—Tom Goff, Carmichael
What twice-bent bend already in the road
promises gouts of mudslide, rockslide,
indigestible rock-candy dumped
over my entry into wisdom,
active engagement with cormorants
and orange blossoms?
Independence Trail torques like a last memory
down its own long flume ramp, a park
soon to close, the restroom soon to be stuffed
with dirty reminders of our lack
of civic affect. Even now, the clouds
that shrouded our global hothouse
from feeling its own recirculant coal-glow,
learn how a hardy winter retreats
from tardy summer. We preferred truth blanketed
by misunderstood names; she tugs these
about her like St. Gaudens’ bronze wrap
over the allegory who shields Clover Adams
in mystery at Rock Creek Cemetery.
But the whole mind and clime corkscrew
with the effort to break & flow somewhere,
like Donne’s holyminded citizen plodding
early-retirement for timeshare heaven,
that lone poker up the twisty Mount Lassen
corkscrew who about must, and about must go…
On the way to Shakespeare I pulled up short
to find Sir Henry Lee, the Queen’s Champion,
blocking my path, his destrier a leggy cushion
for the complete suit of gleaming silver armor
and seismic spear. Sir Henry spouted a poem
each of whose lines finished lost on wind,
but the gusts themselves hurled challenge
gauntleting in my face…
I stumbled off the path
for the Forest of Arden
armed with my dagger of lath.
Made barely canebrake by nightfall,
then slept in a primeval cordon
dawn purified and curved
reshaping it as a knot garden.
I rose, I groped, I swerved,
teeth jigging, swigging from hip-flask.
The wind kicked outland and whiplash.
A green-luscious garden of knots
transformed to a garden of knouts.
Branchbeaten and sore afraid,
I bloodknelt half-kneeless and prayed:
Woe is the me who first stumbled
into this brambled world!
Dawn rose with its argent
spear turning skywide target:
No pontifex more ardent
read poor beasts’ entrail-portents.
And then it was again lightfall,
last night in that garden of knots.
Thanks, Tom, for the poems, and thanks to our other contributors, including Sandy Thomas for the photos of last night's rattle-read at The Book Collector, where a good time was had by all. Sandy writes: The rattles of laughter filled the Home of the Snake tonight, with Medusa as the emcee, and the giant purple 8-ft-long anaconda lying in wait [see photo above], waiting for someone to wrap around:
to take the snake into their own hands,
claiming the prize...
wraps itself once more.
Our gratitude to the many wonderful audiences who have made the Rattle-reads so much fun over the past seven years, and to the Hansens for opening their store to us, come rain or shine. The Book Collector will always be Home of the Snake, and our books will remain on sale there in perpetuity, because the Snake is NOT DEAD; many fine projects await us as we morph into something...else. (And who knows? Maybe we'll still have the occasional Rattle-read, just for old times' sake.........!)
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Taylor Graham sends us a sonnet, saying Katy Brown's poems yesterday got me thinking of raptors, and something we saw many years ago in Alaska:
DESIGN IN WHITE
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Deserted highway to Denali, May
before Breakup; our destination lost
in sun-glare on ice, pale river embossed—
wind-drift etched on crystal. Still a long way
to solstice, but a brilliant, brittle day.
I counted birds, a snowshoe hare, fur flossed
with silver. A ptarmigan, its white glossed
by sun. Sun-flare of wings spread wide, a spray
of white—great snowy owl—its talon-splay
found the ptarmigan—plump tundra-hen crossed
by the one dark shadow. Design of Frost
stitched with mystery that carries it away.
White on white, meant to appall our reason,
or simply hunger in a cold season?
And there's been a strange ghost gobbling up D.R. Wagner's poems and photos as he tried to send them to me recently, resulting in a dirth of same. We'll try to make up for that in the near future, starting with his poem about a different kind of ghosts:
A SONG ABOUT HUNGRY GHOSTS
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
They put all their pity in the mouth of the poor.
They said that your children aren’t there anymore.
They closed down the barroom. They nailed up the door.
They don’t care about the parts that are sore.
They’ve sent all the blind ones outside to explore
And they can’t see the skin for the bleeding.
There’s been nothing quite like it, but they’ve said that before.
Their hanging at doorways and laughing with whores.
They broke all the windows on all of the stores.
They made all the dancers lie down on the floor.
They said every apple is bad at the core
And they can’t see the sharks for the feeding.
They said, “Let it rain. Oh hell, let it pour.”
They always have nothing. They always want more.
They’ve injured the injured. They ripped and they tore.
They ripen their hatred inside hearts that can’t roar.
The things that mean nothing are like clothes that they wore
And they can’t see the beasts they are breeding.
They dig holes in souls of the meek but they don’t know what for.
The crush dreams in machines and then eat up the gore.
They have legends of fire and pain is their lore.
They are shunned by the dying and cursed furthermore.
They hang banners from windows that show only locked doors
And they can’t see that everyone’s leaving.
(use whenever needed)
Oh they’re ghosts, yes they’re ghosts
Who live always in fear. They won’t take a body.
They want yours, yes my dear. They will wrack it
And wreck it and make you haul their gear and they
Wish only to make you their mirror.
If we could have gone through
The woods, we would have
Done so, but there was too
Much water where the copses
Seemed to gather together.
There were clouds of crows
Cawing and arguing just
Above our heads and more
Rain on the way, dirtying the sky
With scuddy clouds and random
Winds. So we took the other way.
It wasn’t much of a detour
But it put us past elderberry bushes,
Pheasant and rabbit runs, and other
Birds that would never be near crows
Except to harry them during breeding time.
We were late in reaching the open
Pastures. The sheep were huddled
Near the stout stone walls, waiting
For us to get there. They knew time
Much better than we did, complained
To us about the lateness of the hour,
Fixing both the dogs and I with their
Golden eyes, the lambs with their still
Long tails, running close to their mothers,
Finding everything interesting
And talking about it incessantly.
TRY TO DREAM
I lie down next to the old
Fallen walnut tree and listen to
The hundred-plus years slide
Through the tired cambium. The rain,
The nights, the trembling voices
Of ancient winds.
This tree will lie here another
Hundred or so years and continue
To tell us of its prowess with
The sun as a companion, the harvest
Year after year, each with a separate
Story from pies to firewood,
From furniture to shelter.
That we too attempt this kind
Of longevity even as we pour
Words into our own roots,
Listen to our own winds,
Know our own forms, love
Exactly the same love in being.
THE DETOUR BUS
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
This poem is
based on a picture
biased by perception
bussed across town
bossed by persuaders
best viewed as an anomaly
Its destination was
the starting point
You are already there
go to Facebook and type in
"Medusa's Kitchen/Rattlesnake Press"]