Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Quilting Our Scraps of Questions

Photo by Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

before your death I dreamed
we climbed the stairs of an office building,
climbing high up
walking the empty corridors
roaming the empty rooms
we walked and walked
asking each other questions
climbing higher and higher
until you reached the pinnacle
look, you said, I’m at the top
you leaned out the window
I can see Woman's Hospital
(where we were born, 22 years apart)
oh no, I said, they tore down Woman's Hospital years ago
no, I see it, it’s still there at 109th and Amsterdam
it can’t be
but I see it, wait I’ll check it out online
you looked around the empty room for a computer

now you were leaning far out over the windowsill
waving to the crowds on the street below
you turned to me I’m at the top
I made it all by myself

yes, I said, you’ve moved on


Thanks, Pat, and thanks to our other contributors who are talking about our Seed of the Week: Movin' On, including Taylor Graham, who will be reading at the Twelve Bridges Library in Lincoln this Sunday. (Details on the b-board.)

Interested in submitting your poems to some NorCal publications? First, check out Local Presses That Want YOU on our b-board, under the SNAKE ON A ROD. Then see Sonoma County Literary Update ( or MetroActive ( for more Bay Area publications, such as Haight Ashbury Literary Journal ( and ZYZZYVA (

On a sadder note, friends of SnakePal Elsie Whitlow Feliz are concerned about her, since she is very ill right now. Please keep her and her family in your thoughts. Carol Louise Moon has written a poem about the subject:

—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento

I've seen that tree of which you speak,
bark as if hewn into rivulets. It wears
a mossy cloak, and harbors ants within.
Strong and old, it has weathered storms,
seen pioneers on these western trails.
A fine oak; I do knot know its name.

And the cypress on the coastal cliff;
a tree of strength, as well, and of renown.
That tree wails and speaks; she speaks of
ships and ship wrecks, of native peoples
traveling along coastal trails, and of feasts
at sunset.

But have you seen the tree that grows in
my town? A magnificent redwood, alive
years before I laid down roots under
her shadow. Her bark is of a crimson
wool. Small branches with smaller fingered
limbs form graceful boughs. She harbors
a variety of birds. Squirrles run and chase
within her, leaping onto a fence which has
given way to her roots in passing years.
She speaks to the animals in a certain
poetic flow. This tree's name I know.


—Richard Zimmer, Sacramento

Even God cannot change the past.

Like a curious bird, ending his
flight to perch on a branch with
a backward look, an old man
stops to ponder his past regrets.

He remembers the sorrows—the
things he could have changed,
then his present joy dissolves
the moment—the past forgotten.

He enjoys good fortune while it
lasts. Sometimes it dances in the
wind—luck comes and goes, but
he knows he will always endure.

The happiest people he’ll ever
meet find life tolerable, even
sweet, and hope for the best in a
life they consider to be blessed.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

(for Elihu Burritt, the Learned Blacksmith)

All the children have gone home. You close
the last book, arrange the quills on your desk.
How often, next term, they’ll need sharpening
again; your successor will spend hours
with his pen-knife, preparing quills to sharpen
young minds. How confining this job!

Your muscles beg for walking, or the swing
of hammer on hot iron. How can a man work out
the headaches that come from study, if he
does nothing but pace a grammar-schoolroom,
teaching children what he’s taught himself
already; and in spare moments study something

new? It’s time to take the road. You’ll become
a commercial traveler, answering to
no one but yourself. Between towns, you’ll
choose a deserted spot—fresh breeze, birdsong—

dismount and turn your horse free
to graze spring grasses, while you browse
the fields of Hebrew and Spanish.

How much to learn after one leaves
the classroom behind.



says my screen.
I have no password, no passport
to this brave computer world.
I might as well be
quilting my scraps of questions
into skewed, patched patterns
of antique.

I’ll pull the plug, insert
key into
ignition, head for—let’s say

Anyone’s a gambler
who sets out across deserts
for the Great Divide,
free air horizons, a coral sunrise—
access not denied.

—Taylor Graham


—Patricia Hickerson

black her skirt, tight her style
bootheeled and hustling smart
go-get-it! Times Square!
she elbows the ramming mass
gumspots paste cement
step on a crack, break your mother’s back
downtown stop, dank step takedown
grab the green banister
sling the tote, watch the pockets
read the signs
crowding speechless
make the change
pump the turnstile
jar the metal
dizzy the whirl
here it comes
retreat from the edge, squeal of wheels
press forward, cross the gap
through the closing doors, shut in
grasp the pole, hang on for the lurch
ride she goes—34th St.
and sway…


Today's LittleNip:

True poets are those "who are neither theoreticians nor grammarians but who listen to themselves live, and sing what they hear."

—Marcel Schwob



Photo by D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove