Monday, March 26, 2012

Waking Up

Worst Seat in the Majors
—Photo by Caschwa

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Feng was abducted from his homeland in China
And taken to a ship bound for America.
Before boarding, he and others like him
Were made to stand at the shore with water
Lapping at their bare, field-worn ankles.

A frightened Feng, feeling something solid
Brush against his foot, reached down
And pulled up a small bottle with a
Cork stopper almost falling out. Then
They were hustled up the boarding ramp.

Soon Feng and his fellows would be
Slumped in the cargo hold of the ship,
A textbook captive audience for their host
Who promised their hard work would be
Rewarded with big paychecks in America.

A little thirsty and furiously curious,
Feng pulled the cork on the small bottle
And up popped a one-armed genie who
Promised to grant Feng two wishes,
Anything in the world!

Addicted to the allure of those big paychecks
In America, Feng thought in terms of
Improving his ability to perform, and his
Father’s advice to breathe deeply, so he
Announced: I wish to move to the upper deck.

Suddenly, Feng was transported out of
The cargo hold of the ship all the way to
The upper decks of Yankee Stadium…
To the absolutely, notoriously worst ever
Seat in any baseball stadium.

Astutely aware that he could not fully
Appreciate America’s favorite pastime
From this aerie, Feng used his second,
Last wish to formulate higher aspirations:
I wish to move to the box seats.

Instantaneously Feng was flung out of
The upper decks of Yankee Stadium to
Crouch in the darkened corner of a
Cricket-ridden crate in the cargo hold
Of a ship bound for America.



George Oppen’s parents
Gave away their Heimer
To Dingle, who didn’t have
A McLuhan about what
Unalterable formal effects
That may have on his
Personality and style

In return, Dingle proved
Several times over both that
Ignorance is bliss and
‘Tis better to give than to receive
Particularly when one is passing
Along information that
Has not been fact-checked.


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

This morning on the painted
asphalt centerline
lay a ringtail dead in its silk fur,
the light all poured

out of it. I watched a pickup
truck turn onto the high-
way, leaving tread-marks across,
dragging it farther

back to dark. In a hurry
it plunged into the black asphalt-
flow toward town—
a place not going anywhere,

just waiting there at the end
of our words.
The ringtail's dead
and will not be disturbed.


—Taylor Graham

We shut our computers down—
robotic minds
turning us on their virtual wheels—

and walked out, instead,
into a gray world. Overcast sky
pressing on the ruins
of old barren oaks; barbwire lying
rusty in disheveled coils.

Skeleton-dead limbs of ceanothus….
But look! They're waking
up; this-very-morning bridal white
with bloom. New grass
pushes through deadfall litter.

Green frills of soapweed.
Buckeye's leafing out. On a fence-
post, a bird-box—
roofless from winter storms—
holds last-year's filthy, fledged nest
and three fresh twigs:
Can a wren-pair make of an old gray
box an agenda, a home?


—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove

I made a picture with my breath.
What colored it is filled
With death. There was a war
We had to leave, we had to
Store our things away until
Another, brighter day,
And burned the house,
And burned the barn
And hid deep in the wood from harm.

Anyway, when we finally returned
We had already heard the adagios
Where the clouds are able
To get lost. Morning was
Pure frost on all the panes
And we couldn’t see if
This was indeed the place we lost.

It either was the same or gone
Completely. We swept up
The campfire and tried to
Find the foundations of
The house, but they too were
Lost as lost as was our
Morning long ago, standing in the snow
Watching the places go up in flame.

Mother crying softly, the horses
Stomping the ground, breathing
White air and threatening
To tell the story to our dreams

Every Winter night since then.
And so they have until
Today, when once again
Here upon the heath
We have come together underneath
The oak still charred
From the decades of the
War and we have no place
Here any more. It all has
Passed into local lore
That talks of ghosts who
Lived there long ago.

I made a picture with my breath.
“Those islands far away are mine.”


—D.R. Wagner

They were showing us asleep,
Whispering in the doorway
And I could hear them
But kept my eyes closed against them.
When this was all for me.

The high turrets.

Time became distracted
Took its animals and hid
Near a small clearing in the forest.

His hands were tall keys.

His dark animals began to light
Candles around his feet.
They made whining sounds hoping
Lone dreams would see them,
Luring them closer
Milking their fluid colors
With the mouths.

“And then there were trees,
And then there weren’t.”

The rain began. This would
Be the very last time
We would see time this way.

It was always something with time.
It meddled with everything.
Before we knew it, afternoon
Had become completely lost.

We could hear the animals
Fighting over food in the forest.


Thanks to today's poets and photogs! About his poems, D.R. Wagner says: I'm working on a series based on a 1908 book called The Book of The Little Past. It is a book of poetry for children by Josephine Preston Peabody. The poetry isn't very good but the title captivated me and I decided to go back into the book and find elements in the poems to appropriate in my own work. Here are two of the pieces from that series. The book is online and is illustrated with some charming work by Elizabeth Shippen Green. You can find the book at

Congrats to California's new Poet Laureate: Juan Felipe Herrera. For more about him, go to

And friends of Ekphrasis Co-Editor Carol Frith will be distressed to learn that she fell on Friday morning and fractured her pelvis. She is currently in South Sacramento's Eskaton facility for rehabilitation.


Today's LittleNip: 

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

The white page of silence
beckons and taunts
for words into thoughts
that pirouette and gavotte
but the stain of ire, ink, and ambition
gets into the path
of what the spirit and soul
can express without wrath.



Salt Point
—Photo by Cynthia Linville