—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Of the holly, only stalks remain, quite
dead. Sheep's teeth ripped its leaves of shiny green,
and each of our perennials that might
have wintered within sheep's reach. Hunger's keen
in ovines. Now the sun of not-quite spring
steeps hungers in a gardener caught between
woolens and the first violets' dizzy fling
on the fairgrounds lawn. Out of tune, a jay
makes squawk as if to disprove birds can sing.
And yet the sky's so blue-jay brash today,
it's spring no matter what the forecasts say.
His dog led the way into the woods, showing
him snapped-off twigs, proof of someone passing.
Can't you smell it? the dog would ask. Dogs
know forest-stories. If the man glimpsed flicks
of yellow plumage in the brush, the broken parts
of flight, his dog knew the birds by name;
and the journeys of air: where each wind came
from and all its histories. His dog could find
the path to take in cloudy weather when sun gave
no direction, or at night when canopies of trees
hid the stars. Following his dog, he almost always
found what he was looking for, and much
besides. His dog's alert would set him listening
for the soft tread of cougar, seeing its shadow
behind his eyes like tribal memory. A man
has no words to describe these mysteries.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Why, I don’t know, but when I see you near
it brings back times I tried to rescue you.
I knew you were grateful. Everything was clear,
and here was all the world, and the world was who?
You, just you: and for me, that world was fear,
that boundary-fear I’d someday speak or do
those things that disgust a friend: I’m outta here,
you’d too soon be saying. Abduction is rescue to
barbarians like me. But I’ve seen Rome,
you’re my urbis et orbis. I’m the denizen
who tries to behave around you. This is your home.
You’re noble by birth. May I be your citizen?
I don’t know your Greek and your Latin. I’m just folks.
Will you laugh at my table manners? Get my jokes?
In tattered oriflamming banners
I flay the orangeskin: microfine spray
misting as players of Shakespeare’s plays
mouth-spout whilst they speak. Orange force, orange fray
spewed front-row-spittle by opera singers.
O sprightly syllables! Damn good manners…
—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
When I journeyed
to Balbec searching
from Marcel Proust,
to seek his grounds
for finding signs for love
heightened by the springs
of the countryside
far away other students
driven from the Eiffel Tower
cafes and tourist traps
to find his secret
of what will remain after us,
it wasn't affairs
of business or sated times
which will collapse
it was in art
that you believed
and realizing my part
was no longer deceived.
through my deception
starting now in rehearsal
every ides of March
within a mine-field
with an audition
of having to play
a good Brutus.
In a Roman costume
covering my bones
outspoken at our new
at the announcement
of Caesar's death
to a fusillade
of immortal lines
and losing my crown.
Now being stabbed,
and being damned
by the conspirators
each of our consciences
like the wolfish tongues
from the roof
of our mouths
unsure that anyone
will not witness
of the unfolding plot,
yet through great words
assigned to speak
with vexation of halting
we endure the applause
ends his play.
When life suspends us
on a swing
in hours or days
blinded by mercenary
loss and a stranger
to our future,
we still hold on
in our breath
of sun and clouds
making our way
by open boat,
of a poet with words
heavy on his back
of older knowledge
unable to answer
for a new voyage
of where to escape
like in childhood
away from parental storms
wanting to explore
a windswept island
of good memory
never lost from time.
The other name
life's green card
matches the form
of a poem
and works to shelter
Everyone has a pulse
of a chimera's echo
in a poet's mirror
like a domino of words
of self immunity
passes on unspoken justice
as in a captive passport
from a rapturous reading
for our own enlightenment.
—Patricia Pashby, Sacramento
When she loves,
is it about him
or who she becomes
when they are together?