Wednesday, January 15, 2014


—Photo by Katy Brown

—Katy Brown, Davis

From beyond a curtained aurora,
they advance—

beating their white drums with
a poet’s white thigh bones

not touching the ground:

these red-winged angels
sent among us—

shimmering in starlight,
chanting an atonal hymn.

Do not approach.
They crackle with lightning.

They sing for a god who burst
bushes into towering flame

and twisted men into sculpted salt.
They come with forewarning. . . . .

—Tom Goff, Carmichael
If you should see me boarding the bus,
do I look vexed?
Prunefaced old fart, muttering grizzled old cuss,
behind my stare, I’m young and avidly sexed.
I climb the greased and thinly guttered steps:
I may absently take the reserved-for-disabled seat.
Pluck my sleeve if you know me, and where I get off.
Soon in an Alzheimer’s moment, I’ll drop the name Goff
like an illicit butt flicked lit from the half-open window.
What have I ever known, what do I know now?
I know, shuffling down the too-high steps: don’t slip.
My faraway gaze into the sunglare
equals one poem, just one, written or unwritten.
The opening door, the brake, discharge passengers, blast excess air.
The driver struggles for patience, oracle hardbitten,
reluctant to let slip his bits of mystery.
Where does this bus go? What does she want, all the fricking facts
of every fricking stop I make? But this is public history.
As for me, I’m listening to Arnold Bax:
Tintagel, Enchanted Summer, The Garden of Fand,
all lodged in my head where I keep my staticky broadband.
Smoke and rearview mirrors: the bus sidesidles, halts, then backs.
A wheelchair, hoisted aboard. Bus poetry.  

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

Rats: But of course they blamed the Plague on
the Jews for poisoning the wells, they assumed.
Easier than rats to catch and helter-skelter burn.
Jan. 9 1349 in Basel. She walked through Basel
6 centuries + 2 decades later, when Europe had
recouped its population and shushed a lot of its
guilt. It wasn’t just Basel. Black waves moved
in all directions. Strasbourg, were she ate chou-
croute garnie. Freiburg where she lived one
foggy year. Nobody spoke of Plague. Old news.
Any color’s black without light. Once she saw
a rat scuttling its load of real or assumed guilt.
We know so much more now. We poison the
rats who poison whoever eats them. She kept
on walking past Courthouse and City Hall.          

black kitten Blink
to be Pharaoh
but however
much he elongates
upward toward
the beacon of his almond
pupiled eyes, the
more his center of gravity holds
him to
the furniture

Van Gogh’s stained-glass bat wings
spread full-out from gaps in the broken tower.
Light shines through
a Van Gogh night, bright as skin,
as wing-leather stretched
tight across the white drum
beat with white leg bones into music, life.


—Taylor Graham

We laid the old dog in the ground
beside a young toyon.

Tough scrub, evergreen with promise
of red berries, toyon’s not common here;
a bird must have dropped its seed in passing.

Next morning the old dog’s daughter came,
sniffing for news.

She paused at the fresh-dug mound;
stopped short at the toyon.

What might plants absorb
of our used-up breath, our scent, and hold it
close, then let it out again, cleansed?

She thrust her muzzle deep into sleek
green foliage; inhaled.

Leaf by leaf, so slowly, as if an image
passed, she breathed-in

what the leaves gave back.


—Taylor Graham

Worn out boots, weathered, leather stiff
as brick—
brick wall still standing after half
the building fell down.
I was grateful for those boots,
too light for earthquake search but
they were all I had.
They eased me through tight places,
crawling after my dog
through a hole hammered in brick wall,
third-floor level, into factory
that had no stairway anymore. Those
boots shook with every after-
shock through rubble as I watched
my dog disappear
under hanging ceilings
where, even in those boots, I didn’t dare.
My boots stepped me down
to pavement street-level, with my
dog, and back home.
I still keep those boots,
cement dust worked tight into seams
and laces. I don’t wear them
anymore, but feel a quiver
up through earth, even on solid floor.


Today's LittleNip:

—Olga Blu Browne, Sacramento

I have witnessed the tides of time,
where the winds whispers are taboo,
and watched echoes through moon-
lit doorways, where images stay in
the mirror.
       Remember me?
I am more than my skin.


—Medusa, with a reminder that Taylor Graham will be reading with Robert Twiss at The Other Voice in Davis this Friday night. It's a busy weekend in Sac poetry, in fact—check out the blue board (under the green board at the right of this column) for all the details of readings, and while you're scrolling down the green board, check it out for workshops (under the "brain").

Cowboy relaxes on the porch. 
Between front door & car. 
See my boots, muddy from last time? 
He won’t be left behind.
(from "Dog Tweets" in Taylor Graham's new book,
What the Wind Says from Lummox Press)
—Photo by Taylor Graham