—Brigit Truex, Placerville
What voices echoup from the rock?
What are the stories they are telling
as miners heft their picks, feel the shock
of metal on stone, hear each belling
quartz split apart? Open the white lock
of dreams, find strikes to amaze, quelling
what voices echo. Up from the rock,
what are the stories? They are telling
of long-necked geese, the returning flock,
their travelers' tales, sky-script spelling
what the stones already know. Knelling
azure sky, emerald water. What can block
the voices' echo up from the rock?
JEWEL OF JULY
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
From a sun-blind spot
of hot blue sky, iridescent
rubies in a hover-blur
that drops/stops six inches
from my God Bless
America T-shirted chest—
do they signify a heart
unfurling into our
communal History? Bird
of fireworks, of fire-
words. No. On this day
Calliope takes hers.
No flower am I. She zips
her rubies back into
her tiny purse and
zips off to the oleander
in hot-pink blossom.
Here I am in the hardware aisles—
looking for what? Duplex
nails or sinkers? Wing-nut bolts?
Here are handsaws and claw
hammers, nippers and snips,
screwdrivers Phillips and other
persuasions, fencing tools,
plumb bobs and levels, pliers
and wrenches, pry bars….
I have no project in mind.
I walk the hardware aisles,
remembering my dad's
puttering with lumber
and tools. I'm getting a fix—
the feel of wooden handle
in my fist, the important weight
of steel in the head. I'm looking
for what? A childhood joy
grown a bit smaller.
X ON THE MAP
Sun comes over the uplift
of granite being ground, by time
and weather, to alluvial fans.
Everything goes on happening
in the desert as it always
and diapause. No bad timing
in the wind, the uprise
of birds at dawn,
mica by moonlight or heat-
shimmer at noon, and
that mirage of an x-
not buried treasure, but
a bumblebee seeking
love in a cactus flower.
—Katy Brown, Davis
It was the small things she loved about him:
the way he trimmed the wicks
and set a fire on the hearth;
the way that light reflected
on his sleeping face;
the tune he whistled when he was happy.
The small things vexed her just as much:
wood shavings scattered on the floor
from keepsakes carved for her;
unset tables and unwashed dishes;
wrinkled clothes left where they dropped.
Small things make the man, they say.
She sits and rocks before an empty hearth.
You’d think one made of so much smallness
would hardly be missed at all.
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
Dog had a bawl make a rabbit
Cry a quarter of a mile away. Dog knew
Too much. Would stand in the ditch
Not moving for ten minutes and even I knew
It was doing more than listening.
The crows sounded broken in the next
Woods and there was water up six,
Seven inches on their trunks.
That dog ain’t going in there. He knew
Any animal would come out soon. Nothing
Waded in that black, still water for
Any longer than it truly had to be there.
I started up the hill not knowing
If the dog was going to be much longer
But knowing he was my dog, that he would
Come when he knew he had to do so.
Five minutes later he bounded past me,
Ears flying, rolling sounds out across the landscape,
Not even noticing I was there.
Ten feet ahead of me he put up
Two cock pheasants, long tail feathers,
Cackling like crazy. Perfect.
As soon as they were in the air
He sat down and waited for
The shots to quiet down, then
Walked around the top of the hill
Knowing so much more than
I could ever understand.
There was a theodicy
In the way she spoke,
An argot balanced in
A semantic wind that
Keeps us from understanding
Almost anything she says.
“The meaning is ‘elusive’ ”
She explains, “like polyphony
It is linked and unlinked,
Tied and untied but still
Able to double as a compass
Or an algebra of groups and tensors
Stumbling over each other in an attempt
To get something said perfectly or not
Said at all but hammered into
The stomach, a broken mirror
At best, concealed but
Retrievable only through
A private archeology.
This is an architecture, she continues,
But not a cathedral at all.”
“What you need is a cup of coffee
And a walk in the park. You’ve
Made a mess of trying to talk to one
And all. Try kissing me on the lips
Right now and see if it could
Possibly help you.” Then the fire
Engines started up and she
Was gone again, worshipping
All of language like a riot in a church.
It looked like the dome of heaven
Had shattered and come down
Around her. She sat in the middle
Of the room kind of smiling, kind
Of crying but mostly not wanting
To be there at all. There was no
Reason to sing a song but
She did and it was full.
The sun going down inside the words,
Cracking night open and there still
Wasn’t anyone coming.
She watched her horse shiver
As the light failed and once
Again she was alone and trying
To make sense of anything that had
Happened over the past few days.
In the distance light was leaking
Through a yellow window shade.
She was speaking to herself,
Wanted to go toward it
As if it could be a comfort, but
It flashed out. The dark
Surrounded her, sooty,
Crude, final and somehow hurt
That not even a candle would stay
Lit to help define it being night.
She stopped singing and flew
To a high corner of the room
Just as an angel would do
Given half a chance with that crowd.
I watched her walk back toward
Her car, start it and drive away.
Pain didn’t have enough of itself
To keep her any closer and all
That sparkling and all those perfect chords
Were just a song after all.
Great is the man who does not lose his child mind.