—Taylor Graham, Placerville
I'm driving past Devil's Panorama—
boulder heaps and thorny scrub.
Down there, I'd be out of radio-reach
in a granite wasteland lost to technology.
I could listen to the stones for their alone-
song. I'd quit just short of insight; thinking
of broken ankles, lightning strike. Human
in temporary trespass; an impostor.
Enlightenment? Hallucination of high
altitude; trick of the imagination. Instead
I'm driving east. Who can be alone
with four good tires, satellites overhead,
cell-phone in the pocket? At a mountain
spring I fill my water bottle and watch
my dog range head-high up the ridge.
Always searching—for what? Guided
by unaccountable senses, she's sure
to find something. And I, with my high-
tech gadgets, out of range. Disconnected.
This is no fairytale land.
But beneath the corvid-latin of ravens
in the tops of pines, the gnawing
desires can change rocks
into snowbirds, a whole scree-slope
erupting in nine shades of
paintbrush saffron to vermillion.
A group of campers
had baked their expectations and their
painkillers in a pie;
and after the charred ribs
a girl walked her carefully
schooled puppy on leash up the trail.
Across a creek and out of sight she stopped,
unclipped the leash.
The suddenly released dogbody glistened
inside as if blackbirds from a king's pie,
the puppy fledging into
its own story ecstatically wagging
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
This is the deal: if you’re going to be
my main painbringer, better start being
my one painkiller. Killer, answer me now:
why do you have to stay shelved? No,
you’re supposed to be the liniment on my skin,
you’re meant to sting and heal at the same time.
Antiseptic, smelling of the sweetest clearest
unscented alcohol this side of Gray Goose,
bring your flagrant nonperfume to the party.
Get slapped like Burt’s Bee Balm on me with every
smear of your sensuous mouth. You are the Balm.
Or, as my dad used to say, Make me feel better
while I’m gettin’ better. Oh makeupless
honey, I’ve seen you wear Vaseline for
lipstick, slather it all over your embouchure
clear up the philtrum. Never mind whether
the weather peels your lipskin. Come be my
chapstick addiction. You’re the A & D Ointment
who keeps me in good trumpet. Be forever
my lovely one true analgesic. Slayer
and creator of dragon aches, only you can get
rubbed out wherever I choose to rub you in.
TO A WATER STRIDER
(for Laverne Frith, Carol Frith, and Joyce Odam)
Most of my readers will have perceived a small water-insect
on the surface of rivulets, which throws a cinque-spotted shadow
fringed with prismatic colours on the bottom of the brook…
—Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Tip-deep in dimple, will no needle stand?
Submit that skin-surface to your toothpick test,
prod the raw shapeless cake that comes out best
minus a baker, minus an oven. Pinprick strands,
all color, stipple each footpoint. Spectral bands
in muffled, austerely unruffled gray impress
on you just what and where for non-feet to caress.
A drumhead. Stretched thin yet slack. On deck, no-hands;
keep plucking, plectra, that stringless lute. Go stride
your compromise electric slide. The fastest
pair of your rowing six out-oar the slow four.
Together, now, outboard your plywood shadow. Glide
headlong downstream to dinner. Pounce, gulp, digest:
Skindrifter, indentured to miracle, keeping the offshore.
—B.Z. Niditch, Brookline, MA
It was on the river
smarting from my words
by my city bench
of Latin and French
in my early days
along the Charles
that kept me
from going overboard
in the canals
even in the rain
among gulls and birds
poetry was my bacchanal
from any quiver of pain
it kept me in motion
from all notions of death
in volcanoes around me
with Ariadne's thread
wound upon me
letting my tongue run out
with a marathoner's breath
here by the water
King Minos' daughter
in my own built labyrinth.
open the windows
bebop is in play
Kerouac is listening
to "Yardbird" on sax
his experimental novel
in time when new tongues
of poetry and music
in one mind get together
from the Big Apple
to the West Coast
move on the Beats.
In my surreal yellow
a mistiness stares
over our lemon juice
my red eye opens
in search of art
there is a hush
at Rothko, Kline and Still
the color field painters
awakening us in summer days
that won't return
to enjoy the posters
and Degas' miniatures
of girls at dance
and Dutch boys,
the curator telling all
not to touch
the flower paintings
from Japanese prints
our lecturer from Lintz
trying to explain
the murals of Warhol
and as a fine teacher
of the use of charcoal,
we enjoy Monet
and his great precursor
with the high price
not wanting to go
as muted learners of art
with a few postcards
in our suit pocket
to show and then depart.
My hometown brewery,
Prairie Chicken Beer,
Had a slogan: “The beer
That makes the smile that
Won’t come off.”
Some said it was
Great beer. Others
Thought it was the
In the mix. Either
Will do it though.