- Overpass Ivy
—I love the mountains, I love the rolling hillsCamp Song
I love the ivy dangling from the L.A. overpass,the long ropes of dark leaves hanging stilland the tough old vines embracing the concrete pillars.Shadows gather layering older shadowsand cars hurry beneath, people look up a momentat the relics, as if Wordsworth's River Wyeand not the dilapidated abbey downstreamwere the ruin to be cherished. I cherish the ruinsof home. The churches my father built and servedand his father, sold to new businesses,the school yards and neighborhood backyards,the congregations of tight-knit communities,all treated as tear downs, purpose drivendeaths to bring forth new spaces,new values for the soul's real estate,new ways of traveling to a different life.America is full of ruins, said Randall Jarrell,the ruins of hopes. But home is a kind of hope,and hope can be restored in memory.Coleridge must have dreamed of the River Otterwinding in a mazy motion through his childhoodand remade it as the sacred Alph. I saw that one eveningin Ottery St. Mary, looking toward the Channel.That need to remake already stirsin the swollen urge crossing the Aegeanas a bombed street lives again in a bombed heart.We will cross gulfs of space for a new footholdthat may allow us time to dream of returnin song, in story, but never in person.Every memory of home is an origin story. [End Page 26] It may be Eden we miss but also before Eden,that garden yet to be imagined, filled with liveswhich will make our lives. The strands of overpass ivyhang straight down, slenderer but as heavyas Isambard Kingdom Brunel's massive chain links,the industrial triumph now decliningin rusty stillness, the whole earth a brokenbreathing—St. Stephen pelted with clods of smoke.The weather forecast collapses like a telescope.All that seemed so far away now fits in a palmwhich we fit inside, the closing and secreting fistof a sea anemone where the tide poolencrusts its foundations as if a shrineonce stood there and now stands again,inverted, its gargoyle barnacles, openingtendrilously in hunger. It is always back to the sea,and now the sea responds acceptingthe invitation to rise and cleanse and undermineitself with the poisons it will add to its home brew.It is why we inquire of a knob of rockcatching sunlight in the Kuiper Beltif it was from Abyssinia, Alexandria, Anaheim, the moon,if it knew the moon and earth when they were young,if it can speak for a particular comet carryingwater like Gunga Din to sprinkle some imperial throatnear the heart—cratered but still at work.Ruins always tell us they were a place once.And we dig them up, hurtling at the speed of a brush tip,to sip dust from the imprint of a scallop shell. The stranded vines cling to the concrete,a hanging garden of Babylon,colossal wreck and local antique breakdown,still in the windless motion below the traffic.Perhaps they meant to pull it all down,then saw, from another angle, the seductive cascade,neither an invitation to nor a caution againstgoing up or coming down, nodding yes or nodding no,and left it for others to notice, witness, and marvel at,among the hills of Silver Lake, near the ancient reservoir.Boom diada, boom diada, boom. [End Page 27]
MARK JARMAN is the author of Dailiness: Essays on Poetry (Paul Dry Books, 2020) and The Heronry (Sarabande Books, 2017). He is the Centennial Professor of English, Emeritus, at Vanderbilt University.