—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
We will hardly notice when this
Is over. A sudden flurry of description
As if a poem were an uncommon species
Of bird that hardly ever visits these
Colder climates, even during the short
Summer days when insects form dense
Clouds in the air and conspire to
Be the noise filling the night. Clouds of them
Blocking sunlight and even the moon
For moments at a time and then
There they are shining again against
The buzzing darkness with its curious
Movement, wings through the thickness
Of the air. The ground littered
With hundreds of thousands of
Tiny winged bodies in the morning
Just as new clouds begin to
Form close to the surface of the lake,
Fish rising through rainbows to snap at them.
THE HAND LIFTED TOWARD THUNDER
Only the span of the hand raised
Against a late weather, the sun down,
Night knowing what it must do,
Drops of water are deflected as a ceremony.
The hand cannot stop the thunder. Thunder
Clings to the outline of the fingers
Like the sea to the shore line.
Every cranny delineated by the lightning
The moment carries with it. Still thunder
Comes against it, forged perfectly
As jewels and ornaments, weapons and shields
Are forged. So quickly,
Mercury bringing it,
Hephaestus smithing. Two brothers
Against the hand for a moment and
Discontented with the silence of words
Inclines thunder toward the world
And explodes in meaning even before
We realize with what we are dealing.
A bundle of harps
Designated by a quiet
Dialect not spoken in this
Province but having the music
Within it that drives the
Labial tones of the flute
From its strings.
Some would call it magic,
The tone bending the meaning
Of gestures and objects to
Tell a completely different
Fact concerning the way
One wishes for something
A great longing both
Attractive and repellent
In its phantasm of music
Making. We never understand it.
Still we never fail to listen.
RUBAIYAT FOR THE PALACE
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
There was a prince who kept his folk like sheep
to fleece for coins. His people went to sleep
in hovels; he, a palace with a dome
that climbed the heights, a panoramic sweep.
And yet, though rich with cinnabar and brass,
it lacked a staircase, for its prince to pass
above those commoners who toiled below.
His one desire: a spiral stair of glass.
He'd gaze at stars and fill the empty air
with dreams. But coffers might as well be bare,
for they can't buy his one obsessive wish.
Who dares to build, of glass, a spiral stair?
for Elihu Burritt, crossing at Abbotsford
The Tweed runs wide and rapid, flowing down
to sea. This ferry-girl weaves its shore—
at water's edge she gathers up her gown,
steps into her light shallop, takes the oars.
Lovelier in her swift moment
than any high-blood princess hung
portraited on walls
for centuries beyond the painted smil—
natural as noon, no Lady of the Lake
romance here. A mere penny pays your fare.
She'll row back home as you resume your walk.
The Tweed runs wide and rapid, flowing down.
Nine miles out of town, south side of a two-
lane that slices knife-straight to the county line—
vineyards, orchards, fields growing green—
and yet, the world is too much with us, she thinks;
late and soon, the sound of brakes, SUVs
pulled off along the shoulder, slamming car doors,
holiday weekend, flap of bunting in the traffic-
breeze; rap of fingernail against melon, testing
its red ripeness; woosh of glass opening
the cooler, chink of coins on wooden counter;
and then one note she's never heard,
the start of song. At the corner of her eye,
a flit electric-blue like sky gathered in a bird.
And then, without another note, it flies.
What is a poet? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.