A LATE SPRING WALK
—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—
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.
THE TOW-BEHIND MOWER
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.
RITES OF SPRING
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—
beneath our eaves. Such rites of spring.
Just listen to the wildness sing.
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?
—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
at this computer age
we poets on the run
still have to breathe
in words from memory
as ritualized black ink
collects and audits
from our all-night stands,
which opens up
to the world
all enigmas in our life
riddled among machines,
of high-tech knowledge
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
like an inventory
of crumbling blankness
false gods or idols
taking us away
from writing itself
which is our vocation.
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
trying to retouch
my original intention
from piles of papers
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
from burning language
in my gnarled mouth
of lemon lozenges
from wrangled notes
with a twinned patch
of tiny adjectives,
snagged in arrangement
on a doubtful page
of vagabond labor.
(a poem to honor Kathy Kieth)
You live with poetry
your best friend
you to heights
of far-end language,
full of asides
edifies and defies
motions to us
calls on the divine
stands for life
justice and peace
by words, paroles,
on once blank pages
with long refrains
on short notice.
The Muse has no deference, only its reference, preference and reverence to her own secrets.