—Laura Martin, Sacramento
Catfish, sun perch, rainbow, German brown
all met their fate in my father’s left hand,
an old Craftsman wrench in his right,
a quick thwack between the eyes
and one swift twist jerk to remove the hook,
then gill-threaded along the chain with the others
and dumped back overboard into the blue
while we slow-tread Shasta Lake.
“Would you rather they be dragged alive on the chain?” he asked.
I laid a fat cheek against the cool floating edge,
one hand dangling fingertips in the water
and stared at the dark awkward school
trailing mindlessly behind our tiny aluminum boat.
she is walking on watermelons
she is a hot summer day
sashaying down the sticky asphalt on her coolcool luscious fruit feet
she is one cool chick
a hot tomato
ONE HOT MAMMA
juggling her bunch o’ banana babies
swinging from one branch to the other
plump delicious fruits
not ready to drop—no, not yet
not for seasons to come.
She smiles at them like how yellow is the perfect color for the sun
her face a soft smiling peach
beaming down to her little warm fruitlets
one in the hand
one on the hip
she is a safe tree,
filtering the breeze for just the sweetest stuff
hand to hip
hip to hand.
THE FINAL SIGH OF GOODNIGHT (1979-1993)
The puppy whimpered and cried
the night we first brought him home—
an alarm clock wrapped inside
an old blanket was thought to be comfort enough,
but time is no substitute for a mother’s heartbeat.
I can still hear the heave of impending sleep
and imagine his bones (now ashes)
winding down at the foot of my bed.
The church exploded in the middle of the night, Easter weekend — Good Friday to be exact — the victim of a tired hot water tank no longer able to referee the battle between pilot light and slow gas leak. The explosion was the only sound louder than the sawmill lumbering throughout the night, louder than the wood chipper, louder than the break whistle on graveyard shift, ferocious as a plane crash, knocking sleeping firemen out of their bunks as they grabbed their boots and ran ahead of the engine toward the brilliant, glowing commotion, fearing the mill had blown up, fearing the mill was gone. But it was the church in the middle of town near where all the Italians lived in strings of identical square houses between the mill and the old fire station — a Presbyterian church in the middle of all those Catholics. They were the first ones there before the firemen arrived, dragged themselves out of bed on a holy night to watch in disbelief, grabbing garden hoses in feeble attempts to douse the flames, to save the church where Protestants prayed and got married and took communion, and us Girl Scouts met on Wednesdays thinking we were something else in those knee-high socks and Kelly green sashes covered with proud badges earned for cooking and sewing, holding fast to scratchy berets teetering on our heads as we crawled on top of the player piano in the church basement pretending to be lounge singers in the house of the Lord. The piano was gone now, burst into a million pieces — ivory keys tearing right through the black sky. It was my grandmother’s piano, a gift from her father. She played it as a child, donated it to the church when she got married, married inside this church that my uncle built, the first church in town before the Italians came, before the whistle of a graveyard shift, when there were just and only trees, quiet giant timbers waiting patiently under the stars.
—Michael Cluff, Corona
Towers can only completely contain
the bodies of people
the rise and fall
of such structures
as it should be.