‘Why California Will Never Be Like Tuscany’

Gary Snyder has published more than a dozen collections of poetry and prose. This poem was included in the book “This Present Moment: New Poems.”

Gary Snyder is a noted poet, essayist, lecturer, and environmental activist. Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award.
Gary Snyder is a winner of a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and the American Book Award.

There must have been huge oaks and pines, cedars,
maybe madrone,
in Tuscany and Umbria long ago.
A few centuries after wood was gone, they began to build with
brick and stone.

Brick and stone farmhouses, solid, fireproof,
steel shutters and doors.

But farming changed.
60,000 vacant solid fireproof Italian farmhouses
on the market in 1970,
scattered across the land.

Sixty thousand affluent foreigners,
to fix them, learn to cook, and write a book.

But in California, houses all are wood —
roads pushed through, sewers dug, lines laid underground —
hundreds of thousands, made of strandboard, sheetrock,
plaster —.

They won’t be here 200 years from now — they’ll burn or rot.
No handsome solid second homes for

Thousand-year later wealthy
Melanesian or Eskimo artists and writers here,

— oak and pine will soon return.

This poem was included in the book “This Present Moment: New Poems” by Gary Snyder.

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