—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA
exits the Tenth Street tunnel
and pulls into the through lane
to Sycamore Plaza.
The manners of shoppers
have not altered from the norm
since 2014 hit the weed-covered
she enters the catering service
plans how to polish off
the rest of her dead-beat debtors
of fresh seafood appetizers
based on recipes
from her home state
right next to another
where mad cow disease
will call her soon;
the Ladies of Mercy
Ms. Charles' superb
BACK TO WORK...
...will not occur
for Floyd Diaz
the new semester
begins in mid-February.
Then it is back
to tight dress trousers
strangling Oxford button-downs
tourniquet paisley ties
and life-controlling loafers.
the beach at Pismo
will accept his bare moon-colored
legs and ripped Ronnie James Dio tank top
except for the waves and weather
which are allowed to dictate
his new cosmology.
NO, LITTLE SISTER, LIFE ISN'T FAIR
(From truths my brother told me)
—Katy Brown, Davis
Shakespeare sat in a chair— like me
and sipped honeyed tea from a mug.
Milton heard birds in his weeping
willow tree and drank his last spring
like a drug. My books seem to stray
from the shelves they’re assigned
and stay on the floor where I’m
resigned to the chaos that puddles
under my feet, muddles the order
that once was neat, and drives me
to distraction. But action to fix this
is not to be had— not while I
pick writing instead. Shakespeare
and Milton must have had wives
to cook their dinner and order
their lives. To go to the market
and blanket the bed,
to see to the children and
mourn for the dead— to do
all the things that I must do, too—
while I count the beats in a couplet.
POEM OF THE EMPTY CLOSETS
She tries to picture the closets empty—
the rooms empty— her life empty.
She can still smell him all around her.
A haunt of memory— a minefield of sorrow.
She was never empty like this before:
She had an actual life: full, apart from anyone.
There were fields and workshops and dinners out.
She showered and got dressed and left the house.
They didn’t always go together; but they were never apart.
She returned to him, and he to her, full of the world.
Their souls connected in a primal way:
Together, they were intellect and interpretation: science and poetry.
Connected in a primal way—
together they were science and poetry.
She can still smell him all around her—
tries to picture the closets— empty.
THE SYNTAX OF EAGLES
Lost in a labyrinth under the stone—
something moves west
without a chart, listens for sounds
from the world above—
listens from under the twin fig trees
planted beside a ruined chimney.
Something searches in hidden tunnels,
skirts around bottomless pools
in the dark underground.
Something from the world of light
moves toward the rising sun—
traces its progress along uneven walls.
Overhead, two fig trees stand guard
beside the skeleton of a house; wind lisps
through bones in the syntax of eagles.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Not a month old, Boomer has no thought
of giving up his lamb-wings,
becoming a stodgy sheep; melting into the mold
of his white sire, his freckled dam.
He's mismatch—Boomer, short for Boomerang,
roguish splotches on shoulder and rump.
He gazes at Cowboy, shepherd-dog
who never learned to herd, but hotdogs around
the edges of the flock. Is this a friend?
Cowboy grabs a stick, teasing
to play. Boomer's up for the only game
he knows: head-on-head. A chase.
Mother-ewe stamps at the dog.
No honesty in a canine, no guarantee
he won't devour her child. Instinct,
or curiosity corroded?
Cowboy grins and bows. Boomer butts.
Dog nuzzles the lamb's ear, sheeplet pirouettes
then boomerangs back. Imagine,
this unfledged lamb trying to fly, to play
with his mother's enemy.
The first hot day of summer.
The old man wandered off alone, as if
thinking of summers with dogs gone by.
I caught the new puppy by her collar,
attached a long-lead. “Track
him!”—something I never taught her,
but she’s nose to the ground,
and off we go, up a gravel path, across
blister-blacktop to a chain-link fence;
a gate—it swings open to a kindergarten
play-yard; toys of all colors
scattered on the ground. And there
an old man’s wandering between jungle-
gym and swings as if searching
for his childhood. And, licking his wrinkled
hand, my pup: pupil
in the elementary school of scent;
of searching out what’s lost; of finding.
We worked down the rush of current
over boulders bright as moonlight
without a moon; light trapped in stone,
earth glowing along the banks of Silver-
fork like snow. But it was summer.
Surge of creek so the walls of canyon
trembled. Already past midnight,
how long had we been searching against
water’s ecstasy of running? Still
my dog found a way, skirting the grip
and pull of the flow, its cold blessing.
I thought I heard a sound soft
above snowmelt-roar. Comfort
of the great owl, or was it angels.
Wings would gather over a lost boy,
singing him to sleep.
We had the chimneysweep out this afternoon, and when he saw Twelfie he was smitten—got on his cellphone and called I don't know who, and we're expecting a young lady to come pick him up any minute. I'm going to miss him! He's fast asleep in a dog crate by the wood stove, a little speckled angel. On the other hand, I can look forward to a full night's sleep….
Born on Twelfth Night in the dark.