(After reading “The Garden Shukkei-en” by Carolyn Forché)
—Carlene Wike, Elk Grove
As if in double helix, twined thoughts
meld into experience; lodge in corners
of dreams; leave impressions in the still-wet
putty of days not yet hardened into living.
This is how poems live on, as lichen,
as mistletoe, galls clinging to the tree
of another’s life. Fresh form emerges
born out of the union of reader and read.
There is, in art, an evolution;
who picks up a pen assumes a mantle.
Nothing is original anymore
yet every poem is new.
After midnight, the population of the world
thins; makes room for the peripheral—
Poets and poltergeists, abandon shrouds
and bedclothes, knock about the house
haunted by things unfinished, left behind
or wondered at; unable to rest in peace.
Clocks, aware of the elasticity of hours
before dawn, are not alarmed; merely watch
as shadow dwellers riffle out, seeking the lost
or never attained; phantoms or phrases tucked,
god knows where, that might soften sleep.
Cats and children know about this; seek comfort
in beds of the sweet unconscious who brush
them off or (there, there) pat their heads
and take them in. As night drifts toward dawn
the dear unrested depart, avoid the sun and slip
under beds or covers, gather the shards of sleep.
Life is no clock, ticking forward only—
more like a moon, working its way around
the orb of our experience, waxing, waning,
stirring the sea of memory back and forth,
back and forth, losing nothing, dropping hints.
Sifting the sands of my private beach
I pick up the old bones and polished shells
of my existence, pocket them and, like a child
with a bucket, dig for nigglings, soft-shelled
thoughts still scuttling, resisting brine.
Surveying the cache, I finger life’s single lesson;
these scattered shards grace a common shore.
Nothing found here is uniquely mine. Each life
emerging from all life, crests and crashes,
upholds the rhythm and is added to the soup.
Morning tells such beautiful lies
pats my rumpled head and sighs
and I awaken and accept once more
a sip from the lip of pure possibility
I follow the siren clear to noon,
know that I will be abandoned
by my fickle lover and that soon
alone on the rim of midday
I must suffer the wrath of truth—
ruthless matron with a fallen bosom—
who, like a school-marm, taps my head
turns it toward the lesson.
By nightfall, and all in, I fall in bed
and offer myself to darker dreams
than daylight proffers, the mahogany
knowledge that night must have its say
that every day, in spite of detail
tells the story of our lives,
spells out in three chapters
the arc of our existence.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
to the bone. My puppy says
Before my fingers on the long-line
thaw, we’re past
the soccer field. My pup is
fueled up, flying! Pulling me along,
up the shortcut into woods,
we hit the dirt-bike trail
(47 humps & dips in a hundred yards).
She won’t break stride
except to nudge a bedroll stashed
behind a tree—fresh human
scent! Up to the rodeo grounds,
around the horse arena—
if I could bottle this lightning
if I could sell it, I’d be rich.
The little zoo; three wolves watch
us through fence; my pup
doesn’t flinch, she’s wild &
focused, she’s on-trail. We keep on
running. And here’s our quarry,
Kim, sitting on a bench. I’m out of
breath but energized—
as good as rich.
The sun’s gold coin shines
tiny, high and cold.
Loki is driving me crazy.
Puppy-energy to spare, to annihilate
No time for favorite search-dog games
or running to catch the horizon.
So we seek out
the closest jungle-gym:
explore a world not built for dogs.
Imagine earthquake rubble
in the guise of swinging bridges,
chutes, and spiral slides.
Instruction: dexterity on four legs,
how the hind must follow
where the forefeet lead; a dance
as Earth sashays
underneath. Loki leads me up
the ladder, trusting
there’s safe-landing at the top,
just enough ledge
for balance; trusting
I’d never ask her to walk off
the edge of the world.
Just as rich as Beef Wellington
I embrace the music of Duke Ellington,
made those piano notes really flow
fills me with a warming glow
made his art look so smooth
all granitized hearts he could soothe
into reception of all on earth
to give everyone his or her equal rights bestowed at birth.
—Michael Cluff, Corona, in honor of Black History Month
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