Saturday, April 10, 2010

Dangling One's Ass in the Wind

Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

Out here, I'm teetering at the brink
waiting for you to catch up.
But I haven't seen you since Cottonwood.
I have the animals with me,
but I have mislaid the map, my glasses,
a twenty dollar bill, and
you—usually three steps ahead of me,
moving rapidly away.
Except for Cottonwood—where I think
I may have gotten ahead of you.

The dog misses you. The cats miss you.
And we are all out here, looking into the abyss,
wondering if we will ever find you.
We are shivering with apprehension because
you are always the strong one,
the one who navigates
without a map or glasses or compass—
the one who recognizes danger for what it is.

I miss you and I am overwhelmed
with responsibility, my own safety,
the magnitude of uncertainty
swallowing all the horizon.

Night is coming on. I cannot see
my way back to look for you.
The dog, the cats, and I
must wait here in the center of chaos—
where we have lately strayed—
holding on until you come,
picking your way over the stony path,
a torch shining in your hand,
to lead us back home.


Thanks to Katy Brown and Tom Goff for today's contributions. Both will be reading in the next couple of weeks, Katy in Davis at The Other Voice next Friday, and Tom the week after that in Folsom at Folsom Lake College's Celebration of Earth Week. More info about those readings on Monday.

I am also pleased to post Russell Edson; every now and then we can all use a little Edson to shake up a room. His turkey poem (and Katy's turkey hen) are especially appropriate for me right now; up here where the grosbeaks are arriving for the season, the ground squirrels are out of hibernation, and the tourists (human and otherwise) are starting to filter through, I saw my first wild turkey hen the other day. I "had" a flock of them in Fair Oaks, many generations that visited several times every day, but haven't seen any since we moved up here. 'Twas a joy to see a hen; hopefully she'll attract some toms......

Calendar Addition for tomorrow from Joe Finkleman:

•••Sunday (4/11), 1-4pm: The Davis Cemetery ( will feature a reception for the housing of two artists’ photography in the Davis community. The series kick-off features work by Michael Radin and Jerry Berry. Michael Radin is an accomplished local photographer with a number of notable series; the work to be featured at the cemetery is “Plein Air Photography at 50 MPH”. Co-featured photographer Jerry Berry has an equally varied portfolio. With a keen eye for beautiful landscapes, Berry takes his viewers on an epic journey through nature. Michael Radin lives in Davis and Jerry Berry lives in Northern California; they both have different but highly individualistic visions. To paraphrase: “This ain't your grandmother's art!" The season’s reception will be on April 11 in the cemetery office at 820 Pole Line (corner of E. 8th St) in Davis from 1-4pm. After that, viewing hours will coincide with our business hours, which are 9am-3pm, Monday through Friday. We would be honored if you joined us to welcome this month's featured artists!


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Like cliff face: speeding down
Hwy 50 east, I pass a shape at
the right margin—street cleaning truck,
swabbing down the thin unpleasant edge
for distressed cars. Rather,
two shapes, the first a signal truck,
flashing feeble protection in the rough raw
morning light. Behind it, the cleaner;
I haven’t glimpsed much of the cleaning,
or was it painting in fresh margin paint?

But the truck’s cowering, for sure: how many
dead Caltrans workers brought
about this coverage, the behemoth spray-
and-brush in the lee of brother
truck, sergeant advancing up
the Omaha shingle behind
the soon-to-explode Sherman? Ahead,
steep bluff swept by gales of Mauser…

Pity the poor sibling trucks,
for all their bulk. But is this not
the highwayman’s life, the right
to dangle one’s ass in the wind,
as if cliffswung in that perfect DMZ between
grip and rise, slip and crunch?


—Tom Goff

Tragicomic, not to know what
Harold Lloyd hears, in “Safety Last,”
as his hands (the left one blown useless
in a harum-scarum stunt) slip
and slip from the arrow clock-hands
over the perilous skyscraper ledge.

We’ll never hear it, but isn’t
the fardown street noise grander,
as the Model Ts chuff and grind
acres below, isn’t the bong bong
of the turning hour more savory?

I reflect on this, opening a window
to vent the detergent smell of
shampooed carpet, opening to the night
to the car alarms and sirens, letting
ears feel left to twist in the wind. This

is Tosca, flinging herself from atop
Castel Sant’Angelo, this is what
suicides hear, the last instant before
icy waters wrench open like portcullises,
when who knows
if down to death signifies
up through childbirth pangs
into a devil’s mouth, or God’s.


—Russell Edson

In sleep when an old man's body is no longer aware of its boundaries, and lies flattened by gravity like a mere of wax in its bed. . . It drips down to the floor and moves there like a tear down a cheek. . . Under the back door into the silver meadow, like a pool of sperm, frosty under the moon, as if in his first nature, boneless and absurd.

The moon lifts him up into its white field, a cloud shaped like an old man, porous with stars.

He floats through high dark branches, a corpse tangled in a tree on a river.


—Russell Edson

A piece of a man had broken off in a road. He picked it up and put it in his pocket.

As he stooped to pick up another piece he came apart at the waist.

His bottom half was still standing. He walked over on his elbows and grabbed the seat of his pants and said, legs go home.

But as they were going along his head fell off. His head yelled, legs stop.

And then one of his knees came apart. But meanwhile his heart had dropped out of his trunk.

As his head screamed, legs turn around, his tongue fell out.

Oh my God, he thought, I'll never get home.


—Russell Edson

There were feathers growing on his wall. Thickly. And with pink turkey flesh beneath.

The feathers were spreading across the ceiling. And the floor was beginning to protrude in scaly bird toes like the roots of trees.

He could not tell if he had not now become himself feathers and turkey flesh.

He wondered if he was not now feathers and turkey flesh.

Photo by Katy Brown

Today's LittleNip:

Text is to poem what biped is to sexpot.

—Stephen Dobyns