FOR THE LATECOMER
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
dreaming virgin boy,
you’ve come to the celebration
but I can tell you how it used to be:
a journey of light in the dark
up winding roads
to mountain peaks
oblivious in their pink haze
drowsily mindless for the joy of it—
—rolling over in meadows
wild yellow with thrusting poppies
dark mustard buds burnished gold
bellying trunks of trees, tender leaves dappling satin paths
dipping underground to
pulpy mauve-lined tunnels
and silken ponds opaque
with your intimations of fading morality—
let it be…
STOP, HEY, WHAT'S THAT SOUND?
—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks
Grew up in
Like sesame seeds
On a California roll.
We swam in
Until, that is,
The land owners
To the nuclear waste
Who wants to
Sun on the beach
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
I board the bus with the usual commuters
and shuttle to the light rail station where
the whole world of subtle is pierced in
the heart and left to die.
The elevators and stair wells, endured only
by covering the mouth and nostrils, pose an
omen to what is ahead on the rail car,
adding more drama than necessary to the
daily commitment of just getting from
point A to Point B.
Waiting for the train, smokers are totally
oblivious to regulation, while private
security personnel work hard shielding
themselves from enforcing the rules.
The train serves as everyone’s private
limousine: go ahead, put your feet up
on the seat; eat and drink whatever you
choose and leave the garbage everywhere
for someone else to clear.
Cell phone protocol is to raise your
voice and choose your words carefully so
as not to miss the opportunity to offend
all within hearing range.
“HEY YOU GAY BITCH, BETTER
HAVE SOME FUCKIN’ GOOD SHIT
FOR ME WHEN I GET THERE!!!”
This is my stop. See you tomorrow.
LIGHT RAIL II
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
My daily light rail commute home from
downtown Sacramento passes by many
signs that trigger a far more fascinating
tour through history (though the last 3
can be seen from a map, not the light rail):
The SETA facility at Acoma & Del Paso,
on the former premises of the Continental
Chemical Company, which left behind
more than slight traces of chemicals in the
ground. Which brings one to
Acoma, a New Mexico Town boasting
perhaps the oldest native American
community. Which brings one to
Barstow, a California town at the
intersection of many highways and
railways. Which brings one to
Colfax, a New Mexico county named
after the 17th Vice President of the
United States. Which brings one to
Dale, a 3-wheeled car idea of
Geraldine Elizabeth Carmichael.
Which brings one to
Edgewater, where it doesn’t necessarily
take a prominent body of water to earn
this title. Which brings one to
Fernley, a New Mexico town off
Interstate 80. Which brings one to
Grove, a California town along the
route of the California Western
Railroad. Which brings one to
Hawthorne, known homestead of
the Shoshone Indians.
At this point, the street names cease
following alphabetical order.
Or do they?
THREE VAN GOGH IMPRESSIONS
(after “Starry Night on the Rhône River”)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
(Dedicated to Elsie Whitlow Feliz)
The night lies thick in paint upon the canvas,
impasto the water, impasto the atmosphere,
obscuring in oily sheen the wheel and flare
of stars crossing heaven. Oppressed by weight of damask
we adjust our eyes, should even correct our ears:
we listen for the blueblack clarity
that offers up cold and never charity,
no, not so much as to shelter the naked spears
flung in orange-yellow from each cosmic lamp
only to lose their force and turn soft-grained
or freshen the riverbend in the shape of rain.
What checks the tall terror careening down long tarry ramps?
This once-brusque starlight partakes of the elemental,
yet now, rinsed thickly in paint-water, turns gentle.
The Wikipedia entry for the painting
mentions the knee of the river. Yes, the Rhône,
starry or no, might well claim skin and bone,
so unperplexed the dark plum plush now tenting
the simple draftsman’s bones of composition.
Yet flurries of black, of blue, make weft and warp
emblazoning and embittering this taut tarp
with designs and signals untemporal, in transition
from standing, fear-aroused hairs on the paint-thick brush,
to flitting and shrieking in passage, writing this vexed
dark lapwater scene an adieu in a strange new text
only they can read, born to come and be crushed,
who encipher the bitter starlight out of this instant
into paintly radium known, in one form, as Vincent.
Yes, the loving pair in the foreground might suggest: the night tide lapping the blue mudbanks, all this caressing dark cloak, is for lovers to draw, one cloak over two pairs of shoulders. Then why do these two seem to advance toward our downward-trained skyhigh lens, then past us, gliding beyind camera range? Everything else in the painting, the boats tied up like slim twin canoes, the yoked pairs of lit houselanterns, the mating serpents of townshore and riverglide, intimate their soft songs of pairing, copulation, doubling and bending together, foreskin wriggling into love’s gloveskin, the way mating implies a reverse molting…
Yet hardness lives here too, perplexing the glandular lilt of the soft night. We know these blackish blues, irradiated by orangepeel and bananaskin emanations from sky-devouring stars. These hues, laid on like peaks teased in cake icing, have long since turned skintight on the fiberglass backs of our racecars. Not till we bestow our fastest two-seaters, convertibles for lovers peeled open to sky and wind, with such thick black-butter and blue-cream peaks, these drizzles of wintry orange-yellow, will our own gooseflesh truly comprehend “a little touch of Vincent in the night.”
—Patricia Pashby, Sacramento
ethereal night dreams.