Co-Owner of The Book Collector
SAND CREEK 1874
—Charity Bryson, Grass Valley
sky freckled with stars blushes mauve
a morning covenant draped across tawny plains of buffalo grass
cheyenne woman rises clumsy, belly swollen with child
piles willow sticks over dying fire
breathe fogging coaxing embers back to life
rolling across her womb tiny feet stretch greedy to greet life
rising she pulls aside a hide door
steps into raw November morning
her village nestled in creek’s bend an ice-crusted trickle flowing faint
tepees gleaming white and clean
nearby horses nicker
cottonwood willows mesquite dot the sand hills
beyond the bluffs land falls away
swelling again in the far distance
rustling of snakeweed, yipping of dogs, trail of dust
listen … is it buffalo coming
on the horizon chivington,
a mountainous man straddles his dusky stallion
wasichu soldiers pistols flashing slashing slaughtering
she runs belly heaving scrambling to creek banks
frenzy of digging with her hands
hands ensnare her hair,
drag her through blood drenched sands
springfield pommels life
knife slits womb
tops of distant bluffs with crimson haze
dissolves into obsidian midnight
promise of spring rains
wheat and corn
cattle heavy with calves
milk for young ‘uns
prairie grass sea frames a sod home
neighbors pass an afternoon
women speak of gingham dresses
men talk of bumper crops
by august sheaves of wheat and oats stacked
lush green pastures foreshadow herds fat with grain
great white glistening cloud
wings caught in sunshine
mother three daughters stand agape
at the gorging feast converging on them
frenzied father races home
grasshoppers coming cover the crops
blankets bedsheets quilts shawls old winter coats gunny sacks
mother flies to kitchen bread flour oats stuffed into metal cans
insect plague storms the plains
earth buried four inches deep in hoppers
crashing hail of hoppers
limbs snap cracking
hoppers writhing in children’s hair
dig a trench two feet deep
gather sticks dry leaves strike a fire
dead hoppers suffocate the flames
devour without end
girl of ten screams in terror
hoppers eat her dress
assault is ended
legacy of carnage
two watermelon rinds
barren stalks of corn
water brown with their excrement
one family fully rooted
an oasis amidst desert of desolation
Thanks, Charity! Wow. Things were rough on the Plains...
Thanks to those of you who came to the Rattlesnake Press reading last night, which was guest-hosted by Richard Hansen. A rousing time was had by all; let me just say that I'm starting a movement of my own to nominate Bob Stanley as Sacramento's Banjo Laureate! There will be no Rattle-reads in July and August; watch this spot for news about September.
And the deadline for The Ophidian has officially passed, with many submissions of both visual and poetic art from NorCal's finest (and a few friends from elsewhere). Richard is, as you know, co-editing that adventure with me, providing the layouts and choosing the visuals, and this anthology will appear online in July. We think...
...But bear with us about that July thing, because Richard will be going to Scotland sometime soon. His mother, who lives there, is seriously ill, and of course Richard will be concerned with her care this summer. Richard and his Rachel and Ru have give so much to our poetic community; now's the time for us to rally around them and do what we can. So stop into The Book Collector now and then to say hey and check out what's going on, maybe buy a wee book or two. Or nine........
In response to yesterday's lascivious painting of Medusa, Carl Schwartz writes: I must have come late to junior high art class...the lady and the wine were gone, there was just some fruit to paint!
And thanks to Paul Lojeski for the following poems. Both Paul and Charity (and Carl) will have work appearing in The Ophidian.
ON HEARING BETTYE LAVETTE SING
—Paul Lojeski, Port Jefferson, NY
All great things came long before now,
the old man said. It was the time
of saying no to boundaries and it can’t
be stopped, try as they might
with mendacity and murder, their
cowardice onward into a black sun
nesting in the eye of death. We must
all believe in something, he said.
So, believe in this: once glory starts,
it must finish.
THE LAST MOVIE
Sparks from hammers striking
sky flared in her eyes.
No one saw the end coming
in that foreign language film.
Too late, recognition dawned
and they rushed the exits only
to burst into flaming red rose
petals adrift in a moonless night.
One of its definitions is: weakly
emotional. And that’s how I feel
these days, days cracked by bad
tidings yelled out 24/7 by crazies
broadcasting from bank vaults
or high security institutions,
messages of madness that
getting mad about is useless
and often fatal, which explains
the violence and insomnia
and the tons of Xanax and the
children running for the hills
like hunted gazelles. And me,
a crow cawing on a winter branch,
Mawkish, Mawkish, Mawkish!
MISSING THE OLD DAYS
Prophecy isn’t what it
used to be. Out-of-work
seers wander the desert,
begging for coin because,
in these modern times,
conjuring isn’t required.
Any damn fool knows
the future and the past
are the same thing.
What do we live for, if it is not to make life less difficult for each other?