—Jane Blue, Sacramento
In the deli she goes through the cold case like a criminal
investigation that’s hit a dead end.
Now she’s jittery on the patio in the wind, talking
into her cell, green table umbrellas crushed and flailing,
almost inside out, like the upheavals of love, those
entanglements you used to have. She closes the phone,
her expression crumpled, crestfallen, dials again, then
stares into it at arm’s length as though it’s a book
and she’s forgotten her glasses. You’re inside,
looking out a window, the door is open, you can hear
leaves on the pavement chattering like birds. Her copper
hair catches the morning light, she’s backlit, a bower
behind her like an illustration for a fairy-tale. She twists
her torso, scratches her arms. Is it a connection
she needs? You’re here escaping the whine
of a powerwasher’s compressor, you’ve accepted
a painter’s bid, the young one, in goggles, shorts,
Canadian Mountie boots. As soon as you get out of bed
he is clinging to the siding like a giant insect.
He’s hacked the roses away so as not to be caught
in their thorns. Pruning’s good for them, he says, always
on the verge of producing their bitter love-apples.
say who you are
where you’re from
best money can buy
when i was a kid,
from the K street projects
were like my skin
dirty, callused, peeling
i wore shoes
from the segunda,
secondhands, for a buck
till they barked
flopping front ends
patched with tape
nothing to do
everything to do
being dirty, smelling bad,
but must have
i remember hungry
and no matter
how many times
i changed the cardboard
in my shoes
by my hardened, unwashed socks,
or wondered why
everyone in school
i’d just lower my head
pretend not to notice,
then go home
to our house
in the projects,
where it was safe
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
This morning the sun rose through a notch
between pine-top mountains. A winter sun
white-blinding as I took the curve into town.
But in this winter of drought, a rainbow-halo
around that sun.
Last night you saw the same
concentric halos around the moon—
micro-moon they call it, so distant, yet
huge. When apogee coincides with full
moon, there's magic in the air.
And now a rainbow-halo
on the sun. Presage of rain? Or just a trick
of sky, dry lightning, kindling to a spark.
Angel-wings of flame. Might I see it
as hope against darkness, a hymn of praise?
It’s a matter of syntax.
Nothing but a chimney left standing
after fire and wind swept through. Wild
growing things erect walls in what used to be
plowed field; labyrinths where a man
can lose himself, just walking to work.
And the eagle. Beak and talons,
beautiful as it soars against a rising sun.
Forever hungry to live.
Small birds have raided the two fig trees
that stand barren of fruit. But see
how lovely the trees in their tatters
of leaves, white limbs extended
WIND IN THE SHOPPING CARTS
The word by seers or sibyls told…
still floats upon the morning wind.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
My dog leads me
diagonally across the painted lines
on asphalt. From rooftop a crow
calls down to shoppers pushing their carts,
to my dog who trots, nose knee-level
where a certain scent hovers
in early-morning sun. Even here,
the food co-op, is the wind’s country,
though it skulks like a prince in disguise
between buildings, before bursting out
across parking lot, the hoods
of cars. Abruptly my dog
snatches a brief wind-drift—around
a corner, and there stands
our quarry, Hatch, waiting to be found.
Such revelations if only we’re
watching, listening for an unexpected
chord of wind and crow;
breathing a momentary scent—
the elemental givens
always changing, eternal, new.
My dog and I, these shoppers, a crow—
each with equal right to inhale
and be lifted, to hear the wind’s word.
—Michael Cluff, Corona
We kids found Santa's
boots in Belinda's backyard
right around Groundhog Day.
Pete said they looked like
when Mr. Raleigh sat on
during their open house
The white of fake snow
just on the spot where
toes met tanned heavy
That is all I remember
from that season
fairly near fifty years ago.
And what, pray tell
Were all those bugs
Doing in my boots?
Certainly not living
Happily ever after
Once I sprayed
Over and over
Dead, yes dead
A fella needs to
Put his foot in the sock
And then in the boot
Without dealing with
A bunch of uninvited
Visitors crawling all over
Like unwelcome people
Who pretend to pay you
A compliment, but only
If they can weave it
Into a reprimand delivered
In an ugly voice
“That’s good information
But you could have found
A better way to tell me”
I am prohibited by law from
Smashing in the faces of
Those who offend me
Though there is almost no
Limit on what I can do to
Bugs in my boots!
—Photo by D.R. Wagner