—Taylor Graham, Placerville
No trace of him but gold-fall leaves
in crevices of rock, as if
he disappeared into cliff and river.
Gray-blue autumn outside a door
he never reached his hand
to open, to come back in, where
his wife was chopping onions, apples
for a turkey stuffing. She baked
a pie. Fire in the woodstove, Thanks-
giving Eve. He saw his doctor, then
drove home. What secret places
in a life. He's nowhere among spray-
slick boulders at the current's edge—
we've listened to the rapids' argument;
watched the day's last floating lights.
Water keeps its private language,
dissolving garment of a man who dares
step in to November's river.
I've got to go back
and take a picture of the beaver. Dozens
of them basking in water clear as a mountain lake.
Their lodges! mysterious dark islands
right there in the overflow city pond.
Just a glimpse,
traffic honked by so fast.
Didn't you see them?
Beaver playing like retriever-pups in sunshine,
blue water unpolluted—no
styrofoam, burrito wrappers, broken bottles—
in the city park! Where's
No one will believe
me, I've got to take a photo before
they disappear, go extinct.
People will say I dreamed it, figment
of my mind. My imagination.
What could I ever prove
without a picture?
Levi's gone at the knees; ragged cuffs.
Too much bending, lifting, walking,
too many steep trails, dropoffs,
vistas. I won't throw them
out, these old worn jeans
that just fit me.
SLOW TRAIN COMING
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
There’s a kind of pain inside
Maybe I’ll take another ride,
Slide down a mountainside,
I forget those things, now I feel enabled.
Must be the power of the words
'Cause nothing else here has occurred
This whole thing feels absurd
I just put all of my cards on the table.
Won’t be going home tonight
I’m not sure I can stand the sight
Here, the furniture even fights
It gives new meaning to the word ‘fabled’.
Time to ride the rails away
Forget all the words I say
Just pick it up and play
Hang out at the Tower of Babel.
Put the lawn chairs in a row
Invite the pope, Curly, Larry, Moe
Make some bread, make some dough
We will talk about J Lo and Betty Grable.
This kind of foolishness has to end
We’ve got a store to tend
Run outside and make some friends
Get myself a new coat made of sable.
There’s a slow train coming down
Take everybody home in this old town
Even the jokers and the clowns
Chase religion out of town without a label.
A HANDFUL OF COMPANY
I am not blind and I am acquainted
It was brilliant
On the outside, still the shoreline
Tells me I am breaking up.
They look like people but they burn
Like candles. I wonder, “Do they
Have names? Do they have children?”
These candles can light up an entire
Room. And we are all in this room
Together. And we are all singing
The most beautiful of songs
While the ground outside pulses
The blood of our collective dreaming,
A way out of this blasted hole, gets
Drained away through money and cities
While they remind constantly that intelligence
Seems for blood, a privilege and this
Blood is nothing, a sink, an empty soul.
We seek the desert where we can still
Use our poor eyes, where we will be somehow
Strong and not break up. Where there
Are real people once again. We run to greet you.
I’ve got a hundred miles of railroad track,
Forty miles of bad road
My soul is living in a hurricane
And the night is getting cold.
Mr. Dupree, Mr. Dupree,
what are you doing hangin’ round?
I get so tired of living but I just can’t lay my head down.
I‘m blind as a bullet shot out of gun.
I can hear like a dog in the dark
My heart is pumping like a hand grenade
My bite is much worse than my bark.
I’ve got my hands inside a hornet’s nest.
I’ve got my feet inside my shoes.
Every time a bird flies by
I believe it brings good news
Nobody seems to know me.
My smile makes ice look warm.
I have lightning bolts for eyeballs.
I’m not the shelter, I’m the storm.
So please Mr. Dupree,
What are you doing hangin’ round?
I get so tired of living but I just can’t lay my head down.
TIME AND TIDE
As if it made a difference over all
Rather than to a few species of mollusks,
Birds, other seekers in the tidelands,
The moon does its work and everyone
Agrees it is a good idea that things
Work this way for a few more millennia.
I found you in the high cliffs
Late in the year, testing the wind with
Your walking along their edges, peering down
Into the sea. “I’ve lost a song somewhere
Near here and I will not be home
Until I have found it again and can
Carry it back home in my coat.”
I lit my lantern and told you I would
Join you, that having happened to me
Many times before and in this season
As well. Eventually the dance would
Begin again and you would find it
Closer to the shore than you might
Have expected or later in the month
Than you had thought such a song
Would even want to stay.
Sure enough, within a lifetime or so,
The stars saw the lantern and began
To wink back, prompting the tide to change.
TALKING TO YOU
Walking beneath red and even
Blue Japanese lanterns that reflect
The light from the umbrellas
Back toward themselves and the morning,
It is too beautiful. Somewhere
Near, a toad begins complaining about
The hour and keeps it up for awhile.
I don’t know why I should continue
To talk to you, except that the morning
Is chill but not too chill
And I have an ache in my foot
From having stepped on a piece
Of glass and the coffee hasn’t
Quite finished brewing yet.
The neighborhood is still quiet.
The sound of cars is far enough
Away to sound like a waterfall
And the streets are still damp from
Last night’s rain. And it is Autumn.
Just checking over that list now
Doesn’t bring me any closer
To finding a reason to keep talking
To you, but for now it will have
To do. I wish you were here.
THANKSGIVING, NOVEMBER 24, 2011
This is the day when turkeys
give thanks as well
for making it through
a pernicious, perilous period
with neck attached
and feathers unplucked.
is their Black Friday too
when they wake up
from aviary dreams
and realize Christmas
is just thirty-one days
lurking with a plate
—Medusa, with gratitude for all the songs our poets find...