Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Out Of The Swamp-Jell

Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

(from Berkeley Hills)
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole

Light years ago
land mass anchored cells
which evolved from
swamp-jell, chance
and circumstance:

homo sapiens
gifted with a thumb
a reasoning brain
reached out,
took hold, held on

made temples,
constitutions, war,
mansions, shanties,
zoos and laws, built
churches and jails...

We lie on a hilltop,
watch cloud-islands
move together
and apart
on the ocean we float upon
mere moments.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Delicately you slipped one slim photo
free of the family album, one vignette

glittering like albumen silver, heirloom
photo varnished by surrendering decades.

And it’s here on your fingertips: you hold it
up for me to admire. If Praxiteles could see

you, bride of the white skirts leaning cheeksoft
into my shoulder, he’d never carve ivory-and-gold

Athena the old way. Long spine. A bit lofty
for us demotics? Imperial postures!

Where’s a goddess approachable enough
we may proffer her a brimming fig basket?

Charred meat smoke! Lend me your
slender bend and we will sculpt a new statue

in the parthenon of lightly scented brides,
your temple Doric with pillars of applewood,

the boughs still fruit-bent upon them.


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

My mother’s twin brother was killed
At Normandy Beach while hanging
A telephone line from a pole. Never
Saw it coming. Came back in the
Late summer. The funeral was at home.

He was a handsome man, young and
Beautiful with a kind voice and a bright
Future. There were so many who did
Not come back. Every small town had
Some kind of board listing their dead sons.

Faster than that his nephews and nieces
Were growing old and laughing at how
They looked in the nineteen sixties, how
Long their hair was, how idealistic they were.

Even younger, their children are showing
Off their new babies and are being fussed
Over by relatives. There is still a war. It
Is much more informal these days. No

Boards with names on them in elementary
Schools. Now there are national monuments
With names on them. One must go to Washington
D.C. or the state capitol to see who these people were.
They still gave the same thing as their relatives,
Their lives. It isn’t legal, or barely so, to show
The boxes of the dead coming home.

The speed of the past is wildly furious.
Soon it will be lost again as it always is.
Soon we will stand in the fields of dead
And not one name will carry us away.
We will know nothing once again, implicitly.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

In this old photo, 1959, Mom
is smiling, but I'll bet she can't wait
to get back to the kitchen and her
new aluminum mixing bowl.
Cousin Émile looks like he just
stepped off the night-train
from Paris, with one small suitcase
and packed with a change
of English.
Dad may be guessing dinner—
red snapper a la Veracruzana?—
can't hold a flashlight
to fresh-caught rainbow trout.
I'm improvising from some poet:
a secret spot above
a hemlock trail, full moon
to hide hills and woods, the river,
and the heaven in pure, reflected
light. What the camera
caught is the four of us, lined up
staring at the lens,
thought-worlds apart.


—Taylor Graham

Cousin Jim, who's worked
at JPL forever, sends me news
of Spirit rover, and today, Curiosity.
Will it get off the launch-pad
and land safe on Mars?
What will it discover there?
Human curiosity, to find out things
we didn't know before.
This curious family I come from.
Curious: rooted in “care,” fastidious/
accurate (as in scientific?) and
nosy. Ben Franklin used his cache
of curiosities to get him invited
to fine houses. This rover, a little bit
like Ben, knocking at exclusive
doors. Curiosity might ask
the red planet, “anybody home?”
Now, this Curiosity has my name
on it; Cousin Jim's got me
on a micro-chip to Mars.
I'm curious to know who's there
to read it.


CHECKPOINTS: Mid-June, 2010
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Never seen
he never made it
into the part of the red-brown
must-pollinated photo album
we kids were allowed to see.

Great Great Uncle Percy
on Mom's side
had to moved from Missouri
and Arkansas
simultaneously and rapidly
since he took one wife
and then another
going from north to south.

Would have probably hit Louisiana next
if John L
the vigilant legal man
was not hounding
Percy's clodhoppered steps
and after that
maybe three in Texas
such a big state you know.

The olden adults
always seemed
to bring him up
those stolid nurses,
secretaries, newspaper men
and auto workers
while we kids
found his escapades
oldens talking
about sex
in any permutation
was pariah to us.

And it still is
when I mention him
to my youngens
especially the twin boys,
Derek and Dominic.

"Goin' be heart-breakers
those two,"
Aunt Druscilla
at ninety
told me nearly a year ago.

"For their sakes, I hope not" I replied,
after putting down the laser-hot pen
after sealing the envelope
cradling the fifth child support payment.


—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks

There were two black sheep
In my family.
One was Uncle Prufrock
(Changed his name when
He decided to be a writer),
Who once actually sold
A script to Sanford & Son,
Who probably bought it
Just so he’d go away.

He did. Bought a beret
And a penile implant,
Left his wife and went
To Paris, France.

First night there,
He got rolled, robbed
And stripped (Left him
His beret though).

Turned up at the
American embassy
The next morning.
Marine guards
Wondering why
This naked man
In the black hat
Was so happy
To see them.

They gave him clothes,
And a trip home. His
Wife took him back,
And he never wandered
Quite so far again.

The other black sheep?
For telling his story.


Today's LittleNip: 

Wild peonies
Now at their peak in glorious full bloom:
Too precious to pick
Too precious not to pick.



—Medusa (with thanks to today's contributors, including Pat Pashby for the LittleNip. This week we're talking about your "Family Album", but send poems and pix on ANY subject to or P.O. Box 726, Pollock Pines, CA 95726. No deadline on SOWs.)

And be sure to check Medusa's Kitchen on Facebook for our latest album, "The Last Round-Up", featuring Katy Brown's pix of our last rattle-read one week ago today.

Pinata Festival, 2011
—Photo by Michelle Kunert