—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There is little left of the
Night, a few stars still caught
In the dark blanket, the moon
Doing its best to remember what
All the sweet magic was
As we looked from the high
Balcony, out across the lawns,
Telling the tales of olden times,
When that magic itself had strong legs
And could run with us all through
The silver forests, a silver breath
The water and the river moving
As thoughts do, unwinding memory.
I will wake up alive again.
These words will seem like I have
Dreamt them except that they
Remain here. I will trust them.
I will believe you truly were here.
I will believe.
SLIPPING IN THE BLUES
There are two trains leaving and I
Folded up my arms and quickly
I was leaning out the window
Trying to make her hear that
The red light was my baby
And the blue light was my mind.
I was born under a bad sign. If
It weren’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t
Have no luck at all.
I took her to a nightclub and the whole
Band knew her name.
I’d better ride away in my Terraplane.
When I woke up this morning
The blues was walking around
Just like a man.
This has to be the worst old feeling
This boy has ever had. I’m sorry
You’ve ever been born.
I folded up my arms and I quickly
I woke up in hell and did not
Recognize it at all. This must
Be a dream. The edges of the room
Curling slightly. The blur the objects
In the room had when one looked
Directly at them made the same noise
Lucid dreaming does as it empties us
Or contains us in that special way we
Recall upon waking. This place was
A neighborhood and I was compelled
To search my pockets. I felt I must
Deliver some serious message. I was
Confused. I did not know the why of
Anything I found myself concerned with.
I put my feet on the floor. I was
Growing fear as if it could be harvested.
This was dissolute. I must be here forever.
I woke up trembling.
I could hear the faraway sounds
Coming from the chapel. The monks
Were singing in Latin, call and response.
I was visiting this place. Hell was
A course of action left over from
Some reading about an argument.
I listened to the chanting for as long
As I was able. Gradually clusters of angels
Began to promenade and seek color.
SNOW AND MAMBO
Broken like promises trying
To dance while the snow
Makes it near impossible to know
That this is happening,
The dark, with its thin legs
Travels across the room
Where the light is unable
To follow. It is, perhaps, a cat.
Cats too are doors, places between
The way we see and the deeper mysteries,
A crucible compounding all 365
Heavens, pulling at the garments
Helen of Troy wears as she appears
Then reappears in reading after reading,
In the Gnostic, to the tales of seventy
Rivers, to the crossing of the great
Seas from Carthage to Cuba.
A cat or a sword? It is impossible
To tell in this snow. It moves with
A flame-colored skirt
Wrapped around its fine mambo.
THE ROAD BACK
—Katy Brown, Davis
A quality in the land—the scent of minerals, a slant of light
—something imprints on us when we are new
and calls us homeward when we age.
Landscape, the canted tower of memory,
shifts so much in sixty years: ridges flatten under roads,
creeks and streams hasten, tamed, in galvanized conduits.
Good maps may point you back toward where you began,
but you will need a lot of time to just search.
The air may smell different. The trees will all have gone.
You will need to stop every now and again to remember
the wildflowers and insects you knew by name long ago.
You will need to feel your way back over volcanic rock.
If you listen for that distant beacon, an imbedded keening,
you may come upon a half-remembered path, slip back in time,
and find, revealed again, after all these years—Eden.
Below the dirt road, a stream fills
the emerald air with sound
like a constant sea—in the stillness
of a too-warm afternoon,
light—pale green here
—cast through pines and cedars.
We sit at a concrete picnic table
in the Potato Patch Campground
eating little spinach and cheese pies.
The creek and breeze fill the forest
with sound that hushes voices.
This light passes through
the tattered lace foliage
like light through stained glass—
everything, a pale shadowed green.
A ROUNDED FRAGMENT
I hold a small object in my hand—
a twist of blue from a jay’s feather; or
something I found hidden in a doorway;
or a sound, perhaps, of cello and bells—
a small thing I meant to give you.
But seeing you in the garden again,
I know you are complete without tokens—
complete and fulfilled without any part of me.
We had a conversation once
—do you remember? By the ocean.
Firelight on the beach made you
look younger and more vulnerable.
I don’t remember the words,
but I recall the sound of your voice
resonating near your heart. I’d have
followed you anywhere for that sound.
You dug in your pocket and transferred
from your hand to mine
the rounded fragment of a moonshell
which filled me with inexplicable joy.
OF FIREBIRDS AND GEESE
Such is the life-cycle of dreams
that one can reach for something
with the determination
of migrating geese—
and not be strong enough
to finish the flight.
I left this dream long ago. Yet,
the Firebird sometimes whispers
to me when I sleep—not of ashes,
but of the pure fire of the long leap and
turning jumps, of floating on my toes.
Such is the cycle of dreams . . . .
WHERE I’M FROM
—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks
The stump jumpers
Begin south of the 80.
To burn our bridges
In front of us.
Never know who
Coming at you.