Stetson at his feet, replaced
(first pub. in InDaily News, Adelaide, Australia 2012)
Three thin young men amble
along the road in front of the house,
black t-shirts expose tattoos,
each arm blue with cold.
They eye the two women leaving the door
for a holiday walk, bundled
in coats and scarves, hats and gloves.
The young men watch, lips turn up at corners
under eyes chilly, assessing.
The women return their stares,
skin twitching. One says hello,
the men say hello back. One of the three says,
“Can you give me a dollar?”
A white-haired woman says no,
she left her money at home. The other
shudders at information too late realized.
They walk a few steps ahead of the men
on the far side of the road, go straight,
turn and look back at the corner.
The men crouch there, killing time,
waiting to see the women round the bend.
Heeding the urges in their guts
the women retrace their steps.
They watch from windows safe behind locks
for the men to go.
Unwilling to leave the house empty,
ruing the walk they didn’t take,
they feel boxed in by their fears,
by the look in men’s eyes.
FIRST CHRISTMAS AGAIN
She bolted from the house,
from turkey gravy she was stirring,
from guests with wine glasses
tilted to their lips,
from her new step-daughter’s family.
In the slight protection of the eaves
she opened her mouth, released
into rain the wail that had built
through an endless round of hosting.
Bent from the waist, she roared out sobs
she’d swallowed all day.
Heedless of her hairdo
she stepped away from shelter
into storm, tipped her head back,
let rain wash down her cheeks
Returning through a distant door
she splashed cold water on red, swollen eyes,
dragged a comb through flattened hair,
freshened makeup. Pinning a smile
on still-trembling lips, she rejoined the group
apologizing to nobody,
including her husband
of a few months,
for missing the one
no longer there.
(first pub. in Voices on the Land, Rattlesnake Press, 2004)
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Now she stirs
starter in the crock,
with a life
caught out of thin air—a spoor
that works in the dark,
combine with milled wheat;
punched down and
but alive, set aside, and
left alone to rise
like a man's
wishes for his life—
on the streets
shouting vive la liberté
and droit au travail—
right to work,
rise above themselves.
A whole new
for breaking tyrants, and for
the breaking of bread.
—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento
In the forest, when I was growing up, sun-warmed breeze blew through my needles and bent my branches. White trillium, mountain violets, and purple beds of heather danced before rain; flowers nestled around me, tickling me with thick, green leaves. Deer and squirrels played, mountain jays and ravens skimmed past me in the air, and slimy banana slugs crept by, along with ants and fat worms that plowed the earth under my branches.
I drank summer rain, fresh water, and air. The rich black earth nourished me. I listened to whispered songs and learned the secrets of the mountain from the ancient sequoias towering over me. When at night glowing stars danced and spun throughout the black heavens, I swayed with them and felt the wind in my branches, crooning her songs of deep joy.
Seasons passed, and I matured; grew plump and full, my branches a deep, luxurious green. Then one cold winter day, a large, raucous, harshly reflective object entered my clearing, and two beings climbed out from inside it.
“Here’s a real beauty, Bob!”
“Don’t look like nothin’ but another damn tree to me—another tree, another dollar, that’s what I always say,” replied the other. Their power saw bit into my trunk, its tearing roar deafened my screams, and I fell to the frozen grass.
In the back of their vehicle, I jostled, torn trunk dripping sap, my mind growing weaker as my sap dried. Finally, we reached this place, with its strange lights, crowds of people, and so many trees, some with no breath at all left to tell their stories.
I gasped this last, my branches leaning on the young blue spruce on my left. Originally inquisitive, she fell silent halfway through my tale.
“Hey, plug in that sign! Nobody’ll stop if they can’t see we’re open for business!”
O! first left-
over cup of joe!
the French roast brews. So much left-
over stuff to do