—Taylor Graham, Placerville
First full moon after the vernal equinox, even
the moon bartered its pesos, its change. At the
mercado I wanted to break a melon open, give
each of us a quarter of honeydew just on the
cusp of ripe, begging for salt and lime-tang,
pale green as the sea off Mazatlán. That Easter-
week, we broke down outside our language.
Our old car, dented oil-pan, la bomba de aceite.
Dark hands reaching, needing to be filled with
sweet. How we loved horizons. Brisas off the
Gulf. I wrote postcards home to no one, read
poetry, Jim Harrison: I spent too much time
inside the water of lakes and rivers. For myself,
I’d lived on iced pennies, I could not grasp the
ocean. Message in a bottle that on a flood-tide
sang come skim me with a sail, come ferry your
face into sunset. I could taste the brine. Trust
the turnings of your moon, it lisped, water into
sand. Should we have drowned in honeydew?
One of the many things we had to decide was whether or not to go for Issue Two. The original plan was to just do one issue and then see if we wanted to continue. But we didn’t really consider this a fair test, given that Richard had to be gone for two months of the process this summer, and given that first issues are always scramblish and tricky because you’re inventing something. So we decided to try a second issue: deadline March 1, for release in April (Poetry Month/Snake Birthday Month). We hope you’ll join us then; guidelines are in the back of this issue, which you’ll be able to access on Medusa’s Kitchen until then.
And if you have time tonight, drop by The Book Collector for the Inaugural Reading, featuring 13 of our area’s hottest poets whose work also appears in The Ophidian. That’s 7:30pm at 1008 24th St., Sacramento (Home of the Snake). Free! (This night also marks the return of the Rattlesnake Reading Series, which has been on hiatus for five months.)
circling upon his star
is awakened by
the white feather of morning—
the bloodstain on it reminds him—
startled, he drops
the snowberry breaks
against the black agate of night
sullied with dream—
No spotless white on this earth—
to kiss the end of all distances.
throws the springboard
of night over the redness
lengthens your promontory
and hesitant I place my foot
on the trembling string
of my death already begun.
But such is love—
In flight in escape
how grand the reception
on the way underway—
Wrapped in the wind’s shrouds
deep in the prayer of the sand
that never can utter amen
It has not the choice—
its way is from dorsal to wing
Ever over and on
The butterfly dying
again knows the ways of the sea
And this stone
inscribed by the fly
has pressed itself into my palm—
Instead of a home
I clutch the world’s mutations.
The last one
to die here
will bear the kernel of the sun
between his lips—
will be the tempest in the final night
in the death throes of decay.
All the dreams
kindled in blood
will dart from his shoulders
jagged lightning from wings
stigma of pain
on the membrane of heaven.
Since the path of the Ark
was a tumbling down
down the highways of stars
the last one to die here
will be shod
with a flooded shoe
wherein a fish
with the homing sail of its dorsal fin
will speed its freight
to its sodden grave.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
From little nothings much, nulls, notes, gnats, motes,
come muches more. Rains? Buckets. Oceans? Boats.
We jot love-blots, blips bottles can swallow, note-
beginnings we set bobbing. Hope they float!
(Today's poems by Nelly Sachs were translated from the German by Arthur Wensinger and Michael Hamburger.)