In California

By Donald Davie 1922–1995 Donald Davie
Chemicals ripen the citrus;
There are rattlesnakes in the mountains,
And on the shoreline
Hygiene, inhuman caution.
 
Beef in cellophane
Tall as giraffes,
The orange-rancher’s daughters
Crop their own groves, mistrustful.
 
Perpetual summer seems
Precarious on the littoral. We drive
Inland to prove
The risk we sense. At once
 
Winter claps-to like a shutter
High over the Ojai valley, and discloses
A double crisis,
Winter and Drought.
 
Ranges on mountain-ranges,
Empty, unwatered, crumbling,
Hot colours come at the eye.
It is too cold
 
For picnics at the trestle-tables. Claypit
Yellow burns on the distance.
The phantom walks
Everywhere, of intolerable heat.
 
At Ventucopa, elevation
Two-eight-nine-six, the water hydrant frozen,
Deserted or broken settlements,
Gasoline stations closed and boarded.
 
By nightfall, to the snows;
And over the mile on tilted
Mile of the mountain park
The bright cars hazarded.

Donald Davie, "In California" from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1985 by Donald Davie.  Reprinted by permission of Carcanet Press, Ltd.

Source: Selected Poems (Carcanet Press Ltd, 1985)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Donald Davie 1922–1995

Subjects Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Biography

Donald Davie was born in Barnsley, Yorkshire, to George Clarke and Alice Sugden Davie, received his early education at Barnsley Holgate Grammar School, and spent his boyhood in “the industrially ravaged landscape,” as he called it, of the West Riding. As a Northerner, he has said that in literature he grew to like “the spare and lean.” From his mother, who had a liking for poetry and knew, according to Davie, “the greater part, . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys, Nature, Landscapes & Pastorals, Weather, Social Commentaries, Town & Country Life

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.