San Joaquin by Nels Hanson

The family small farm lasted one century
in that great valley Franciscan friars named
“San Joaquin” for Mary’s father, Joachim,
though soon most brown children of God

died from disease, murder or disappeared
as slaves on mission lands. Ten thousand
years California Indians who crossed ice
bridge from Asia lived by acorn forests,

salmon and trout streams and rivers, tulle
ponds crane and heron guarded, below tall
sky of condors, savannah lush as Serengeti.
Tule Elk, black-tailed deer, tawny antelope

grazed ocean of wild oats stalked by cougar,
grizzly until a last bear shot, Tulare County,
1922. A broke farmer clearing his 20 acres
for custom homes near the navy’s air wing

at Lemoore found 30 heavy phallus stones
braves carried to ensure vigor. Bulldozers
felled white hay barns, white green-roofed
houses, falling towers with tanks feeding

water by simple gravity gone long before.
Supervisors in spotless pickups patrol dirt
alleyways oiled black to keep down dust,
old tools fading ghosts in hands of ghosts.

Sometimes employees on green John Deeres,
air-conditioned cabs, power steering, radios,
lift a spring tooth at a vine row’s end to hear
a Belgian’s lost shoe ring, on a curved steel

prong snagged souvenir. Every plow horse
had a name called by spirits in bib overalls
far days when iron U’s tacked above barn’s
open door kept good luck from running out.