Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Snakes, Masks, and Butterflies

—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis

Unmask me because I long to be
free, up in a tree, swinging out
to see all that lies beyond.
The sea roaring indecently
while this tiny one creeps higher
and higher insanely toward
more incessant realms.


—charles mariano, sacramento

read your blog today
like i do most days
before i start
and noticed, after years
of not noticing,
that the dark blue background
behind the bolded, highlighted,
literary gems,
was moving

are my eyes playing tricks?
was it always moving?
am i dying?

i suppose, if these are words
vast and creative,
they need to be
constantly moving

it takes thousands
of pixel soldiers behind the scenes
to pull it off
a thankless, practically invisible

staring now, at dark blue
a river flows wild, silent
never seen

oh raging blue,
carrying the load daily
far from the light
so that we may display easily,

our dam-bursting paranoia’s,
blood-curdling screams,
of metaphoric, melodramatic frenzy
without a hitch,

confined neatly, conveniently,
in a box,
with a dangerous,
slithering snake

—Photo by Ann Privateer


rise and fall, them, him, her
before the time of what they knew
to known no more, gone from those
who still recall an evening sojourn
the excitement of rain
an ominous bonfire when
for a brief time their masks fell.

—Ann Privateer


—Taylor Graham, Placerville

As we climbed, we found no footprints
on the trail, only the echo of river

far below, its outrage against rock,
its litter of brickbats grinding to gravel.

Where would he have gone?
his mind bent on expressing eons—

as if a human could transform himself
to stone. Impervious, metamorphic;

sediments of outworn custom pressed
down upon itself, beyond patience.

At a switchback, gravity sang to us.
Did he, too, listen to the voice of angels,

or sirens? We found a face on wings,
two giant eyes unblinking; moth

or monster, it told us nothing.
We found a hole dug into weathered

moss, damp and forgiving. Above,
the critical wind blowing man to myth.

—Taylor Graham

on some words in a poem by Tom Goff

Our walk up Main Street starts under August
heat already climbing, not yet eight
by the morning's clock. I let my dog lead me
past a fringe of lawn with all its fragrances—
maybe some terrier passed by, leaving its scent
on tufts of bunch-grass in a planting. Snap-
dragons red, yellow, and every vibrant
shade between; odors caught in the soft trumpets
and velvety leaves. But, shouldering aside
the flowers, a young tree-of-heaven—ripped
out by gardeners, and now it's grown anew
with frondy vengeance, vibrating each
feathery green fan to set the still air tingling.
My young dog samples with her nose,
until I declare it's time: bottle up that loose
energy, put it back in the training-cupboard.
“Heel!” I tell her, and she settles to my
stride. Then abruptly pulls like a dray-horse
and stops at a corner-post. This she scans
inch by centimeter, counting the dogs
who lifted legs here, or lolled against façade.
Each mark's unique. Hounds, retrievers,
mutts, their aunts and mothers—my guide
knows them instantly from second-hand
sniff. She'd recognize them in a crowd.
I hang onto her leash as if I were a stranger
in this unfamiliar city, my home town.


—Tom Goff, Carmichael 
Lacking any story “to speak of” to tell of,
I met you. Hearing you serenely retell
your un-serene story, I knew you
were a poet and are a poet: some desperate
sheath of ice around your exquisite skin
chills the heat in your truth-reliving hands
and yet they are still your fine strong hands
charged with swiftness and deftness. Gestures
lightly dab as do brushes of aquarelle. Palm
prints undetectable, as is your whole lithe
body, at least via heat sensors that render
a human aura in Leroy Nieman colors.
Unstoppably you ghostflow clean through
my time. Your ectoplasm breaches
my starkest escarpment: you leave none
of the delicate traces humans and animals
must with every swish of flesh or cloth
against wall. You seem as unconstricted
by skin as you go unadorned by makeup
or accessory. Yet you have heart, for I’ve
heard you weep parts of your story, not one
flirtatious iota: zero helpless affect. I saw clear
bell-pure tears, cactus-pear tears, transparent
tadpole tears, tumble downcheek, silently wrung.
And now no part of your story doesn’t
erase me little by little. I had small enough
mystery, me-story, to begin with, and only
the sheerest palimpsest pokes through
your suffusion. As you overcover me, my fresco,
submerge me, but do please let me glimmer
lightly, awkwardly through. Torment your great
fame with me somewhere in your background,
a minor master from an anonymous School of…

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer

I'm breaking in two grieving
over you, our faces change places
your leaving as I return before
forgetting, before we shut the door
and seal the past, for joy did not last. 


—Taylor Graham

With pruners and harvest-basket I kneel
between the rows, look up past twining pillars
of stalk and vine into leafy vaults and arches.
One delicate white flower promises more
as, surrounding, a band of arrow-helmeted Okra
stands stiff on-guard. Eggplant bulges purple-
plump, eternal as any green. And golden
Pattypan swells sweet with planetary visions.
Peppers—Bell and Poblano—gaze down.
I wonder about sins of omission. So much
bounty, where shall I give it away?
In this season, dare I approach Zucchini's lair?
Peeking between the great fanned leaves,
I see two slitty eyes appraising me. The serpent
of Eden? No, surely a friend: slender-striped
Garter-snake grants me one quick nod
before disappearing deeper in the green temple
already flowing into a next season; sweep
of stars turning above us as I sleep. Whose
garden is this?


—Taylor Graham

A way-out-of-the-world mining town
wedged halfway down a mountain-slide, over
the river knifing its gorge a thousand feet
below the traffic of these hills.
How to get there? Nobody dares drive a one-
lane cliff-hanger unless he has a home
on the other side. No one confesses
to a queasy stomach.
Where had he gone, beyond the diggings,
looking for color in that tremendous
water-gouge? The farther it continued
down a sort of practice-trail, the insaner
it felt. No big-picture survey, just
a sketch-map, a few glimpses through trees.
Then wide open. A hogback
plunging out of sight; dark mist rising
from deep; gleam of rapids roiling
the bottom, bound from upcountry to ocean
as quick as it could get there,
cutting as it ran. Water wanted to really
touch something—loving
eons of rock, boundless waves, a human
rushing headlong to join them;
unable to stop.


Our thanks to all these contributors today as they talk about snakes, butterflies to us, themselves, and each other. Taylor Graham can be seen at tonight's Poetry Off-the-Shelves in Placerville, by the way, at the read-around from 6-7pm. Then head down the hill to the Shine Cafe (celebrating its third anniversary!) for Poetry With Legs. At noon tomorrow, join Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins for Third Thursdays at the Library; bring someone else's poems about summer. 

And then tomorrow night, don't forget the unveiling of Issue #19 of Rattlesnake Press's WTF, ed. by frank andrick with help from Rachel Leibrock, along with Lee Foust and lots of open mic! That's tomorrow, Thursday 8/15 (frank's birthday) at Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sac. Free, but please partake of Art Luna's fine food and libations as Luna's celebrates its 30th year of operation! Ann Privateer, by the way, is one of the many fine poets to be included in this issue. Get the details of these readings and more by scrolling down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column.


Today's LittleNip:

illuminates, elucidates, syncopates,
it hypnotizes as it unravels
my ability to know perfection.

—Ann Privateer
—Medusa, and no, those blue pixels are NOT slithering around, Charles. That's the snakes...

 —Photo by Ann Privateer