—Katy Brown, Davis
The hardest thing in the world
is to be left behind.
To listen for those slow footsteps,
to want with all your heart
to hear that laugh again.
The soft fleece of a red coat
may provide a bit of comfort,
still holding the scent of someone far off;
but the warm person who filled that coat
has been taken away—swallowed
by an antiseptic building.
No more nights of resting with your head
on a comfortable chest, listening to a heartbeat
—that heart beats somewhere else—
somewhere you can’t follow.
There is no comfort to be found
in secondhand smells or proximity—
no way anyone can satisfactorily explain
the passage of time in a grief as deep as this.
The only cure for such longing
is the familiar, slow measured step;
the comforting heartbeat;
the proximity of love returned.
THINGS TO DO WHILE WAITING
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Remember bird song,
how to differentiate titmouse from junco.
Check email. Delete.
Regard the wind—its lips, the rhythm of its lungs.
Keep close hold of your shadow.
Look over Time's shoulder as it plays chess
The key is the black horse they call a knight;
a token carved of the wind.
Learn to call the wait a vigil.
Never lose track of the question.
The day got up in the dark,
alarm untimely going off without coffee,
without getting properly dressed.
Abandoned by time—the day waited in line,
showed its papers, was admitted.
The day didn't recognize this place.
It stood drooping trying to keep its eyes open.
The day's pressure was low.
Like any Saturday, it wished for wild, bright
colors, but the walls were code-blue gray.
The day wished for sun
but knew it would be a bad printout
on the solar chart.
The day waited to be discharged
before the dying of the day.
Still the day hopes to reach tomorrow,
with prospects of overmorrow over
and over again, new.
Our little creek, dry most of the year—
the creek that crosses our boundary fence
6 times in 5 acres to wash that fence out;
the creek that brings down trash
which is all we know of our upstream
neighbors; and overflows our drive;
the creek where the three-legged deer died;
where mustard grows spicy-sweet
and bull-thistle raises its purple scepter;
creek that proves the road shown on the plat
is impossible to build;
the creek that stair-steps down bedrock
bursting up like poorly buried bones;
the creek, when dry, that remembers days
of flowing rain; and after rain,
that balms our sheep; beckons my puppy
to join its free-wild running;
that knows coyotes in the dark;
creek that bathes old-man willow's feet,
and roars through my winter dreams;
the creek we curse and love.
—Lynn M. Hansen, Modesto
A skilled hunter
You blend into dapple
Of shadows and light,
Streak away at my outburst,
Return like the sacred.
Were you there
Before I noticed,
In the business
Of the day?
You cry out,
A soft call,
Another request I resist.
When I look again,
you are gone.
(first pub. in Song of the San Joaquin, 2008)
the calico cat
appears to be
interested in intaglios
incised into terrazzo
tiles in a bathroom
never used except
on special occasions
involving either kittens
or killers; she
then sighs and
slides feline fluidity
into the detective's
arms and leaves
the puss behind
to decipher those
exact, esoteric etchings
all on its own.
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
he stalks the streets
whiskers once snowy
now grey and bedraggled
life in the gutter
licking mud for water
denizen of the alley
huddled behind garbage cans
orange peel dangling from his jaws
once the prize of tonier times
a satin pillow in the foyer
or in his mistress’ lap
as she cooed and fondled
access to foie gras and lobster
he was a king then
climbing the couches
hanging out the window
hissing at strange noises
he loved the elevator
rode up and down
he was taut and young
fit as a male can be
surprising females in the corridor
then came flood
he was washed away
sailing down Broadway on a refuse lid
he moaned and shrieked
gave up to the random
such is life
“I don’t have any
Nice things,” she said.
“I have cats.”
Still, her coat of
Many cat hairs was
Marvelous to see.