—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
So many voices. A chorus
Speaking together. There is
Grace in the way the words
Form here. We have no idea
What is being said. But there
It is, pure and outlandish
As late June with its
Dreams of water and Summer
Love caught in its loins.
We walk along the sidewalks
On the edges of the park.
The fireflies are just starting
To be seen so we sit and wait
For the dark to consume everything.
I am in love with you, you
The one reading this. I want to
Take you in my arms and touch
You intimately, make love with you
With great ceremony and unbridled lust,
To be a chorus within you, not
Singing at all, but speaking so we
May hear in our core, abandoning gender,
Fine and carnal, pleading another kind
Of Summer, another mouth upon yours
Where speech stops attending us
Where all becomes sensation,
Steam rising from the ocean surface
Even before dawn is aware of it.
A SHEEP OF THE DARKER PERSUASION
Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
…[known as] the black sheep of the [de Vere] family…stripped of the authorship of Shakespeare he must indeed appear a black sheep.
He will bear the blame all his life that,
rather than turn straightway
to arms and politics, he deals his great
strokes of conquest ringing in the tiltyard;
the top of his politics, to sit at the tribunal
of a Scottish queen, and again at tribunal
when his beloved, a younger earl, stands
to lose his head befriending a rebel,
Her Majesty’s disgraced (of course) favorite
His warship will launch heroically out
and come back unblooded to harbor,
storm-drenched, just days before
luckier keels find and destroy
the Spanish Armada.
He will bear the blame all his life
that, at seventeen, a fencing sword he grasps
quite lightly will leap out at the thigh of a playmate,
touching off a fatal geyser. He knows
the “primal eldest curse.” He will listen,
stricken, to the maneuver of law
that gets him scot-free of all charges
—se defendendo, or se offendendo
(in a gravedigger’s mouth)…
He will bear the blame all his life
that he has stripped his ancestral castle,
outbuildings and parks, trees, timbers
bargained away, the very lead roofs to be
melted down and sold, for Italy
resonates in him like a guitarful
of Harlequins. For travel expenses he
lines his purse on the noble splendors
generations of ancestors amassed.
(His father died, leaving him ward
to Queen Elizabeth. Therefore she seizes
—“safeguards”—his legacy for Leicester, her lover,
to use: this swindle, perfectly legal, tears down
far more ancestral lead roofs than he’s ever done.)
He savors poetry, consorts with boy actors,
playwrights, scholars of Greek and Latin.
He drinks, he brags he can out-Cicero Cicero,
cast Alexander’s battles in the shade. He will
marry the first semi-meek woman
to capture his hand in a soft snare,
the Lord Treasurer’s daughter,
favorite child of the original Polonius;
he will forever doubt having fathered her
first child, born soon after his departure
for Italy. (The young wife, while he gallivants
Padua and Venice and Verona, will beg
abortion drugs from her physician, fearful
“[Edward] will not pass upon me or the babe.”)
He will decant all Italy into splendid gold verse,
zany or solemn actions for the stage. He
will know the Venetian byways and ferryboats,
the serving of dishes of doves, the way fierce
Rialto merchants shut their lively young
daughters indoors. He will feel like
a dark-skinned man in a world of whites,
a lover the hue of night whose hands close
in a steely grip around a wife’s white throat.
Soon, his Jewish lender will tell a tale
of Jacob swindling Laban out of all
the spotted sheep in the flock. A little
prestidigitation with peeled wood “wands”
to put sex-woozy ewes in the right mood,
and “parti-colored” lambs drop by dozens
into Jacob’s lap. Oh, Edward sighs, if only
he belonged, just another courtier, parti-color,
styled black or white as the shepherd queen’s
fickle humor decides, revenue value undeniable,
easy to conceal, adaptable part of her
movable stock. Yet what wouldn’t he give
never to have been one of the flock,
let alone black?
AFTER HIRSHFIELD'S BOOK, AFTER
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole
Hiking in Berkeley hills
I tremble nearing the old
Nike Missile Site.
Once I shot photographs.
Now I see deeper
using the poet's lens.
Jane, a few have held a
fallen leaf to its branch.
But you wrote it down—
or, long having reveled
in your work,
do I imagine this...
—Patricia A. Pashby, Sacramento
She is a tangle
of doubts, conflicting affairs,
turning herself inside out—
the proverbial black sheep.
A QUESTION OF VERACITY
Brave little moment repeating
Itself, waiting for the mind
With its fine tigers to parade
Through, earnest in their spectacles
Of calm madness hovering
Along the same roads we travel,
Waiting for the mind, for us
To find the crowded streets
Sweating like skin tattooed
With a symbol that will lead
Us through these same stone
Streets always expecting,
Always arranging them one
After another, as if they could
Mean something more than
The borders of our madness,
Our rush to see them sorted out
Hoping this means we really exist.
Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing
there is a field. I'll meet you there.
—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for the LittleNip)