Brendan & the Desert

On March 2nd, Tina and I picked up our son Brendan at San Francisco Airport after he’d spent 30 hours traveling home from New Zealand. At 5 AM on the 5th, after unpacking, packing and provisioning, he and I set out on an 8-day trek in the Anza-Borrego Desert.

But best laid plans . . . On the 9th, in the midst of a sunrise sandstorm with wind gusting to 60 miles an hour, Brendan woke with a severe, painful ear infection. We drove 80 miles to a doctor, then steamed straight for home, arriving goggle-eyed and gritty at 9 that night. With a strategic mix of drugs and TLC, Brendan is recovering — and gearing up to launch himself on the next major challenges of his 19-year-old life.

We’ll post a selection of pictures tomorrow from the three days of exploration we wrangled from the desert, but right now, I want to honor Brendan’s homecoming and our time together in rock-strewn, flower-bedecked solitude with a poem scratched out for him one much less windy morning long, long ago:

Gog and Burr

Six-thirty in the morning
the twenty-eighth of February.
Frost last night,
blue sky this morning
glowing above the mist that floats among our trees.
I am fifty-four
and you, my son, are two.
We are in a cave
that anyone else might mistake for bedclothes
tented up by knees.
I am growling
and looking at least a little stranger than usual,
shaggy, big-pawed, ponderous.
You have let your tongue
wander almost completely free of your mouth.
Your face has a deliberate look, attentive
but superbly stupid.
You are a gog
a spaniel, a basset —
and I, with a rumbly growl, am a burr,
as anyone with half a brain could see.

Reading this some long time from now
you will remember nothing
except perhaps that you have read this once or twice before,
but it is a fact
that this particular day
began in this particular way.

Love is not a declaration.
It is an accumulation of acts.



  1. slpmartin said,

    March 11, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Your last two lines are just wonderful…they really say it all…kudos!

    • billnoble said,

      March 11, 2010 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks! Good eye! 🙂

      Those lines are always the ones that click for audiences at readings, too.

  2. Irene Brady said,

    March 11, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    you must be very proud of this beautiful boy, Bill (‘scuse me, Brendan, we ol’ farts get to say things like that after we pass a certain age).

    • billnoble said,

      March 11, 2010 at 4:04 pm

      There are rumors that have circulated to the effect that we actually LIKE our children, but we’re far too proper to admit we’re PROUD of them. But I suppose, in general, we have a higher opinion of them than they do of us. 😉

  3. epicswife said,

    March 11, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    great poem!!!

    • billnoble said,

      March 11, 2010 at 9:40 pm

      Hi, Melanie — Your blog is addicting. The mix of words and visual captures of your ‘place’ feels anchoring and deeply satisfying. And then there are the unexpected photographs: oil splashing into water, mysterious swirls and splotches of color that I can’t assign any physical equivalent to. Wonderful!

  4. epicswife said,

    March 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Thank-you very much !! I really love all kinds of things 🙂 i am glad that you like it !! I find it satisfying to place it all up here after holindg onto my photos and poems for so many years and not feeling free to share them!! Thanks so much for dropping by!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: