Poet John Haines 1924–2011

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Living, Nature, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 John  Haines

Biography

Poet and essayist John Haines was born in 1924 and studied art and painting at the National Art School, the American University, and the Hans Hoffmann School of Fine Art. In 1947, Haines bought a 160-acre homestead claim 80 miles outside of Fairbanks, Alaska, intending to pursue painting. According to Haines, when his paints froze, he turned to writing. His collections of poetry include Winter News (1966); The Stone Harp (1971); . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Nature, Social Commentaries, History & Politics

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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