Wednesday, August 22, 2012
At First Blush
Locals may recognize this...
FIRST THING I EVER STOLE
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
A willow tree
In a burlap bag
In a bucket outside
The A & P. We liked it.
Bought it, and
Flung it in the cart
With our groceries.
“How will we get it
Home?” I asked.
“We’ll just roll it
In this,” he said.
The clerk only followed us
Screaming for half a block,
The police car came.
It was Frenchie the Cop,
Or maybe Young Steve
Borota (they looked
A lot alike—thick guys
With gray crew cuts and rueful
Smiles) or perhaps both,
Followed us, the willow, and
The cart the mile
And a half home.
Car stopped, we
Got tools, water,
Planted the willow
In the front yard.
By the time
Cop car and cart
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
My first, bought by my first lover,
in the marketplace of Santiago
Tianguistenco. What a fine skin
should do, cling to me, warm me
through chill mountain gusts,
billow with the least relieving
breeze over Acapulco sands. But
what strange disaster when I mingled
my guayabera’s banana-flesh
yellow in the wash with her pink
underthings. Ah, how the long
narrow pleats, the margarita
bloom designs made stems
to sop and sip up her divine blush
in one unerring
ready-to-wear stain pattern,
fine as any two-tone shoes
or maybe our own two tones,
distinct as banana and rose,
unmixed even as our skins
did blend under night’s dark skin.
THE EIGHTH SYMPHONY OF SIBELIUS
(believed never completed, and the fragments destroyed)
When you, Sibelius, renounced your early Kullervo,
you stamped the future seal on your Eighth’s tomb.
Never wise to sneer at the green fruits:
Kullervo’s notes were really your “music vows”
of consecration to music itself—and nation?
We doom our youthful works, the underground
of all we live for, our chthonic wands,
enchanted swords, our seed-gold hoards in rubble.
Yes, if that last symphony came stillborn
and ritually then was consigned to fire,
it is because of what I say: Destroy
may be the watchword of almighty Shiva
or Oppenheimer, but not truly of Man.
You burned apart the pages of late work
and saw an abyssal vision of, yes, Kullervo:
The boy god’s radiance, glaring up at you.
We greenly, carelessly, sow these mysteries,
deluded to think our potency Godlike,
then act dismayed when someone like a nun
bolt-cuts into our discards, finding them isotopes.
This betrayal of self, our innocent undergreen,
under the ideal timbers of our walkways.
—Painting by Howard Pyle
[Maybe this is what goes on
under the boardwalk. Lots of
"Firsts" happen there, I'm sure...]
FIRST TIME HARROWING
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
You drove two hundred miles for this iron-
weave with claws, this ancient implement.
A harrow. Namesake of an age-old form
of torture. You wrestled it like brokeback
bedsprings this way & that to rig it to
your 4-trak. Back-breaking. Sun-glare on
all the angles of iron. At last you drove
in spiral circles raising dust, leaving a fine-
groove trail—no deep-soil plowing, more
like the loving graze of fingertips across
skin, pleading with earth to take your
pasture-mix; promising to turn sprinklers
on the field, though they leak at the spigot—
small blessing of free-given water for
the birds, for parched air; begging barren
land to bear you green children.
FIRST LETTER HOME
Stairwells intersect like dream; corridors
branching with blips of rooms, cells
of a hive. Choose which door. It snaps
shut. Will it ever open? Here's the
kitchen. In a cast-iron skillet, a dead moth.
What transformed it to white napkin
folded after use? How brief
its share of summer. The floor is sand. Ants
march up a cabinet, over the cornice of sink.
Garland of cobweb festooned with gnats.
Welcome to your new home. A fury
of wings rising, falling like images outside
the mind. Dynasties of insects rule.
A fly buzzes—dear Emily!—like gasping
for breath, or whatever flies, what any
creature in extremis does. This is my room.
I remember the first time I had sex—I kept the receipt.
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
[We have a new photo album on Medusa's Facebook page:
OH, THOSE FACES! by Michelle Kunert.
Check it out!]