—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
as it wheezed to a stop
pushing along the crowded car toward the opening doors
she wanted to write something so mean, so vicious
enough to make the hair stand on end
she would be struggling through the crowd
on her way out
just after the transit wheeze echoed in her ears
yearning to write something so mean, so vicious…
here was the start of a poem
now a murmurous thought
enough to make babies cry old people weep
so mean, so vicious…what would it be?
she would step off the car, people pushing from behind
oh, there went her squealing voice of doom
incited by her own murmurous mind
her foot caught in the gap
between step-off and platform
foot caught, she would go down
trampled by the mad murmurous rush
people murmuring mean, vicious thoughts like hers
foot caught, they would flatten her
till there was nothing left of her
that’s what was on her murmurous mind
hustling toward the fetid air of Times Square
to breathe the city’s hidden, murmurous poison
at first just a murmur
a murmur of heat
in the narrow passage to the door
a murmurous gathering
smoke a murmur of wisp and curl
not noticed at first
drifts and curls
under the door, down the hall
then comes the crackle
a siren would not be a murmur
it would break through a murmur
a crowded crackle of men with hoses
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
It was bedtime
A moment to wind down
Embrace rest and sleep
Forget the issues of the day
In stomps Mama
Puffing with perfection
Put that toy down!
Why aren’t you in bed yet?
In that furor was a murmur
I give you toys to distract you
Amuse you, control you
But at the end of the day
The toys take control
All toys should be
in a labor union
Where they only work
Certain hours, certain shifts
And not a moment longer
Then the kid’s toys
Would leave promptly at bedtime
And the adult toys
Could then take over.
—Caschwa (Carl Bernard Schwartz)
Coffee for breakfast and breaks
Iced tea for lunch
Unresolved issues at work
Global tensions and strife
Pathetic political pandering
Traffic tickets to dispute
Debts, debts, debts
Upcoming travel plans
Caffeine is awarded the
Best seats in the house
If one’s gastro-intestinal system
Can be likened to an abode
Slouched on the couch
Feet up, shoes off
Who stole the remote?
Everything revolves around
And around the diva: caffeine.
All night drug store
Choice of drugs
All night coffee shop
The drug of choice.
Back to bed…
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
She moves through rooms where darkness
makes itself comfortable, settled into
corners and crevices, to mimic the shapes
of chairs and sofas. Stepping from shade
to shadow, room to room, she feels
for the form of inner landscape—corridor,
closet, portico—in this dark where she
recognizes nothing, much less herself.
Music as if remembered —l'après-midi
d'un faune, perhaps, afternoon shadows
caught in a sound-box somewhere
down the hall. Hands stretched out before
her, eyes open—who knows how
it will end?—she makes her way across
this world of myth and midnight
without her name.
DROP A LINE
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
A slight reflection noted as sound
Upon water, then an uplifting of wings
That slides into the shadows over some
Reeds the evening had just settled itself in
Gathering its collection of shadows,
Red-violets and wistful birds songs.
“You won’t be going there tonight,” he said
Pointing toward the tallest stand of trees,
“There’s hungry animals out there. We won’t
Take a chance of losing anyone.”
But the moon will be out later.
The breeze is so gentle it feels made
Of dreaming and silk memories.
I pack my small bag and head for
The tall dark. “I’ll try to find out
What’s just over that ridge and be
Back by morning if I am able.”
No one says not to go but no one
Follows at the edge of the light
I discover I am able to fly.
...a manifestation or appearance
of God or a god to a person
Upcountry wind. The sky
Full of cumulus, prides of them,
Then, for a full minute they manifest
In colors, the entire sky a
Maxfield Parrish landscape.
Then the clouds again, only.
I saw this alone. I was higher
Than the foothills but not as high
As the mountains. There was a small
Valley. I had told my friends
I was going there to have something
To say about these places the next
Time we spoke together.
Perhaps I would find or discover
A perfect spot we could all visit
Later in the Summer. Perhaps there
Would be a theophany, no, a real
One, I was saying. Perhaps there could
Even be something of that nature way up there?
WE CHANNEL TESLA TONIGHT
—Katy Brown, Davis
Lightning forks into
thunder that turns bones to jelly:
We know about electricity,
building in a gap
so images can arc
from line to line
and snap the unsuspecting reader.
We know about relativity:
the time before a deadline
is infinitely shorter
than the same number of days
waiting for a response.
Tesla experimented with X-rays,
wanting to look into and through
the human body. He discovered
that radiation does damage to cells.
Poets who pierce hearts leave
scars as deep as Roentgen rays.
We know all about magnetism,
words are attracted to us
like foxtails in sox.
In the end, the same gravity
that Tesla studied pulled him
into the earth where science
and poetry eventually come to peace.
They know the true names
of all the winds; the names for water.
They collect and store words
the way button or book collectors
They may be slow to anger,
but once unleashed, the words
they choose are lethal in a thousand
different ways. They plant insults
as carefully as they plant trees.
Like virtuosos playing performance pieces,
they name their own reality
with such perfect pitch, that anyone
coming in contact with their words
resonates like the string of a cello.
They step from word to word
across a poem, barely balancing.
Like blackbirds compelled to spin
a filament of song, they would make
poetry without an audience.
They speak of desire and love;
of the breath of an elk in the snow;
the spirits that haunt among moonbeams.
They work alone but live public lives,
exposing every secret emotion.
They know their power is transient.
Truth and lies are notes of the same chord.
Ultimately, when words fail to come
or the image is too obscure, they will
plunge into the deep and be lost forever.
Real literature, like travel, is always a surprise.
Just a reminder: Lots of readings tonight, including D.R. Wagner at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis tonight; see the b-board for details. And thanks to Michelle Kunert for the photos of two recent Sacramento readings; for more of her photos of these events, go to the Medusa's Kitchen Facebook page.