—Patricia Wellingham-Jones, Tehama
Water low in the creek, algae
streamers wave green in the current.
A green heron crouches
on a sycamore limb,
arrows down and spears a fish.
Another joins him for a hop
from rock to rock
where cool water laps.
Above on a sapling,
almost hidden in green leaves,
a mother phoebe brings food
to a squalling young one.
Higher yet a fluffy-tailed gray squirrel,
too occupied to scold,
runs the aerial tram from tree to tree,
green pine cone clamped in his jaws.
Where grass meets wood rail fence
before the drop-off to the stream
a canna screams tropical orange,
mimics the blazing sun.
Obligated by July’s heat wave,
creatures get their work done early.
ANOTHER RECORD-BREAKING DAY
Already hotter than warm
the sun slants across the deck,
turns geranium petals
a succession of red licking flames.
The sun skips across the boards,
gains purchase on white plastic chairs,
blasts the eye with burning glare
I hearken to its message,
ID the villain of the day’s tale.
More and more the sun turns opponent,
structures my day.
And it’s only 6:30 AM.
COFFEE IN THE RAIN
We sat on her patio,
the outdoor living room,
sniffed and savored
the summer rain.
Over our coffee, we unveiled
our latest travel schemes
then craned our necks
to admire the flash of gold
wheeling past our eyes.
A seldom-treat to the backyard,
a western tanager
perched on the thick rim
of a birdbath set beside the window.
We loosened the bags at our feet,
exchanged her fresh-picked figs,
tomatoes and squash for my
farmers market peaches, pluots,
eggplant and apricots.
We waged our usual little skirmish
of how much, don’t be silly, it’s a swap,
then subsided, satisfied.
Factions heard from, ignored,
we sniffed and savored
the gentle rain.
This week wins the summer prize
for the hottest in recent memory.
We swelter just setting a toe out the door,
though the crazy cat stretches full-length
on the concrete, will not come inside.
The only gift worth thinking about,
other than air-conditioning
or a week at a breezy beach,
is a big basket filled with bags of ice,
canned sodas or bottles of lemonade
and some snacks usually forbidden.
We wear the least the law allows,
consider selling our blankets
on consignment, hard put
to remember last December’s
mind-numbing cold rains.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Contemporary dilemma: turn on the AC,
what does that do for global warming?
Can it ever be too hot to embrace
but wait, the computer blinks and
quits. No lights. Too much suburban drain
on the power grid. Here we are in the middle
of the frying pan—dinner in the skillet—
and no electric fire to cook it. Obligations,
like our options, scatter.
Pick us something green
and fresh from the garden. Look down
the valley for the makings of a breeze.
Here’s our chance for adventure:
survival dining on the cheap.
Think of contrasts—hummingbird sipping sweet
wet sustenance from a feeder beside a sunburned
field; transcontinental vapor trail across a cloud-
less heat-wave sky; weathercock swiveling to
welcome the delta breeze after a week of swelter;
old woodcut on the wall, a man trudging through
snow toward a lonesome farm, wishing it were
No place to hide from the day's heat, the thirst. We drank sun-tea till the ice-maker quit. Not a puff of wind. Toward sunset, a chuff, chirp, rustling as if our walls set to burst. A muffled clamor rose in board-and-batten siding, part of a greater language pulsing with our blood. At sundown it erupted from the eaves. Bats. One, two, five in a wave, a dozen from prisoned swelter-sleep, fifty counting toward a hundred, bats set loose to hunt mosquitos on the pond; swerving zigzags dark against sunset afterglow; twilight; then we only sensed their flight. Below, the pond as if reflecting moon-spirit stirred by wings. Wind and the first star.
—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
So here I sit again, the same routine,
another day. What will it be this time,
two swans pictured on this paper lake?
Gliding past my eyes in perfect grace
they're lost among the reeds so early on,
then turning, passing me the other way.
This way, I see both sides and both their wings.
Their bills, unlike the duck bills that you see,
are more like trumpet-lips for trumpeting.
Billowed chests to hold the air of poetry,
they quote erotic poets from the past—
some wolves in heat. Oh, nature at its best!
And trumpeting. Do I hear trumpeting?
The trumpet of the boy across the way—
the boy I think must also be in heat
on this the hottest day of mid-July.
Or, should I stop this dreaming while I can,
and practice soon before my mother comes.
Piano practice. Lesson Two is "Swans,
on a Lake" with just a few white keys.
—Carol Louise Moon
Free-handed man of means,
Freer than you or me.
Free-rein for mostly a
Free-ride—a free styling
Free enterprise. Free speech:
Freely bartered. He's a
Free-form free radical.