—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Did you hear the fox calling in the night
across the dark a-ways and down the hill,
and the great horned-owl, soundless in its flight?
It might have been raccoon—a nerve pinched tight
that woke me in my bed—an unpaid bill—
did you hear the fox calling in the night,
and a dog barked between alarm and fright.
Then silence of a late-September chill,
and the great horned-owl, soundless in its flight.
Where is our cat, alive with second-sight
but small as prey? Another scream then, shrill—
did you hear the fox calling in the night
here at edge of wildwood? a line so slight
we cross it in our sleep, as creatures will.
And the great horned-owl, soundless in its flight,
strikes with talons from the same sudden height
as tigers in our dreams—a shiver-thrill.
Listen for the fox calling in the night,
and the great horned-owl, soundless in its flight.
GHOST OF A HANGING-TREE
This town's haunted by men whose gravestone-
dates were too short for what they needed to do.
Some had no stones at all, they were just paved
over by the years. Like me—under the floor
of a saloon torn down like those men's bodies,
in the interest of civic right. Doesn't every Main
Street have its hangman? The ghost of ours
used to pass up and down the stairs, hang out
in the old saloon, playing melancholy tunes
on the jukebox. The others just hung. Where are
they now? A ghost haunts the place it was alive.
I guess they're homeless, haunting Main Street
among the still-living. And I'm a buried oak-
stump. Ghost branches shiver with no breeze.
WORDS ON AIR
Alchemy of paper and flame.
Vermillion, lapis lazuli of ink-
press words. Smoke's calligraphy
on air between sunset and char.
A library of books often opened.
Even as the bindings burned,
the words flew through any open
window and the cracks of doors.
The words were pigeons, wings
flashing last-light as they circled
above the tower; they were
wild geese migrating beyond
their range to a more northern,
a more southern language;
and gulls coming to feast on
whatever syllable was left.
In the morning, scent of char;
black timbers at angle of repose.
Blue sky that accepts everything
and turns it into something else.
—Michael Cluff, Highland, CA
The beds have been unused
since Aunt Millicent died in 1987
over in Ashton
and Dad in 1999 here
in Hadley Mountain
the mattresses now storage space
for clothes baskets
unopened mail-order book packages
and mismatched shoes, socks
Sleeping on the fabrics
underneath and over each
when they passed on
is too stippled
even for a misanthrope
Crackers in between the sheet
and the checkerboard spread
intertwining cleansed and powered feet
faces turning a pleasant beet red.
The springs are taking a rest
Jonathan can't find his sweater vest.
The pillows are slightly wet
Sal has won the hardy bet.
The ruffles that scrape the floor
remain asleep forever more.
In older times when beds
Were more primitive
People really talked
To one another
A town crier spread the news
There was no such thing as a “typo”
Though a slip of the lip
Was a commonplace occurrence
All sermons were delivered
In person to a live audience
The air was filled with rumors,
Not digital, decoded Wiki-leaks
People started, continued and
Finished tasks without the
Benefit of a time clock
Or other such electrical gadget
Anyone who knew
How to read and write
Could pass themselves off
As an expert in any field
Contracts were sealed with
A simple handshake
Women were chattel
Conviction meant execution
The only 24/7 convenience stores
Were people's homes that
Marauders invaded at will
And they never paid for parking
If only the tensions of the world
Could be eased with a better bed
We would all surely get
A better night’s sleep.
In a dream I had not long ago
my brain repeated R.E.M.'s "It's The End Of The World As We Know It"
while I was really in bed
thinking I got lost again while driving around
so certainly did not "feel fine"
But much of the same anxiety came whenever I happened to hear it while awake—
it's supposed to be "unsettling" with kind of a rap-like beat,
along with its mention of free-speech martyr Lenny Bruce—
After all these years I guess now it is one of my "favorites" in secular rock music
though it was an R.E.M. song I first heard long ago in high school in the late 1980's.
How strange I've never yet owned my own records of that band.
But hearing they decided to break up after thirty-one years
(which is longer than most such legendary rock bands stay together)
maybe now I will pay for a good download...
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
—David Iribarne, Sacramento
I crouched down slowly
your little body
came a running toward me
raised my hand expecting
to give you a high-five
surprisingly, you hugged me.
Suddenly, my world changed
my cares forgotten
holding you made the world quiet
these are the moments you cannot plan
these are the moments you relish.
Wrapped my arms around that little frame
your soft curly hair
pressing against my shoulder.
“Oh, how cute,” your mother said in the background.
My world stopped that moment
music filled the air
I was grinning from ear to ear.
Could not imagine a more beautiful moment.
Walked out that night reeling
feeling I could touch the sky
as they say, and in some way I already had.
I was seven
my brother in his early teens.
We played the usual
sword fighting with wrapping paper tubes.
He was Zoltar or Darth Vader,
I was Luke or Mark.
We also played catch
football, baseball, Frisbee.
But the game we played
most often was crashing our hot wheels.
My brother would race
his white mustang along the carpet.
I would come from the left
slamming my old green
pickup against passenger side door.
Crash, bash, slam.
White, green paint chips
flew onto the carpet,
passenger side window cracked.
After a while,
the white mustang
developed one mean dent.
Slowly, it began to rust, fall apart.
I almost threw it out,
but I decided to keep it around.
Then I misplaced it,
looked under books, tables, beds
sifted through the backyard dirt,
Tried the garage,
where almost anything lost
would be found, no luck.
Ten years passed.
Then in the wake of this summer
while rearranging my room,
I found it under my desk’s leg
the one place I didn’t look.
Still held up after all these years.
Through the crashing, bashing, slamming.
Through the cracks, dents, rust and all,
it still lasts.
I went to the garage
rummaged through a box
of spray paint cans until
I found the right shade of white.
Sprayed white paint
over the rust, dented door, scratches.
It looked good as new.
Could barely see the many marks
that seemed etched into the frame.
After the paint dried,
I put the car on my window sill.
All the years of damage
were hidden quite well.
Every time I look at it,
memories of crashing and bashing
race before me.
I want to play again someday.
Maybe the next time
my brother comes home.
But we won’t use
the white mustang.
The role of the writer is not to say what we can all say, but what we are unable to say.
—Medusa, with thanks to today's diverse contributors. Michelle Kunert sends us the following links to R.E.M.'s "It's the End of the World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)":
And here's an article about them breaking up: today.msnbc.msn.com/id/44706497/ns/today-entertainment/t/rolling-stone-exclusive-why-rem-broke