—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
They were burning pictures
In the villages. Animals,
Singers of complex songs,
Those who danced to create weather.
We could only watch. There were
No words, only a high
Humming sound generated by
An intricate beating of hearts.
It seemed a kind of symphony
Based in flames.
We thought it ridiculous. Pictures
Only. No other resources available.
“We have no more dreams,”
They said. “We have burned them
All. Nothing remains.”
“Why burn at all?” we inquired.
“For warmth, warmth only.”
“Have you no feeling to warm
“We were once trees,” they replied.
They shook their arms.
One could hear pictures in the wind.
“Why pictures only?
“We love you so much.
Everything but move as you
We do, to prove this love is true.
And you do not care to listen.
Pictures to you are a kind of memory.
Our action will attract your attention
Even for a passage through the verb.
Come sing with us of places
Still to be made full, of glades and copses,
The willowing of light across a stream,
The kind of breath that causes pause
To see the farther view. And trees,
Like us, devoid of form but that primeval,
Our language born of flame and its attendants.”
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Rich brown loam under oaks—
hard shovel work, pick-axe to cut roots
and dredge up rocks. One rock
for head-stone, her memory-keeper.
Up the swale, the great buckeye
is gathering rain, ready to leaf-out
for winter—buckeye's always
out of season. Why ask about living
or dying? it wants to know.
Mid-summer, you'd swear it's dead.
But its big-fist seeds root in
like a poor man's hope of ever-after.
Deer bed down under its branches
tangled as human thought, and grief.
Buckeye stands over her grave,
birds sing their brief generations.
bids me curl my arm
around my knee, breathe
deeply. I stretch and twist to face
the window. Rain. Stretch
and breathe. On the tape-deck,
muted Japanese melody
for flute and harp, whose strings
are silver rain. Il pleut dans
mon coeur, heart's rain
to green my pasture. Remember
to breathe. How many names
for the winds entering,
then rising out of my lungs.
Words make their own mind.
When shall I be eagle,
dolphin, half a prayer? Arms,
neck, and ankles—human
form and grounding,
reminding me to breathe.
for Joshua Fox of Tregedna
He's come to listen to birds.
He came to make a garden
of paradise: pools and fountains,
flowers and groves.
The birds came of themselves,
while he wasn't paying attention.
They watched him at his work;
they swooped for bugs, pecked
worms turned up by his spade.
They had at least eighty-three tones
for rain, wind, splashes in puddles,
flight under sun; words for Dragonfly
and the Horned Tomato-Worm.
When he praised their singing,
they hopped on the head of his rake.
They gazed steel-and-flint eyed
at his gun, so he understood
to leave off shooting Crows. Now
even the darkest of Crows comes
to his hand. Robin, Warbler,
Goldfinch perch on his bedpost,
wake him every morning;
escort him to Sabbath in psalm-
tongues unknown to his
fellow worshippers; teach him
to translate the first-light of song.
Forty steps before me and
Over twenty below. I swear
I could smell the blood of him,
Sharp, different for its spice,
Its temperature on the air.
The rise of a rock hammer
Glaze on its finer surfaces.
We could make something of this.
Red of blood, a building, a tear
Across an open space, that, or
The earth apart and raised
Understanding to things like statues,
Depictions of men and women
With no flesh, no blood,
Cold, white forms that could
Not move their throats.
I came to love the tension
In the rock, the tension in the
Hunt, listening to the dogs
Fountains of dogs like rock drills
Diving into the water, paddling
Furiously to escape, the
Clearly frightened eyes of the fox,
The brooding as to where to make
The cut that would allow
The stone to have, finally,
A perfect shape. A breathing
Thing, proud to stop and confront
With no fear, the coming of the blood,
The cool deliberation of the chisel.
—Katy Brown, Davis
She could not have told you
exactly when the evangelist
slipped that dark serpent into her ear.
She was a child, too young to know
about poison and snakes.
It wound its way into her mind,
tunneling into her spirit,
breathing fear, devouring
a thread of light as it went.
Later, she went on a spiritual quest,
looking everywhere for deliverance:
quarrying every day for mitzvahs,
mining the hours for blessings.
She hung prayer beads
from her bedpost and looked for angels.
She invoked the four quarters;
she burned candles and smudge.
From a Pembroke table in her living room,
Buddha contemplated joy.
She sought redemption in every faith,
looking for hope in temples and shrines.
She tracked that thing in her soul,
like some incandescent celestial eagle,
flushing her dark quarry, at last, with light.
All day he chips birds
from the desert:
crystal of blood on the thorned
without trees to tatter—
ladderbacks and a gilded flicker
out of cactus spines.
When he strikes black lava
in a flight of crows—
dark feathers given to light.
And when he splits
the air it settles in swallows.
All night his fingers
sleep like birds.
TREE LOOKING FOR RACHEL
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
the giant outside
will come alive again
leafing herself in green splendor
looking for you at my window
winter spring summer fall
then winter again
as you grew weaker
her leaves fell
you followed them down
(first pub. on Tenpagespress.com)
Thanks to today's contributors! The three "Medusakateers" (D.R. Wagner, Taylor Graham and Katy Brown) are doing a "quarry" thing right now, as you can see. Catch a glimpse of Judy Taylor Graham at Poetry Off-the-Shelves tonight in Placerville; D.R. Wagner will be reading at the S. Clay Wilson benefit at Shine this Sat.; and Katy Brown will be co-hosting the Poe, Poe, Poetry reading at SPC on Halloween. Be sure to look at the Kitchen b-board for all that's happening this busy month of poetry, and don't forget that Oct. 26 is Sacramento Poetry Day! For the origins of that, see sacpoetrycenter.wordpress.com/about
Then go to Medusa's page on Facebook for Dinosaurs? In Half Moon Bay???—our latest photo album.
In the Oops/Dammit Dept., the last three lines of Sabrina Berci's sestina got amputated yesterday, so we'll post the whole thing here. Tackled your sestina yet? See "Forms to Fiddle With" over on the green board.
—A Sestina by Sabrina Berci
I open my window to hear your sound
Though the chaos of this journey surrounds
You are calm, and ceaseless, as you fall down
Your sweet instruments play their parts in this,
The symphony of life, and each droplet,
An unexpected trial turned to blessing
But at first I'm blinded to your blessing.
I know I am alive, I hear your sound,
Yet I'm sick of constant droplet, droplet
What could be great about rain that surrounds?
Hovering over this cold city, this
Drenched, unmindful, proud town going down?
If there's more to see than floods coming down
Like enjoying company, the blessing
Of a fireplace, keeping warm on this
Frozen night, Then why do I make the sound
Of a whining trumpet? House walls surround,
I'm dry, safe from any tiny droplet
Have I ever been harmed by a droplet?
Clear, light, soft, cold, wet, small tears coming down?
Like tinsel streaming, rain comes and surrounds
Though I complain, a farmer sees blessing
He hears a glorious symphony sound
He goes out to feel the wet truth of this
How could it be? Such different views of this?
Unique perspectives of one little droplet?
Which is the tone of the instruments' sound?
Is it alive? Horses galloping down
A valley of long-awaited blessing?
Is it sorrowful, as if gloom surrounds?
How, how do we hear the rain that surrounds?
Look at the farmer, he's joyful in this
Look how he sees the rain as a blessing
He remembers this song without a droplet
He remembers the past, and doesn't look down
But begins to play, and uplift praise sound.
So when rain surrounds, resounds with blessing
Open the window to this farmer's sound
And join in the praise as droplets fall down