Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Smoke and Roses

Shepherd Garden Arts Rose Show, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

You're standing on a rock
in Cornwall, overlooking green
pastures and mine-shafts.
Under your feet, invisible, miners

work in darkness.
Green pastures, still waters.
Did the Psalmist ever dream
his son would tunnel underground

for metal? You've carried
David's Hebrew songs the length
of Britain. And here you are,
Land's End, standing on a rock.

It's cold beneath the hills,
a whole region disemboweled
for tin and copper, iron, silver,
coal. Coal-smoke makes

dark tunnels of a blacksmith's
lungs. For now, you want
nothing at all
but daylight's purifying sky.


Thanks to Taylor Graham for her response to D.R. Wagner's poem in the Kitchen last Monday, and for her two poems on our Seed of the Week: Moms. Unfortunately the first of her Mom poems deals with her current true life—and a sad contribution to the on-going sheep conversation.

Speaking of D.R., some more of his UCD "Poetry by Design" class students have joined in to last week's "Where there's smoke" SOW, so check those out below.

And somehow Josh Fernandez's reading tonight at the Central Library Sacramento Room slipped past my publicity machine; I'm so sorry about that. It's tonight at 6pm on the Second Floor, 828 I St., Sac., hosted by Bob Stanley. Josh Fernandez has lived in Sacramento on-and-off for almost 20 years. He currently writes for and has written arts and culture stories for the Sacramento News & Review, San Antonio Current, Hartford Advocate and other publications. Fernandez's first poetry broadside, In the End, it's a Worthless Machine, was published by Rattlesnake Press in early 2009 and his first full-length collection of poems, Spare Parts and Dismemberment, is now available from R.L. Crow. His poems have also been published in Pax Americana, Poetry Now, Rattlesnake Review and Hardpan. He was featured on Medusa's Kitchen on May 10, 2007—check that out by going to the date on Medusa's Archives (lower b-board).


—Taylor Graham

The fields are full
of the wailing
of mother-ewes
empty-eyed seeking
their lambs
after the coyotes
came through.


—Taylor Graham

Across from The Hangman's Tree saloon,
in the shadow of mortice-and-tenon,
she begins to read. Poems
of summer rain, thunder-poems to drown
the noise that foams through swinging doors.

Poems of living green to wrench timbers
from Gold Rush walls, restore cambium
and give woodgrain
back to its trees. The hangman's scaffold
becomes an oak again.

She reads of 49er tunnels shoveled
back to hillside, bedrock never dredged,
gouged, or shafted;
periwinkle binding earth-wounds,
moss covering the hewn remains

of native rhyolite, till it rejoins soil
under over-lacing forest. A broken
key-stoned arch
stands open to the mountain. Here
she pauses, listening to the deep.

What poems does it speak?


—Calista Baramki-Azar, Davis

It rises
Furling, twisting up chimneys
Caught on a breeze
Somewhere far, light under a bird’s wing
Stumbling, stretching its embrace through sky and clouds
Kissing willows, trailing fingers through streams
Rolling, expanding, whistling through your hair
Hiding behind boulders, taking cover from the searching wind
On a breeze, sucked under the doorway
Only to escape.
Furling and twisting
Up your chimney again


—Allison Ferrini, Davis

Where there’s smoke
There’s friction between bodies
Hot flame breath
There’s skin burning
Love and lust and heat
Wrapped around your ribs

Where there’s smoke
There’s dust
Gaunt coyotes and insanity
Parched brush
Scorching sand and talking skulls
Insincere sun tattooed onto flesh

Where there’s smoke
There’s explosions
Plumes of Armageddon
Missiles through the sky
Bright gun flashes
And shiny beetle helmets

Where there’s smoke
There’s history
Ancient battles lost
Gods dueling, mortal devastation
A heart kept in a box still beating
Useless hope

Where there’s smoke
There’s snakes in a pit
Preachers screaming temptation
Chlorine baptisms, plastic crucifixions
Tequila communion
Group suicides and poisoned punch

Where there’s smoke
There’s your hair
White cloud around your head
Whipped by the searing wind like a candle
In your inferno eyes
In your branding mouth

So don’t tell me where there’s smoke all you see is fire



There is fire
The red, yellow flames soaring with desire
As the smoke attempts to reach
The blinking glittery stars
The night is vast, mystic and inviting
The heat of the flames
Combined with the heat of our love
Is at war with the cool night breeze
The embers trickle away
Cackling, as if mocking, yet approving
The rhythm of the embers and the fire that rises
Sweet harmony in our ears
Where there is smoke
There is fire
And two bodies in love, in desire.

—Zeeniya Yahiya, Davis


Grey and profound.
the waterfall falling from my nose
manifesting down towards the ground
words I speak
the smoke escapes my mouth
this time lifting towards the sky
vanishing into the atmosphere.



—n.ciano, Davis

Haven’t you heard?
Everyone knows.
Everyone knows—
Where the smoke comes from.

Talons and teeth
scales and rage
dated from history’s page.
A medieval dragon named Groth.

Don’t get him mad
He’ll surely blow
and you will know
because his eyes will begin to squint.

His temper will tip,
his nose will scrunch,
his lips will bunch,
he will hiss and flash white, white teeth

Then out of his mouth
or maybe his nose,
fire will burst like a lovely rose.
And then you will see.

Where the smoke comes from.


About her Smoke poem, fitting for BOTH last week's SOW and this week's about moms, Lynn Park writes: I talked to my mom about this poem topic, and she is the one who suggested to me this "fish" idea. So I would like to give her credit for that.

When there's smoke...
my mother's cooking fish
the aroma fills the kitchen
sniffing and water at the mouth

when there's too much smoke,
smoke detector starts beeping
we scramble around and panic
fan and blanket at the fire

when there's finally no smoke,
that's when we gather together
have a nice meal with each other
with a smile and the fish on our plates


Today's LittleNip: 

One of the most wicked destructive forces, pychologically speaking, is unused creative power... If someone has a creative gift and out of laziness, or for some other reason, doesn't use it, the psychic energy turns to sheer poison. That's why we often diagnose neuroses and psychotic diseases as not-lived higher possibilities.

—Marie-Louise Von Frantz



Pat Hickerson at Poetry Unplugged
Luna's Cafe, Apr. 21, 2011
—Photo by Alan Satow, Stockton