—Jane Blue, Sacramento
There is something innocent about September light
when it spills down the gutter at 7 p.m. Another day
coming home from something, we drove part-way
on the piece of freeway overpass where it ends
at the river: a little later, twilight now, and lights,
blue and red, flashing. We couldn’t tell what kind
of vehicles they were then, but in the paper the next
morning, words: a rope swung from a cottonwood
up on the levee, out into the middle of the cold river.
Boys; I see in my mind the hole where one of them
went down, a maw right in the center of the wide
Sacramento. Then he pops up like a seal
and his friends laugh, but the next time he plunges
he doesn’t rise. It was 5:30, 6:00 when they called
for help, 7:30 maybe when we passed by, divers
scouring the river bottom; we didn’t know this yet.
His family was there, the mood turned somber,
and everything was changed forever. The thing about
drowning is, when you are drowning, you know
you are drowning, but those on the shore
continue their chatter, their fun,which you were
a part of, until it’s too late, that horrible
realization that you’re not coming back. The river
is close, the death was close, but I will not remember it
so long, not like your mother who sat vigil
on the bank for two weeks until your swollen body
finally revealed its hiding place; close to shore,
thumping against debris. This morning sun reached
through the curtains and fell directly on the yolk
of my egg at the breakfast table, a fluke
of the season’s changing, and I felt suddenly alive.
—Janet Pantoja, Woodinville, WA
Semester break was over—
for U.O.P. in Stockton.
Winter darkness now
claimed the late afternoon
at five o'clock.
Mom and I chatted longer
than we should have—
that wasn't the problem.
Dense Tule fog had crept in . . .
blanketed the valley . . .
I hadn't even noticed.
I drove away—
headed down Highway 99,
I could barely see.
My headlights bounced
off a wall of fog:
I was scared
and alone—except for CC
who sat unruffled under a cover
on the front seat.
I chattered to assuage my
fear. This night ride in pea
soup seemed to never end—
but it did: Safe in my room, I lifted
the cover on my parakeet's cage,
whispered . . . "Goodnight CC".
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
Just before bedtime we let our 5-
pound chihuahua loose in the back
yard as we sat on the patio. She
put her nose to the ground and
scoured all the usual places looking
for traces of squirrels, birds, cats
and even bugs who had dared to
trespass in her domain.
Finally, after purposefully visiting
each corner of the yard, she posited
herself on the lawn, nose extended
as high in the air as her miniature
frame would allow, fixing her gaze
on tree limbs and fence tops. All
this is her standard routine.
Then something totally unknown to
us caught her attention and she ran all
out toward the back fence, quietly
disappearing for a moment under a
tangled blanket of pungent oleanders.
Suddenly, she darted right back to her
people on the patio, as if bearing a
most urgent message.
This hurried excursion between the
back fence and the patio repeated
several times, leading us to wonder:
What’s causing all this excitement?
What’s over there that we don’t see,
hear, or smell?
The next day we got our answer.
As we were driving our car a short
distance from the house the street
paralleled some railroad tracks, upon
which sat a circus train that must have
passed by the night before, unknown
to all but one of us.
Second, we’ve been celebrating Sac. Poetry Day this past week with poems and pix about Sac., and thanks to the poets who helped us finish up that thread today. Now let’s move on to—you guessed it—Halloween. Plenty of inspiration around you, so have at it, and send your poems and pix to email@example.com/. Here are some bewitching ones to get you started; more from Pat Hickerson tomorrow (she’s been working on Halloween for weeks, now!).
cursed the coven, weary of ritual
stirring a boil of soup in the cauldron
wispy witch of wonder fell in,
bubbled into warlock world
wasted, wailing, woebegone
wanton wishes from boredom bred
her shut tight heart
a raging anvil on which
she forged a one-way ticket
warlock evenings smokin’ hot
at the mercy of frolic and fire
flames licked her lips
singed her brain
roasted her spirit
get me out!!
cool night and a sister’s concern
pulled her from the pitch of Hell
clothed her in black magic and a pointy hat
sent her sailing moonward
she rides her broom into make-believe mystery—
the Halloween sky
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
I have gone out, a possessed witch,
haunting the black air, braver at night;
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch
over the plain houses, light by light:
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.
I have been her kind.
I have found the warm caves in the woods,
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:
wining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.
I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,
learning the last bright routes, survivor
where your flames still bit my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.
I have been her kind.
from The Song of The Sky