Monday, September 24, 2012

'Mum's the Word

Salt Point
—Photo by Cynthia Linville, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Today, just glimpses of you, catchphrases blurted,
conventional greeting. What I want is to say
how stunning the little shock in the midsection
just seeing you walk toward me. Yes, my clichés
range from my outpost-sentinel-deserted
mode to my fascination with your hair,
which today flows thick and glossy anointing your face,
randomly patterned as when party fountains,
Niagaras of chocolate, capriciously interlace.
I want the music you make when you tell stories
of rough encounters, long-ago teenage fears,
or much, much better, that happiness that spears,
just spears the heart, your joys my joys and glories.
Yet bulletin boards, routines, exams, such various
and random songs from you are Stradivarius.


—Tom Goff

Whenever we stand distanced only a hand’s breadth,
leaving a line uncrossed like River Death
dividing touch from untouch, I feel breath
from your lips warming our space, then quickening depths
till floors seem to open on stories of endless death
—and yet the ceiling too, upon limitless breath,
all sky, all air through the stratosphere’s blueblack depths.
Such power, our word-elevator: the b of “breath”
needs only reversing to make the d of “death.”
I know too your d of departure stops my breath.
Breath stops yet again: you’ve entered the room: new breadths
of rosy horizon, dawn in all the depths.
My bee of all being, rooms darken starless, and I
now know you’re gone, fall many small floors, and die.


—Tom Goff

Make love to me, my love, my honey darling,
and then the doom of everything is close
at hand: the stark dispetaling of the rose,
rose from within molecularly curling,
browning, undercorrupting at the touch
of just one white and straitly burrowing worm.
Mysterious woman: oh your radiant form,
slender, well guarded from the sun, and such
as runs and dances, handsprings and strides covertly.
Ah, you the rough boys haven’t as yet discovered,
your whitely tapering grace not gliding overtly.
Who first will render you vulnerable among lovers?
This doomed world’s white and pink and poison for me,
except you, honey to hold yet never to see. 


Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Our friends are departing
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Death in brackets, our Dulcineas
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Other flowers do what they can
Of chrysanthemums in chrysanthemums
Men cry, women rain..
              —English Translation from the French chorus of 
                 Jacques Brel's song, "I arrived"

   Wilting chrysanthemums retain their crowning manes to the very end, seem like dying lions facing downward on their stems, wanting to retain their dignity
   In the Crocker Art Museum there hangs an Edwin Deakin flower bouquet painting with wilting mums in the "memento mori" style, as such still life was called
   Deakin manages to capture how mums with drooping heads are among the slowest to drop their petals
   Like so many other Victorian-era painters of the theme, he probably kept plenty of dying flowers around his studio 
   Also, unlike the matter of the common lawn dandelion which seems to mimic the mums' blossoms
   Mums don't gain a fluffy head of white tuft sails when they dry as they go to seed  
   Yet their leftover dried remains can also can be made into a good tea

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Photo by Cynthia Linville

—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento

hurriedly wash my hair, my body
shower off the stain
rise alone from the bed
where I conjured your body
love you from afar, as you wish
sometimes catch a glimpse of you

do you pity my love for you?
you acted surprised when I told you
though surely, you knew
we had made love in our minds
hundreds of times by then

hair, body, bathroom, and house
need my attention, yet my
eyes dim upon waking
no amount of caffeine
nor cold-water splash helps

through it all, feel your attention on me
backing me up, caring from the shadows
maintaining you don’t care—

stretching in yoga class,
my body effuses a slight sick scent
aging body, unclean house
yearning for your love
blind to life around me

outside the studio door
gardenias cultivated in pots
bloom in September sun
creamy petals, seductive sweetness
pluck a blossom, hide it in my purse
find it later, brown, dying, yet
still warm, sweet, fragrant


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

We waited. From that high hilltop, every speck
in the sky seemed small. Six geese honking
overhead, soon lost behind roofline. They said,

it's history, a must-see event. The last flyover
as our world lay uncertain in its haze.
We waited on the edge, suspecting a majesty we

couldn't see. The shuttle. Man's wanderlust for
space, for cutting trees. A spiral staircase,
hill to star. Silent music punctuated by a breeze.

Fox caught between bush and centerline.
Strings reverberating on a distant bandstand.
But all so far away, only a white speck

on horizon's haze and valley dust. So very big.
A flake of pastry-crust. You wiped your
spectacles to see more clearly. Frustration. No

sense of flight, of wing-thrust. Just forever-
forward motion slow and heavy. Afterwards
the headlines, TV footage telling us what

it meant, what it was like. Simile and story.
Under our feet the hilltop did not shake,
no matter how fast the world went.

So much remains on trust. It's fall.


—Taylor Graham

For 12.1 hours today, the sun grants us
light. A paradox: we're already past equinox
in this falling season of the year. Too much
light? The fields wilted months ago. And yet
we gather sunlight like a harvest. We brandish
solar panels to pump water from the ground,
and salt our vine-green squash with sun.
We run grains of soil through our fingers
so the sun can glitter each facet. We feel
our faces ripening in its rays. It makes us
shadows and flavors every poem. So many
hours we're granted. A paradox, a wonder.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

Through the open window
the past is staring back at me through
wilted white and yellow chrysanthemums
in now-neutered forms.
The stale air mixes with the new century
campanula, pepper tree and zinnia accents.

I am not actively living here
since deaths overrode the need
to be so alone and onery.

Poetry from the early nineties
nestles in the red plush chair
that no one has occupied
since Gore was Vice-President.

On the second couch
flyers about readings
point to the unaware ceiling
and remember
the sound of some now-silent voices
that rattled the beams above
a fire pit in a coffee bar.

Dress shirts and pants
sleep in the closets
knowing I would have to adapt
to them and so would
the world of fluid fashion
for them to leave
their pleasant hibernations.

Azure goes to umber
the sky says goodbye
to the sun
and today's memories
are born in the unformed
grass and purple shadows
on the right wall.


A big thank-you to today's chefs! Catch Taylor Graham at Poetry in Motion in Placerville tonight, and Ann Wehrman reads at Sac. Poetry Center next Monday. While you're scrolling around in our blue box (below the green box at the left), be sure to note all the activities going on this week, particularly at the end of the week and into the weekend, with what seems like 100 Thousand Poets doing readings, plus plenty of action in Davis, and a weekend workshop in Tuolumne Meadows. (I've switched workshops and other conferences to the green box, under the brain, so keep an eye on that.) Plus, the annual Watershed Festival takes place in Berkeley on Saturday. Or on Saturday, if you're in Sac., drop by Capitol Beer and Taproom for an open mic and reading by not one, but TWO Poets Laureate—Bob Stanley and Jeff Knorr. There's so much going on that I feel like I've missed something... but you'll catch it all if you look at our green and blue boards.

Monika Rose writes that this weekend's Tuolumne Writers Retreat in Columbia is filling up, so be sure to sign up soon if you're interested. She notes that Linda Field, host for the radio program, Manzanita Voices, will be there; this is an author interview program at KVGC Radio in Amador County, and Linda is looking for talented authors to interview for her program. Info at (Monika also notes, by the way, that there's a poison oak festival going on in Columbia this weekend, too!)

Tonight on KVIE, 10pm: American Masters features the life of poet Carl Sandburg.

The ocean photos today are there because I felt like looking at them (thanks, Cynthia!). B.Z. Niditch wrote that he went ocean kayaking on Saturday (he lives on the coast of Massachusetts), and Medusa and I got all nostalgic for the sea. Watch for more of B.Z.'s poetry in the Kitchen, coming soon!


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When the space shuttle Endeavor
was flown over the California Capitol
Old Glory was at half staff
per the Governor's order

While across the city
in a place where no one dies
the flag of private enterprise
advertises day and night

The United Steaks of America
Featuring cows instead of stars
coupons instead of stripes
profits instead of salutes

Old Glory isn't always raised
or lighted at night
like this flag is
may I take your order?


—Medusa (with apologies for sleeping in)

—Photo by Cynthia Linville