Monday, November 12, 2012

Syntax of The Old Language

The Tree is Watching
—Photo by Katy Brown

They come back quietly,

gliding on the wild north wind,
falling with curtains of summer rain,
migrating through taproots . . . .

No one notices when the old gods
reenter the soul of trees.
They return after eons of exile

beyond vast granite ridges,
flung higher than thunderheads,
adrift in aurora above polar ice—

They grieve the human spirit that
devalues the transience of wild honey
or the silence in the heart of a rose. 

Time grows short for understanding—
we no longer revere the elusive—
we’ve lost the syntax of the old language.

The long winter is almost upon us.
The old ones slip among us once more
to watch us eat our young.

—Katy Brown, Davis


—Katy Brown

I race to watch the moon intersect a lowering sun,
aiming for a little road this side of Dunsmuir —
our paths to cross near my mother’s birthplace.

I know this country like a migrating bird remembers
the magnetic pull of rocks — the scent of home.
I race a setting sun transected by the moon.

I’m drawn to the path of the annular eclipse,
to the strange convergence of light and shadow
crossing near the home of my ancestors.

In a wide turn-out at the bottom of a ravine,
I wait for this silent, predictable event —
for shadow to overtake the light . . . .

Here, before the gold rush, my family settled
near the base of Mt. Shasta to raise cattle
in wilderness that still beckons through my bones.

My grandmother planted shadow-stories
about blood and this land — deep in my dreams.
I have raced with the moon intersecting the lowering sun
on this one-lane road near my mother’s home.

Perfect Eclipse
—Photo by Katy Brown


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Every creature in this ark had a tongue.
But the captain declared, no animals on deck.
Below, the dogs and cats, pet monkeys
and ferrets coughed up fumes, the semis
dieseling through the hours of night.

Bad air. Deck-hands wouldn't go below.

A night to remember things one tries
to forget, as if one could fall asleep above
a freight train gridlocked in a cellar.
Only humans allowed topside. A night,
a thousand years between railing and bench.

Bad air. No humans down below.

A dog too clever for the captain's English
climbed a fairy-ladder made of ferry-pipes,
or else she rose on St. Elmo's fire, to save
herself on the high salt-air, dog-laughing
down at sailors, their ship of the night.


—Michael Cluff, Corona

The rigors and requirements
of defending a mighty entity
do take a piece of the person
away forever
recovery may never occur
no matter the intentions
no matter the efforts provided
by those who wish to help them
become better
and maybe whole again
on the return and afterward

we recognize
what these warriors
have done for us
to make us safe
in a world of instability
be it near, far
maybe even here at home
to vote ever
as we please.

What motives may drive a war
can be ill-aimed
or profit-driven;
not the veterans' motives, though—
they did what they did
for us first
themselves and their families
Who could hope
for more?


—Katy Brown

You once told me that swans mate for life;
they form a bond that can’t be broken.
Today, I looked for water birds to photograph.

You and I spent a quarter-century together,
tracking and watching — collecting memories.
Only a few species mate for life, you said.

Your death has left me rootless,
a landscape without color.
I wanted to photograph something alive today.

A little lake not far from here attracts birds:
geese and ducks, coots and teal,
and swans ― four black swans, two pair.

I thought of you today while I circled the lake;
and one black swan followed me where I went.
I photographed that swan, remembering you.

You did not believe in omens, in metaphysics.
But that black swan followed me all day
while I took pictures of birds around the lake.
Swans mate for life.

Our thanks to today's contributors! Katy Brown shares her winning poems with us; quite a few area poets traveled down to the Ina Coolbrith Circle's annual dinner last Saturday, at which the winning poems from the annual contest were announced and read. Katy set a record by winning prizes in four categories; other winners included Allegra Silberstein, Joyce Odam, Norma Kohout, Carol Frith, and Jeanine Stevens. Katy will be reading with Patricia Killelea at The Other Voice in Davis this Friday night (Allegra Silberstein hosting); scroll down on the blue board at the right for details.

And you can see Taylor Graham at not one but two read-arounds this week. Those details are on the blue board as well. It's a busy week and weekend in our area this week, po-wise! Be sure to check it all out.


Today's LittleNip:

—Caschwa, Sacramento

Around 5600 years ago
man crafted weapons from stone
metal was better, don't ya' know
so then all-out warfare became known
which has exponentially grown
gunpowder's been big for about 1200 years
with firearms ringing much more than the ears
assault rifles still strong at age 75
part of the recipe of a parent's worst fears
their 18 year old may not return alive



—Photo by Katy Brown