Thursday, May 16, 2013

Machines, Infernal and Otherwise

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Through the trees I heard—what? machetes
hacking a way through jungle or a mercenary
army with sabers and bayonets?
and beneath the metallic clatter and clanking,
a deep grumble—as if dragons leapfrogged
through the meadow where, for years,
I've walked my dogs. Was I hallucinating?
Here, the rutted path—once a logging spur—
barricaded by a sugar-pine that fell long ago.
And here, the halfway point of my hike,
deserted forest backstretch; the only sound
should be woodpecker drumming on bark.
My dogs ran ahead, then back, to make sure
I was following. No sense of risk-all, just
a romp in the woods. And, when we reached
the edge, a view of bulldozers ripping out
brambles of berries about to ripen; scoring
new roads across meadow. This was no infernal
dream; just machines in the hire of progress.


—Taylor Graham

It took us an hour to release it
from its shipping crate. Quick assembly.
Diagrams in the owner's manual bore
no resemblance to the disconnected metal parts
lying dead before us. 800-tech support
spoke an alternate language. Somewhere
was a safety switch-off not mentioned
in the manual. Meanwhile our grass grew brittle-
dry in unseasonable spring swelter,
seedheads waving their golden locks, enticing
flame. At last we dialed a local
number. A roving fix-it-man rode up
on a big white 4-wheel charger. His laugh
was brash as summer, to set the earth spinning
on its axle again. He flipped some switches,
turned some screws; never glanced
at the owner's manual. On the first crank
the engine roared to life. He stepped back,
a flourish of his hand: Your turn.
I pulled. Nothing. He laughed like sun-up
with a breeze. I tugged again,
harder. Success! Our golden pasture
glowed for haying.


—Taylor Graham

What interloper-grass grows here?
Just see the pathways we've mowed clear.
If tufted green turns firegold
as summer flame, it costs us dear.

We fear its spells, and shear its locks.
We pave it, lay down cinder-blocks
and listen for it thumping underneath.
We check our calendars and clocks

for buried roots and fists and teeth.
A blade of grass waits in its sheath
to throw its seed on wind; take wing
and scatter over field and heath.

Small birds will nest on any thing—
a cup of witchgrass, fur, and string
beneath our eaves. Such rites of spring.
Just listen to the wildness sing.


—Taylor Graham

They had perfect keys in their pockets.
Now their jackets—sky-blue, red, midnight
gray—hang on the schoolyard fence.

Lost and Found. They left the playground
without fear of weather. Mothers will never
understand the dreaming and forgetting,

leaving jackets that cost a pretty
penny. Sins of omission. They left home,
heads full of moons shiny as coins.

Moons that might fix everything, even
words. Now the jackets hang like forgotten
visions; relics of children who once

chased wind-shadows, ricocheted among
hidden things, dug at earth-magic;
who could see the wind. The children, gone

now, who years ago left these jackets
behind. Perhaps they're grown, with many
keys in their large pockets.

Do any of those keys unlock the wind?

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA

How come
at this computer age
we poets on the run
still have to breathe
in words from memory
as ritualized black ink
collects and audits
our thoughts
from our all-night stands,
which opens up
to the world
all enigmas in our life
riddled among machines,
these sickly-sweet
smart transplants
of high-tech knowledge
which educates
while it subjugates,
helps yet hurts us
at the same time
we become fixated
in our red-eye universe
keeping us awake
in a cold prism and prison
of our own images
with hand prints
of recorded hard drives
vibrating, accumulating
like an inventory
of crumbling blankness
sometimes resembling
false gods or idols
taking us away
from writing itself
which is our vocation.


—B.Z. Niditch

It's easy to imagine
those riddled moments
immersed in words
with a red eye
collapsed ear drum
or clasped fingers
in my solitude task
at the bottom of night
drawing a blank
on snowy spaces
through pools
of white-out,
trying to retouch
my original intention
tumbling down
from piles of papers
occasionally falling
on my overcast flesh
with a sore nape of neck
and butchered knees
rounding a computer
orbit of words
crossing my notes
with the spacey sound
of antonyms and verbs
waiting to be scanned
and read into existence
on a gag of lip
hungering for
punctured apostrophes
from burning language
in my gnarled mouth
of lemon lozenges
catching eyelashes
from wrangled notes
with a twinned patch
of tiny adjectives,
imprinted commas
snagged in arrangement
on a doubtful page
of vagabond labor.


(a poem to honor Kathy Kieth)
—B.Z. Niditch

You live with poetry
your best friend
who elevates
you to heights
of far-end language,
full of asides
swears justice
and numinous,
edifies and defies
sizes up
puts down
inspects words
suspects everything,
motions to us
calls on the divine
issues manifestos,
exchanges proverbs,
overthrows regimens
and regimes,
screams out
against death
never silent
stands for life
justice and peace
by words, paroles,
on once blank pages
of proofreading
with long refrains
of translation
on short notice.


Today's LittleNip:

The Muse has no deference, only its reference, preference and reverence to her own secrets.

—B.Z. Niditch


—Medusa, who reminds you that there are FOUR readings in our area today and tonight, including the premiere of a new WTF from Rattlesnake Press at Luna's Cafe this evening! Scroll down to the blue board at the right of this for all the details.

—Photo by Taylor Graham