—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Thick smoke invests the air for miles around.
But “miles around” supposes a pleasing distance.
This intimate gray presumes upon the ground;
it mimics fog—no moisture, just the dimness.
Tongues register a copper-savored spray.
No starts or jolts to scan for the motion sensor:
my workroom darkens. Outdoors, no birds fly:
just smoke, swung rich and repellent from the church censer.
You’re just like this new California, touched with such fire;
perennial as these fumes. Each summer’s return
I time your arrival to whiffs of that fey gray bloom.
For you are my trance-bearing needle, my wrongful desire.
Will this black pandemic recur? Then speed the doom.
Like you, it must come back once it learns where to burn.
She came to us like a flame-spirit after the Fire,
a honey-haired wonder of poetry and desire,
and rooted her delicate feet in the field of the quake.
Her instants of rippled stillness were never a lake,
but a pond brushed by gusts, as are hearts in those who’ve sinned.
Her love was all whorls of blossom downbent by wind.
So seldom in contact with the mud-bitter earth,
her ocean-flung ashes seem swirled into a new birth…
(for the victims)
Today, a twister no stormchaser pursues
with his household jury-rigged swirls-per-hour
windspeed recorder. No computer-model tornado
core processor will capture these thrashing agonies
at the heart of the blender in a beater doing
75 80 85 down a paperswirl highway. This raptor
opens one black eye two towns’ width across,
lizard or salamander whose double helix
folds, not DNA, but hailstones into spirals:
this titanium paintmixer’s an autowrecker
where many more things than cars are, and
stomps regardless. Why must this thing’s
one patent be how to flatten? And what
have we done to this wonderful orb, turning it
already so Friedman-flat any allosaur can
batter it pancake or crêpe? Have you ever seen
fire run up its own fuse, one thin gasoline serum
worming all the way to the big barrel?
That’s our red matter: watch it seep silent
across the last flat mat.
—Jane Blue, Sacramento
A physician left his hotel to follow the logical
grid of the city, through the alphabet, looking
for Y St. But after X, alphabet streets disappeared.
There was a jog across Broadway. He went
with it, turning into a maze of housing projects
at the back of the old cemetery. The streets
had names like "Revere" and "Muir." Apparently
he was in the 2700 block, as though the alphabet
was moving into previously unknown letters.
He was Italian. His family had mapped a route
through the Urals to Genoa. Then they swung
down into the cove at Pisa. In Pisa you can walk
straight to the sea from anywhere in the city.
A city built on a hub, or nexus, surrounding
the baptistery, where he once saw a dove circling
high inside the dome. A city built on a grid
is like the English language, he thought.
There are confusing exceptions for strangers.
The latitude here seemed about the same as Tuscany
where a long plain crisscrossed by railroad tracks
lies between Pisa and the airport outside Florence.
Locusts bloom beside the tracks in spring
and into summer. Columbus, a man from Genoa
never asked for directions. The physician did
at this point, at a bus stop. The woman there
said he should turn around. But he decided not to.
He kept driving south until he discovered something.
—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Ulysses”
and not to yield. He shut the book. That line,
which used to fire his gumption, struck him
bilious. Strive—code word for sweat, for
things going wrong. Out the window, a merlin
swooped out of sky to seek a pigeon. How
sweet to be a bird, fired by simple hunger. Not
to yield? to a rattletrap that wouldn't start
for all his tinkering. Tennyson was no help.
No aging heroes here, no mythic worlds left
to explore. He put his jacket on and walked
outside. No adventure. Just to tackle the mind
of rust and everlasting metal fatigue. One eye
cast to the heavens for a mortal sign of rain.
1) red sun on a snow-scarf;
2) the dead thing;
3) word as ephemera.
Each of them vivid but shifting
in my dream: fire-opal sun of morning
turning violet moon as she folded
refolded the scarf (or was it
a flag), colors shimmer-changing
to clothing of the soul, (who was she?)
or the dead thing, focus
of every eye: vegetable, mineral, or
polished skull of an animal extinct?
perhaps a crazy silver planet made
of the three kingdoms; globed
as a crystal ball but opaque as brain.
And the word: losing and gaining
syllables like breath, switching
vowels, its meaning mythologized.
The scarf, the word, the dead thing:
three translations of the same figure. Our
concept of the dead refolded to life.
Nothing's what it seems.
Instead of keys, the words lock us
inside our mirrors.
If I turn a latch, walk out the door,
I'm dive-bombed by real
live birds wing-shadowing my steps
lest I watch their eggs break
into birdlings; wind-shadows on
maneuvers beyond my syntax.
A man, in search of Heiligenschein
on city sidewalks, stepped
into the mirror of a plate-glass wall.
Also out is the new DADs DESK (dedicated to yours truly, kk—thanks, Carol Louise!). Order a copy of Sacramento's only large-print journal from Editor Carol Louise Moon for $2 at 537 41st St., #6, Sacramento. As it says on its cover, Tempus Fugit…!