Monday, January 06, 2014

Birth of a Lamb

—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis

—Michael Cluff, Corona, CA

Zoe Charles
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
ground running.

Apron proper
she enters the catering service
plans how to polish off
the rest of her dead-beat debtors
with new
interesting versions
of fresh seafood appetizers
milk-based entrees
based on recipes
from her home state
right next to another
where mad cow disease
enigmatically reappeared
so recently.
Pastor Diomedes
will call her soon;
the Ladies of Mercy
support group
truly admires
Ms. Charles' superb
scrumptious 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
without reserve
except for the waves and weather
which are allowed to dictate
his new cosmology. 

—Michael Cluff


(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.


—Katy Brown
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.


—Katy Brown

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 writes:
We just had a Twelfth Night gift. Twelfie. The catch is, 
his mother can't seem to give milk. So here we are 
with a bummer-lamb. He's full of zip but is sort of an outcast 
among sheep; no one cozies up to him, 
he hangs around the fringes. Hatch and I are his mother. 
He'll nurse on anything—jacket sleeves, elbows…. 
Here's a very fuzzy pic—Twelfie trying to nurse 
on Hatch's pant leg in our shambles of an office, 
with Cowboy wondering what this world is coming to.

—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.

(from Taylor Graham's new book, What the Wind Says
about another lamb that Cowboy had to contend with)


—Taylor Graham

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.

(prev. pub. in What the Wind Says)


—Taylor Graham

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.


Our thanks to today's contributors! Katy Brown and Taylor Graham will be reading this coming Wednesday night at Red Alice's Poetry Emporium, Shine Cafe, 14th & E Sts., Sac., 8pm. Be there!

Oh—and Twelfie has already been adopted! Shortly after the above letter, Taylor Graham wrote:
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….


Today's LittleNip:

Once Arden said, "Why is it that one sheep is called a sheep and multiple sheep are also called sheep? It should be shoop and sheep. Like, 'Oh, look, there goes a shoop,' and 'Wow, there goes a lot of sheep'.

—Riley Carney, The Fire Stone



—Taylor Graham

Born on Twelfth Night in the dark. 
We found him at first light. His mother wouldn’t 
couldn’t give him milk. In the kitchen he nursed 
my sleeve, your pantlegs, chin—did everything but purr. 
Asleep now as a front-door stop. 
Goodbye to sleep, good midnight, tiny sheep. 
Just look what perfect hooves he has.