—Taylor Graham, Placerville
It rained all night on top of rain.
New winter grass can’t hold
it by the root anymore.
All last summer’s leavings
and the dregs of fall—dry
thistle, buckeye seeds
with their pale
curved fingerings into soil—
have plugged the culverts.
From the current we pulled
twigs, mud, boughs;
then walked upcreek, skirting
stairsteps that were dry
all summer; churning
brown over rocks, leaping—
as the dog does, giddy
with wet joy, shaking water
from his coat like the
creek running wild.
HOW I BECAME AN AMERICAN POET
—Bob Stanley, Sacramento
I picked this one up at PoetryMart.
They had sonnets stacked to the ceiling
and women in aprons offering samples of villanelles.
I grabbed full cases of free verse from a forklift going by;
filled my rolling flatbed with formal pieces—ghazals, triolets, you
This poem, for instance, was part of a four-pack assortment:
one humorous piece, one political diatribe, a love poem and a
I know! PoetryMart! It’s like discovering that exclamation points
are the answer to writing! I used to think poems
from chain stores would employ indifferent line-
breaks, but these fit right into my collection, with images clear
THE GIRL WHOSE NAME I'D FORGOTTEN
stood ahead of me
in the check-out line at Happy Donuts.
She was drop-dead gorgeous,
breath-taking, tall and willowy.
Her classy carriage was dressed like
professional casual Friday.
Her voice flowed like hot honey
as she paid for four hazelnut decafs,
two glazed and two chocolate donuts.
I placed my order with a flour-
smeared, bearded guy sporting
a beer belly. Two guys
ahead of me moved away to pour
their coffee and to get an eye-full
of this model-on-a-coffee-run.
Then she turned quickly toward me
with a half smile that added to
global warming, set her tray
on the counter, and with a big-eyed
flourish, she swept me into an embrace—
well, actually it was a teepee hug—
whispered my name.
We chatted briefly about the good old days
when we worked together before I retired.
She now works for the insurance company
around the corner and, she cooed, we must lunch
sometime soon. I held my own in social chatter
straining to remember who, when, where—
A quick air kiss over the shoulder
and she was gone, leaving a trail
of perfume and hazelnut coffee.
I decided never to look her up,
to just let that lovely moment linger.
Although, I’ve since eaten often at Happy Donuts.
—Dewell H. Byrd, Central Point, OR
LEARNING TO READ
—Jane Blue, Sacramento
We went over an old bridge on the train
and workmen flattened themselves against the side.
I think of healing as growing up and forgetting
but even the memories of my ancestors haunt me.
Eggs crack open, infinitesimal plants go to seed
in the dust. When will he come, over the hills
and through the oaks? I make a sachet.
I make an orange stuck with cloves. Certainly
I can move forward even into the wind
into the future. Will we ever hang laundry
out in the yard again? Memories are like
mummies in ice floes, they crumble
as soon as they’re discovered.
I never wanted them to throw me up in the air
and catch me, my uncles, but I had
no voice, like some fen creature.
My father was the man in the moon. Whatever
was unexplained was what I thought I knew.
Crevices in the garden where a child could fall
and come out the other side, into Australia
where kangaroos hop-hopped
with their little hands held high. The cormorant
in China with a ring around its neck
couldn’t swallow, so brought the fish back
in its mouth, and we all cheered, parents and children
alike. We all felt that way, cuffed at the throat
unable to say whatever it was we were thinking.
(First published in Blaze, 2003, then in Jane's chapbook, The Persistence of Vision, Poet's Corner Press, 2003)
LITTLE THINGS THAT COME APART IN THE RAIN
The soil was almost black and tangled trees
beside the driveway cast dark shadows.
Sometimes fog covered everything as well.
My grandmother planted forget-me-nots there
that shone with a transitory, sky-blue incandescence
to keep her husband’s memory alive.
I’m the only one who remembers now.
The wolf-child, the changeling, the little animal
with no morals that they watched
for me to become. Now, even the crows
do not accept me, sometimes following me
down the street from tree to tree, haranguing.
I don’t mind. I understand.
If you could go up to their nests in cottonwoods
similar to the bunches of mistletoe beside them
(with little white flowers and intensely
parasitic natures) you might find the things
you’ve been looking for—your keys
or your bank card. I believe the sun shines
the reverse of what we think: a hole in the sky
through which light drains. I feel
from my frostbitten toes, and seem to love
the little things that come apart in the rain.
Hyacinths or snails or ants. Bougainvillea
and quince are much too bright, like foxes
glinting in the snow. I gather
my yellow canary to my breast and go
down in the mines. I plant my own garden.
Daffodils and tulips walk around in it.
You can see where their heels dig into the mud.
The old ones pretend they are children
and do these things in the night. Then robins
suddenly appear, splashing around and singing
insanely. I don’t think they count the seasons
quite the same as we do.
(First published in The Persistence of Vision, 2003)
Of course the festival of rain cannot be stopped, even in the city. The woman from the delicatessen scampers along the sidewalk with a newspaper over her head. The streets, suddenly washed, become transparent and alive, and the noise of traffic becomes a plashing of fountains. One would think that the urban man in a rainstorm would have to take account of nature in its wetness and freshness, its baptism and its renewal.
—Medusa (with thanks for the rain and for today's contributors)