—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Dawn. We're walking up the swale,
up landscape dragged out of
what we meant for pasture. This is where
the coyotes come from, in the dark.
My dogs scout ahead. Rocks stick up
like bones and teeth out of soil.
When we're not looking, the night-creek
works its way deeper. I watch
higher ground, up to Stone Mountain.
Fences mean nothing to coyotes.
Our sheep are crowded in the corner
of the barnyard, famished to be let free
to graze. Their conversation,
perfect stillness. My dogs patrol edges,
running so the wind calls back.
I ask what the wild says in the dim
before morning. My dogs don't answer;
silence with no scum of words.
They keep their discoveries bright
in their eyes; lead me back to the house.
The high meadow merchants of frost
have remaindered the willow, leaves brittle
old lace. Smoke. Sunset orange as orioles,
racer-pink; thunderheads dark-ripe—
color of eggplant, bruise. Up-canyon wind's
rehearsal for a first night's snow. Simile,
personification. Pack it up in duffles as
a memento, tradeoff for leaving. It's time.
Sky turns against us, seasons will not be
directed. Something burrowed under-
ground, inactive as seed for its time; silent;
sure as the urge for eruption, resurrection.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Last night of the fair, late August,
Had the best acts. We’d go over
The barbed wire out back.
Last time, last in line,
I caught my finger
In the barb. Fair security
Watched suspiciously as I bled
Through Kleenex after Kleenex
During Ray Stevens’ encore.
Next day, I met Old Doc Terry
In his garage, where he took care
Of such things. “Did you think
You were being cool?” He gave
The tetanus shot. “Was it
Worth it?” He did the stitches
With no anesthesia. Fifty years
Later: yeah, and yeah.
—Michael Cluff, Corona
Removing the wingtip dress shoes from 1975
a condom from the same year or so
still not used
a ticket stub from The Omega Man
(although he slept or made up
for more than sixty percent
of the movie)
a clump of the basenji,
who died from poison
tossed over the faux redwood fence
in 1977 plus
a breath mint
in a pocket of a green glen plaid pair
of suit pants
in total style for 1982,
all from the barricaded spare room closet.
Morris tried to blink
yet could not
since he was as dried
and frozen now
as the sea monkeys stolen
from a Safeway in Santa Maria
back before the Bicentennial
and placed in a leaky portable cooler
no longer holding anything
except stale, heavy styrofoam
and poppy cake seeds.
—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
Imagine a new lover
obsessed with you
driving past your house
nights after you’ve gone to sleep
psychically serenading you—
on the car stereo
over and over.
Imagine this lover
bookmarking Emily, ee, and Whitman
all the favorites in Norton
to read to you in a whispery voice
spread in the backyard
which will be reflected in your eyes.
Imagine a lover
who wants to know everything—
your views on poverty and
and the all foods
you absolutely won’t eat ever
a lover who wants to
fully occupy your present—
take you to the beach
all the best local restaurants
you’ve been meaning to try
or may have overlooked.
Imagine this lover finding beauty
in the tiny mole beside your right eye
in your round belly
in the star-shaped scar on your thigh—
encouraging you to wear your shortest skirt
your deepest neckline
when you go dancing
in a lively dive bar.
Now—be that lover.
Dancing down the wind again
dust realigns cervices
roiling the mass
the simple taste
water rolling into cubelets
the wastrel in you
addresses the waves:
gerunds with no place to go.