DOUBTING THOMAS (Fuzzy)
—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO
For years I've fed this feral cat at 4 a.m.,
a crouching mound of fur, Satanic black, with yellow eyes
that never blink. I call him "Doubting Thomas."
I place his can of Fancy Feast five feet or so from him.
He doesn't stir till I go in the house
and douse the porch light.
Then he leaps and cleans the can
and saunters off till 4 a.m. the following morning
when he's back again, eyes ablaze, crouching.
This pact I have with Doubting Thomas
helps me realize how God must feel
eons after the Big Bang.
Some folks, you see, aren't certain God lit that match.
Some believe the Big Bang just happened.
Out of nothing they believe something came to be.
I think the cat I feed at 4 a.m. agrees with them.
I'm sure he'd tell you Fancy Feast always was,
always will be and always will remain the same.
I wonder what that cat will do the day I die
when he arrives at 4 a.m. and finds the can
from yesterday empty where he left it.
There's no mystery as to what he'll do.
He'll find another porch like mine where every morning
without a bang Fancy Feast just happens.
SIREN OF THE STREETS
Whenever she comes by
it's always the same thing.
I make her comfortable
and then she leaves.
I tell her she's a harlot
hooking up all night
with God knows who
but in her case God
looks the other way.
ask if I know her.
I ask them do I look
like that kind of man?
Peter denied Christ thrice
but I make Peter a piker
when it comes to denying
this siren of the streets.
Once in a while a neighbor,
smitten as I am, takes her in
because she's attractive
and it's peaceful until
some morning very early
she's on my deck again
willing to do anything
for a nosh and a drink.
Since no one is up
at that hour to see me
I sit on the deck
and she leaps on my lap
and I stroke her until
she's a Lamborghini
purring at a red light.
Then she drives off,
leaving me on the deck
She must have been spayed.
Never had any kittens.
What might Pope Francis
think about this?
Her kittens, after all,
would have been beautiful
just as she is,
harlot or not.
CATS ARE POETRY (Maybellene)
In your mind you hear
all day long
but no poem arrives.
The words are locked
in a cat fight,
You hope the words
sleep well tonight and
wake in orderly fashion,
the way your cats
stretch at dawn
and wait to be fed
with feline decorum.
In the morning
the poem arrives
word by word,
chips off a diamond,
so you stop shaving,
grab a pen and
You write the words
as you hear them,
tweak a line or two,
and go spelunking
in your mind for
the right title.
Later, in celebration,
you tote a blast horn
to the roof
of the building
what agnostics suspect
and atheists know:
Cats are poetry.
Dogs are prose.
—James Lee Jobe, Davis
I am asleep in the reclining chair,
wrapped in an old blanket I'm fond of,
with cold air coming in through the open window.
A little Englishman,
not even five feet tall,
walks up to me.
He is very old;
his mustache and hair are white,
and he is checking things off on a clipboard
and talking to himself.
"Is he comfy?
Yes, very comfy.
Yes, very good.
Cool, fresh air?
Then he sees that I am watching him.
"Quite alright, that.
You can open your eyes in this dream.
I'm here to make sure that you have a nice sleep.
Perfectly safe, perfectly fine."
and I have the English watching out for me.
A blessed life.
WHAT I SAID TO THE BEAUTIFUL WOMAN, STANDING NAKED IN HER DOORWAY
—James Lee Jobe
You are beautiful, even the desert sunset
is pale beside you.
This world is the wilted wildflower, and you
are the five petaled rose.
You are the Madonna, Gaia, the goddess
of creation, Diana of the hunt!
You are the golden stars
that bless the sky with light!
You are wit and grace
and a measure of poetry.
profess my love.
For I do not wish to be your lover,
there are lesser men for that.
I do not need to marry you,
to mate with you.
And I am not going to make love to you
in sacred moonlight.
profess my love.
I want to be
I will be strong for you
when all others have weakened.
I will make you laugh,
and defend you.
I will not change your life, and you
will not change mine.
In this life I know that I cannot be a man
without a sister to love.
SHINING LIKE THE EYES OF A CHILD
—James Lee Jobe
I wake up on a ridge top,
Deep in pine woods.
Long have I been sleeping
Under the green boughs.
Below me, in the river canyon,
I can hear a woman crying.
Or is that the river I hear?
A red tail hawk makes a circle in the air
Below me, but above the river.
There is still so much to do.
A shelter must be built, simple at first,
Then more complex, with rooms
That have functions assigned.
Here, we sleep. Here, we bathe.
Before my labor is even begun,
Night comes to stripe the sky with purple,
And then covers all the world with silence.
A silence so lovely that even the forest smiles.
Me, the river canyon, the pine ridge top,
All blanketed with darkness,
And above it all, high, the stars,
Shining like the eyes of a child.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
In a storefront window, a platter
of ladybug canapés. Crimson
wings polka-dotted white, as if briefly
come to light on crackers
the way ladybugs in a November
far from this city will swarm
on a downed log, its bark crisp
brown; thousands of lady-beetles
pulsing red life like a last heartbeat
of fall; and the lost hunter
will walk right by, with other things
on his mind; his voice an echo
of “help!” A forest labyrinth
eats away at memory and directions,
shows him a cave full of bones.
Skid-trails appear to vanish
without street signs. A city lacks
this kind of darkness. He wonders if
he’ll ever find his camp, his car,
his way back home. His luck.
Did he even notice
the wonder of the ladybugs?
Nothing but beach. The float-plane wouldn’t
be back for a week. The wind off the Gulf
was cold. The cabin’s oil stove didn’t work.
He built an oven of river-rock with a driftwood
smoker for all the salmon he meant to catch.
In the oven she baked sourdough bread
from starter she’d stowed in her pack. They
set off hiking inland; got stopped by log-jams
from the great tsunami. He fished his limit.
She fished her dreams—no living river
could spawn so much swimming red-gold-
silver. They beach-combed: giant lightbulbs
from across the ocean; fisherman’s floats
in bubbled glass blue-green as wonder; and
oblong plastic-foam in rose and ochre. For her
he carved rose and ochre knights and bishops,
rooks, pawns, kings and queens. They played
chess on the cabin’s wood-plank table.
She watched a three-masted rock sail forever
past the point. He counted days by salmon-
runs. She kept her time by tides. He forgot
about the float-plane. She never would.
JUST PEACHY KEEN
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
The screen-printing shop
Was in a garage, and mostly
Under the radar: we’d take
Jobs that commercial shops
Wouldn’t handle. So when
The guy came in with
An order for shirts that
Read “Life’s a Beach and
Then You Die,” we didn’t
Think much about sense,
Just came up with a great
Design featuring an
Umbrella drink and the Reaper
And printed up a bunch.
Guy never came back.
And we never sold a shirt.
I misspelled something.