—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
I am wearing a blue ball gown near the pool
where one my lovers lounges in his birthday suit
and another strolls through with his camera
asking if anyone wants their picture made.
The rock band asks to be photographed on black
bean-bag chairs with heads of lettuce and raw meat.
(The drummer claims their music beats the heart.)
A firecracker lily dives nine feet into the pool
where couples cluster in the dark water
wishing everyone else would just go home.
A moonless voice is asking for a new muse.
Rose thorns near the gate
extract our dues in blood.
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
weakly uttered the lad
looking up at low-hanging fruit
as if it was on a mountain top.
Name it and I’ll get if for you.
offered one well-nourished gentleman.
Just say the Kingdom or Phylum
It’s been days since I’ve eaten!
Class, Order, Family, Genus
I’m not going to make it!
or Species. You’ve been
standing there long enough
to count all the branches
and leaves. Postulate
now how many roots?
We can’t have you just
laying on the ground
not participating in
I have the
—Mitz Sackman, Murphys
Rolling on the horizon
Little white puffs
Sailboats in the wind
Dot the bay
Polka dots against
The blue black of the water
Off Asilomar this fine morning
Brisk winds hurry walkers
From a leisurely stroll to brisk steps
A stirring January day
Not lowering clouds
Bring joy to the morning walk
A TRAIN FROM LONDON
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The young man undoes a button on his vest;
it was a good piece of roast he put away
before boarding—and eyes the older gentleman
across, a stranger, thin as the walking staff
he props against a paltry traveling bag.
Suddenly it's dark, as the train plunges
into tunnel beneath street and church-vault,
surges up again to give glimpses
into a tenement's back door. The man
across holds a strange small book, leather-
bound and worn—could the letters
on its cover be Arabic, or Hebrew?—
and seems to search its pages for a passage.
Where could such a man be bound, foot-
traveler on a train? On what sort of mission?
Then, as if content, the stranger looks up.
“How long, do you think, till we reach
Kelvedon?” Is that his destination? A mere
village, just two hours out of London.
And, mark his foreign accent. American,
that land where brothers kill their brothers.
“It's good to leave the coal-smoke behind,”
the stranger says. “London's hard on a man's
lungs. Have you ever been to Scotland?”
The young man undoes another vest button
and, without seeming, checks his watch.
Ninety minutes more to Kelvedon.
STRANGERS ON THE RAILS
It's a long double-rail way from here
to there. The book I brought is dull,
inspiring strange images. I'm in the belly
of a troublous segmented insect
that lashes the landscape with its tail.
Across from me in the compartment,
a young man in best suit and dark tie
exudes all the honesty of the small
tract he reads to himself, oblivious
to the world outside the window
as it's lashed by our locomotive
progress, two parallel tracks rushing
toward a vanishing point.
MURDER ON PARK AVENUE
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
is she sad?
she’s as sparkly as springtime out here
whatever else is going on…
she’s got it all in hand
spike heeled boots and a rhinestone shirt
she just dumped her sweetie
or was it the other way ‘round?
funny how her brain is a blank
all she remembers is that day he got so mad at her
he tried to throw her from his tenth floor window…
whatever…she’s hard as cinders
hard as the mascara on her lashes
the Revlon nails at her fingertips
stalking past chrome and concrete
she won’t let it disturb her days
she can take him or leave him
she doesn’t care—
let him ball that back-door slut…
cars and chrome and concrete
glass walls and green lights
mascara and miniskirts,
nails and tails: she’ll be wanton at the Waldorf
he never really loved her, did he?
brass gleaming all around
brass banisters, brass lanterns
Grand Central Station glitters
diamond of the city
she’ll buy a real diamond some day
she’ll be diamond-hard
hard enough to scratch a glass window
hard enough to drop-kick that old guy
limping across the street against traffic
she’d love to see him or someone else she knows
gut-squashed in the fast lane…
As a child, my number one best friend was the librarian in my grade school. I actually believed all those books belonged to her.
—Medusa (And don't forget tonight's reading with new publications from Martha Ann Blackman and Carl Bernard Schwartz at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, 7:30pm. See you there!)