Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Screen-door of a Poem

Morning Glory
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

I could have jumped from here
river in my eyes
down I’d go
river in my eyes
down to the street
river in my eyes
14th floor cheap hotel
river in my eyes
Palisades yonder
but river in my eyes
high as high could have jumped
summer sidewalk
sweated terror
far from home
hit cement
river in my eyes
only one roach
river in my eyes
peek from drawer
brown antennae gone too far
searching for surprise
river in my eyes
I could have jumped
river in my eyes
share the shower, man next door
couple fighting down the hall
river in my eyes
where’s my home?
river in my eyes


—Patricia Hickerson

hello? still there?
what we leave in the past…
the pay phone that keeps secrets
in the lobby behind the street door;
I’ll be home soon; I had to work in the Library.
I’m just at the subway.
Mother, I care about lying to you but…
It’s getting dark now. It’s cold.
It’s hard leaving Don’s bed where I spent the afternoon.

leave behind
get the number on the pay phone
link to Don in his rented room upstairs
drawn shades fight sunshine
he’s still lounging at noon in his baby blues
out all night again…
cigarettes range the giant ashtray

Don nowhere to be found;
me at my brain-stalled job till classes start again
leave summertime behind
that pay phone number;
maybe he’ll be going out one day hears the ring
leaving the building to party
meet his men friends in the Village;
he’ll answer the phone
maybe he prefers them to me,
can’t seem to leave them behind
I keep calling anyway….

turn the corner & walk down from Broadway
I can still see the Hudson from here but—
where’s the pay phone?
Lady, don’t you know that place was torn down years ago?


—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA

Behind closed doors
Mom et al. decided
Aunt Jane should be put away
hidden from visual consumption
no fault of her own
the evolution of things
just sometimes anticipated went
that needed way.

My sister Arabella
cried a bit
then took up with Barbie
and her beach house.
It was more apropos
according to the other relatives
especially Auntie Jo
and Mrs. Beasley.


—Caschwa, Sacramento

No sooner had he gone to bed
Than the hare stood up on his head
Scarce believing so many sheep
Would huddle, not being herded.
Why not count hares to bring on sleep?
We are so much more picturesque
Than sheep: they just jump, we will leap.
No more to tell, his eye lids fell.



Rally round, citizens all
A mustard colored car
Has answered our call

Just write that name in
When the ballot comes your way
Our country needs a leader
Who stands out above the fray

Military expertise
Is fine for dropping bombs
But don’t forget the children
And all their dads and moms

The TSA is a Wall Street toy
That’s no match for terrorist plots
Contracting our safety to private firms
A most costly investment in ersatz

Let’s show the world true freedom
In the 2012 election
A mustard colored car
Is by far our best selection.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

All closed; each tempting to be opened
like an Advent calendar warped in dream.
Uncountable doors without names
or numbers. It must be a game of chance.

What treasure waits behind this one?
Ideas of angels, or a full Honey Moon?
A walrus basking on wet shingle?
Or a bright, unclaimed image?

A dumb-play with a moral you must
discover before the deadline? Which door
to open? Are there dragons,
or deep ocean-floor with a pirate wreck

spilling Spanish doubloons? A man
could lose himself in this labyrinth of
choosing doors. Unanswerable question,
if you never bring yourself to choose.


—Taylor Graham

Beyond the hill—but with each step
you take, less distant—listen
to a blacksmith hammer's steady beat.

Coal-smoke wafts on the afternoon
like tribal memory; from earliest time,
men have mixed the essential

elements—fire ~ air ~ metal ~ water—
into human life. And here's
the living smith, leather-apron'd,

smudged and sweaty. Here's a donkey
to be shod. Step inside. Feel
the heft of sledge, the grip of tongs.

Where there's smoke, there's history
and chant. Listen as he works—the ring
and tap of tools on metal give meter

to a verse, the forge's flame sparks
words. Without your noticing, the sun
flares into evening aglow with song.


—Taylor Graham

Who let the sheep in?
     They glow pale, electric blue
     from room to room down the hall.

What do they want now?
     Your old textbooks: flowering
     plants, meadow ecology.

How long is summer?
     They form a ring, a circle
     of not-forgotten hunger.

Why sheep in the house?
     In that ancient lore, wise men
     still seek a transformation.

What do your books teach?
     Broken buckram spines after
     the ewes have finished browsing.

Who walks in the dark?
     Cloud-lightning, and the static
     of wool against textured wall.

Will it ever rain?
     Sheep meditate on clover,
     freshets through mountain-meadow.

Light-bulb out again?
     They chew cud: philosophy,
     science, ethics, their true name.


—Taylor Graham

The cat woke me at 4:30, yowling
outside the open screen. Voice
of owls and thunderheads. In the dark

curling around my ankles
at the doorway, the cat would not
come in or out. Woke me from dreams

of a puppy—our old dead dog beyond
time—gazing through the door, wanting
in or out. In dreams, who ever knows—

searching for you among the living,
or wishing to see again the rockheap
where foxes had their den; hillside

she loved before she died. Screen-
door of a poem looking out,
and looking in. Darkest quadrant

of the mind that can't be happy
where it is, ever-longing
for something on the other side.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

The boy is twenty-four...sterile
corridor...father prays before white
on white on white door after door
after door...carpet art deco to belie
worry, plush to quiet footsteps of
visitors and the curious...lunch is
bitter celery soup.



One day in a row...
—Photo by Robin Gale Odam