—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
Black Dog knows he is observed and adored;
his foggy breath, his gaze out the window to the bay.
A bright morning shoved into a closet invites no one
with cane in hand to stroll a brick-lined pathway.
I think of her often: her word-grace, her casual
smile-of-earnest; her nodding of hair, flaxen hay.
Woodpecker works hard at his drilling, adding his
share of noise to the ungreased wheel of early day.
Penned-poems, dreamed, cause rapid-eye-movement.
But the poem in your eyes is what carries me away.
Who has read our names on postal parchment
that they would know the love these names convey?
—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
My neighbor flew to Italy for a month
while the carpenters finish her remodel.
I can hear their soft talk as they sip
coffee from old Thermos bottles.
Doves fluff in the bird feeder,
wait out the spring thaw.
The last logs in the hearth smolder
pink and break apart.
Early news hits the porch, old now,
my update an hour ago via the web:
another government shut-down
avoided, another case of friendly fire.
This morning seems familiar and continuous.
We put fresh seeds out for the birds.
They will build a second nest. Nancy will return
with olive oil and Florentine bookmarks,
giving us a moment to consider other ways
of doing things—vegetation and history.
I will be surprised as the old grief comes down
again, like foreign air, pale sun and white smoke.
they expect an air assault at dawn.
A low drone, mechanical hum—
pregnant planes like giant eagles release
the predicted specks, men
like spiraling milkweed, easily spotted
through a chiseled lens.
In gray woolen topcoats, the generals relax.
No need to rush,
no need to surround—just yet.
Have another coffee and cruller.
We’ll move leisurely across sleepy fields,
pick them off one by one.
Their bayonets poke the sodden shrubbery—
nothing! The generals look up
to dangling cords, bungeed puppets,
two-foot paratroopers in munchkin-sized
uniforms made from stiff cardboard
(An experiment in perception,
based on a World War II air drop.)
Morning comes with new arrangements.
I’m watchful in the early hours, the stirring
dove, the night nurse stopping
for breakfast at the Limelight Café.
I hear spotty departures, every third house
or so, the cop across the street with her metal
lunch pail, is the first to leave. Morning
doesn’t rush but measures just enough light
so we know the time of day, a light different
from dusk where gold filaments angle toward the sun,
and loft in blue air. Dawn light, one of moisture white,
opaque and heavy. Sometimes even an oblique glare
is noticed. Flowers bloom upright, but by afternoon
face the Coast Range. What energy in all that twisting.
I’m young, my thinking new. Later I will welcome
this haze, this gauze, this early caul oblivious
to the day’s mysteries. But, now it confuses me.
I must cross the river, board a boat, have a destination.
Soon the railing will be dry to my touch, the prow
sharp, and toward the Pacific, the horizon clear.
—Neil Ellman, Livingston, NJ
(after the painting by Jimmy Ernst)
They were always there
under rocks, in the canopy,
hiding from the hunter’s sight
as if they knew that they
would be the next to be extinct.
The color of their skin
could change from black to green
to blend into the foliage
and then from green to brown
when autumn came.
They could swing from tree to tree
or walk upright like men
then fly like a falcon or a swift
to deny a predator a meal.
They could change their shape
to seem a tree or piece of rusting iron
and size to be an elephant or ant.
They were silent when there
was the need but just as well
could imitate the wind or lion’s roar.
But when the air around them changed
and there were no leaves
the masters of disguise
were trapped by the masters of deceit
dissected, photographed, catalogued,
stuffed and locked into a zoo.
FOR LOVE OF UNICORNS
I am obsessed by unicorns—
how they lived, fed
the color of their blood
if they sounded like a bleating goat
or neighing horse
what they thought
of creatures unlike themselves
with double horns
shorn of tails, forked tongues
and how they moved
among their myths
as if among the spellbound trees
of a primeval weald
I dream of them
grazing in enchanted fields.
Do they sleep, worry over
mate like flowers or as men
I want to be a unicorn
become a myth and know them
in their skin.
THE GENIUS OF THE SPECIES
(after the painting by Andre Masson)
Every species knows
what it knows
without knowing how it knows
the purpose of its tail
or why its skin is green.
It flies without a manual
and swims without a school
it speaks in barks and grunts
without an alphabet or words.
As a member of the herd
it knows only the turf
it knows to walk.
Save one, every species
on this earth
knows that it can’t know
the reason it is here
and if, in fact, it is.
(trans. from the Japanese by Etsuko Terasaki, with Irma Brandeis)