—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There is really not any place
Where we do not see.
Those sunflowers are trails
To the stars and lift us
So far beyond the single
Moment, we become unable
To understand anything, the
Swirl of seeds in their
Faces and their tracking the day.
When all the letters are opened,
All the alphabets come undone,
Everything we expected gets lost
In the distant calling of a train
At midnight as we huddle
Close to the edge of the fire,
Squatting on the ground wondering
How we ever got here, where
Nothing ought to grow? By what
Right, by what determined wind?
The cloth covers our flesh.
The most mysterious of things become
Each and every thing. The songs that
Stir our blood, frogs calling across the night.
Broken by the drift that
We never notice, as in the way
The continents move away and toward
Each other, an endless stream
Unleashed, installs a thick impatience
In our idea of what desire
Might be. Desire, that journey
Neither good nor bad but always
Steady on its way as a qualifier
For contrasts with all encounters.
We explain things to one another:
“There is nothing to get upset about,”
You say, “It is the way of the world.”
A chromosome pokes me in the back.
I try not to be aware of the functions
The universe imposes on both of us.
We report all the words hoping
There is a different function
For them to take, new filaments.
The center dissolves. Silence
Advances. I begin to understand.
I turn slowly toward you, falling in love.
THE YELLOW SPRITE
—Katy Brown, Davis
It was a fugue in mustard, this car
that ran on oil and willpower,
pushed from one location to another;
barely chugging up hills; stopping
unexpectedly to appreciate
the passing traffic:
yessir, a work of art.
It caused you to slow down,
to lower your expectations.
Sprite: the rag-top car with side curtains
instead of roll-up windows—
plastic curtains clattered so loudly
you couldn’t hear the radio
or a passenger’s complaints.
The car had three gears.
You’d start in second gear.
Well, you had to: first and reverse
were noisy non-existent casualties
of a novice driver’s first standard car.
You had to push it in and out
of parking spaces. Later on, the Sprite
would only start if the air filter canister
were removed. It wouldn’t run without it.
Driving the car was more a dance with it
than a ride; more a workout at the gym.
All right, it was a heated conversation and
hostage negotiation more than anything.
It was small as a slipper, light as a sunbeam,
perverse as a mule.
God, I loved that car.
A DECOMPOSING RIFLE,
tangled in the roots of the eldest willow
planted by an icy spring
in the uppermost meadow—
all that remains of the secrets
surrounding Rosalie’s death.
In a citadel of secrets—
this ranch far removed
from city streets,
from gossip columns—
people still whispered:
at church, where sunlight
polished her auburn hair; in the store
where she ordered a pound of salt;
in the bunk house where
her father’s ranch hands
washed up for dinner.
Rosalie loved a man. By all accounts,
he loved her, too; and his social position.
An inconvenient wife forbid
a complicating triangle.
Over a century ago, young women
with a certain reputation
had few options in a coffin-narrow,
Her sister found her body
on the edge of the meadow.
After the funeral her sister planted the silver willow
over Rosalie’s rifle. In the silence of the meadow,
she felt the weight of whispers on a young girl’s ears. . . .
Cowboy can’t get his mind around it.
The flock looks everywhere for her,
even in the living room,
bleating down the hallway.
There is nothing sadder than the sound
of a mourning sheep. Ask any shepherd.
And there is the missing number,
counting sheep at the end of the day.
Beyond the hill where she has gone,
sweet owl clover drifts in patches
on gentle slopes. Sunlight warms stones
standing in a circle where they’ve always been.
In the far distance,
a blacksmith’s hammer rings a steady beat.
Somewhere beyond Stone Mountain,
Betsy waits for the rest of her flock.
Thanks to D.R. Wagner and Katy Brown for today's poetry, and to D.R.'s students, Emily Hsieh and Jasper Kang, for the artwork. The "Betsy" in Katy's poem refers to Hatch and Judy (Taylor) Graham's old ewe who died this week, with their German shepherd, Cowboy, and the rest of the flock in mourning. And about her "decomposing rifle" poem, Katy writes that it's based on DR's phrase "the eldest willow" . . . the story is somewhat true, except for the willow planting. My grandmother's sister did commit suicide back in the late 1800's over a failed love affair. My grandmother went looking for her and found her. Her bay horse had not left her side. I have a haunting photo of her when she was just 13. She was stunningly beautiful.
Not only is life a bitch, it has puppies.
—Adrienne E. Gusoff