Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Whimsy-Flags and Sombreuils

Fencebreaker Creek
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Oh, the reluctance of rain,
May to November,
as if it lived such an expanse of miles
from here, it would never arrive
in time. And now
it comes in sheets down the cobbled
alley, sending shoppers
scurrying; and on the outskirts,
gouging gullies into bare-slope knolls;
slaloming down
in the rain and ever more
rain, splashing into our little creek,
clogging the culverts
with what used to be treasures;
trash overflowing
so rainfully joyous the road.


—Taylor Graham 

The vole in the owl's talons becomes
winged, and in that flight—
the tearing apart of sky, in its lighting
again—the vole becomes owlet.

The owl, in turn, turns underground.
Instructed by the mouths
of maggots, grubs, and worms,
the owl learns these blind secrets.

Our human words crawl along
the surface, imagining transformation
into pure idea,
a species that might last forever,

even as we prepare
the study-skins for museum;
the mummies for crypt and temple;
as we bury the dead.

But did you notice a chromatic
change, an accidental;
the nuance of her eyes, dying?
An owl-ray

plummeted silent
through rainclouds, morning sun-
beam bearing her away. Wind in her
body. Wings.


—Taylor Graham

Is this life just its sum
of chores? Oh, how they hum
their should's and must's. They're a drag
on morning. If she thinks
about it, the sun sinks
under housework. She'll use her rag
to wipe the window bright
so she can gather light
and fly it like a whimsy-flag.


—Taylor Graham

Two-hour drive to the airbase.
Grab my pack and dog,
lock the car, head for that big bird
touching down on the runway.
But first, find a strip of grass.
“Hurry up!” I tell my dog.
She knows that means business.
She squats to pee. “Toot suite,”
I add, language hardly
mattering as long as words-talk
makes sense to dog. I might
as well say “yakety-yak, take out
the trash,” she'd know
what I mean. Our taxi's waiting—
that C-130 on the tarmac.
My dog's greatest
pleasure: we're on a search!

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Flower I’ve seen in my own silent garden,
my slip from a Sombreuil rose, petals white
and fingertip-soft as white chocolate, but otherwise
holding soft gold notes, high-climbing and ardent.

Yet you linger somewhere between near and apart.
Do you know your own blush? Are you trying to hide
like a compromised thing in dark green and bright red?
Your shade of soft white should color my heart.

For there is a blush too, not outer but inner,
like snowdrift within you yet keen as that fire
an Irishman once called the kiss of desire:
the cream-tinted rose’s deep delicate center.

These colors, the white of sun-filtering petals,
the dark green leaf-shadow you hide behind,
all that bright red edged like a sundown wind,
that blush mingled with gold, as when flame blends two metals:

Yours are the colors I want for my banner.
Oh, under these stripes I could ride out to battle,
proclaim your name high in the heat of the turmoil.
My secret, I clasp you harder and deeper than honor.   


—Maddie Emery, Davis

I once met a man who had swelled up so much that he became an obstacle in everyone’s path, as encumbering as a blood clot, puffed up more than a clogged pore, his swollen cranium an impediment on all around him, like an infected scab, a congested sinus, a stale chunk of meatloaf caught in your throat, sock lint and toe jam wedged in your nail bed, solidified oatmeal and coffee grinds plugging the garbage disposal, he, a saturated heap of garbage in a river which stagnated and polluted the flow of life and language, the human equivalent of constipation, a lump of earwax, and yet still so proud and in love with himself, in love with a man who was nothing more than the calcified soap and hairballs you find clogging the shower drain.

A parasite of creativity, he slurps up praise wherever he can find it, however he can get it, digging through the gutters, licking it off the bottom of people’s boots, and sometimes even purging himself, regurgitating his past feasts so he can lap them up and try to remember the taste. Fat and thick as he may be, he will always be hungry so long as he tries to fill a vessel substantiated only by hot air and stale bile. Stick a pin in his fat head, and I think he will ooze puss, which comes from deep within him and leaks from that raw and swollen wound in his heart, ripped and infected further with his every empty meal and calls itself “helplessness,” though he, ever the non-listener, silences this fear with his cries of bravado and grandeur, louder and louder, to drown it out. I feel sorry for him. He puffs himself up so proudly that his swollen appearance that so obtusely obstructs my mind’s eye is often the obstacle I beat my head against, but this is a wall that can be torn down. Shout as he may, loud as he can, he will be forever overpowered by a whisper that betrays him, and says softly, “I am so, so small, I may never stand eye to eye with my fellow man.”


—Charles Mariano, Sacramento

Took this morning off to drive to Auburn for my son’s latest court date.  I feel like that movie Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray keeps reliving the same scene over and over.  On the bright side, I always smuggle a pen and pad inside to scribble notes.  The cast of characters in front of the judge and in the stands, never dull. 

A few years ago, a different judge, different room, he swore up and down, this time things were good, the terrible, troubling wounds, healed.  Even wrote…the last courtroom, in my notepad, with a sense of relief.   

Auburn is up in the hills about forty miles from here.  Nice drive.  As usually happens, because our last name is in the M’s, went all the way to 10:30 and still a no-show, so the judge took a break.  I stepped outside and found the parking lot covered in snow.  Thick, heavenly flakes floated down.  I opened my mouth and made a natural snowcone.  Maybe that’s a good sign. 

2 years, 4 months…a white Christmas


Thanks to today's contributors, old friends and new, including newcomer Maddie Emery, who D.R. Wagner sends us from his students at UCD.

Speaking of students, normally I don't write reviews if I can help it, but over this rainy weekend I came across a used copy of Love that Dog by Sharon Creech, and it's such a charmer that I thought I'd pass the word along if you haven't heard about it. Creech calls this book a novel, but it's actually a little book of sequential poems supposedly written by a young boy—coerced in the beginning, actually, by his teacher—that show his evolution into a poet as he works through the death of his beloved dog. Along the way, he makes some pithy observations, such as:

…Maybe the wheelbarrow poet
was just
making a picture
with words
someone else—
like maybe his teacher—
typed it up
and then people thought
it was a poem
it looked like one
typed up like that.

And maybe
that's the same thing
that happened with
Mr. Robert Frost.
Maybe he was just
making pictures with words
about the snowy woods
and the pasture—
and his teacher
typed them up
and they looked like poems
so people thought

they were poems…

As the book progresses, the boy takes on a hero (Mr. Walter Dean Myers) and develops the self-respect and the courage to write about his dog, developing his voice along the way. Creech doesn't call this a children's book, but I suppose it could be, especially as a teaching tool. See for more about the book and about Creech's other work as a novelist and teacher.


Today's LittleNip:

 It's storm season again in Sacramento
   I guess it could be worse if there were snow
   but the wind does uproot trees
   with the soil watered down from the flooding
   the streets' gutters get plugged with leaves and debris
   and when the streets become shallow bodies of water
   you might want to wear "waders" even if you don't fish

   —Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


—Medusa, with our condolences to Katy Brown for the loss of her beloved dog, Emily

—Photo by Taylor Graham