—Taylor Graham, Placerville
They say he placed two long-bones in the sand
to form a cross, and with his forefinger
drew a moving arc, tip to tip tracing a perfect
circle, a compass of the world as it lay
in all directions at his feet. They say the light
dimmed and opened while he watched
for black swans rising,
but maybe they were ravens.
Where their shadows touched a point
of compass, he took his azimuth.
Now we must find that compass made of bones
and sand, and wait till we intuit the rising
of dark birds, the direction of their passing;
till we find the perfect pond where swans float
black in silhouette, unreachable off shore.
Afterwards, all the lords and ladies
scattered to far lands, to tell and retell their
stories to that great therapist, Time;
leaving the ruins to wings of passing birds,
slipstreams of dawn, the scintillations
of stars and, with the progress of seasons,
the same old sun torching golden
splotches of grasses and forbs
between canopies of laurel on the hills.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
They gather out behind
The station, light big cigars.
Tall cans of Red Bull are popped,
And there is much arm-punching,
Everyone silently grateful, always
Silently, that again, they’ve all
Come home whole. If the call
Was an especially challenging
One, the fireworks might come
Out—M-80s, Cherry Bombs,
Don’t ask from where, but
Anything with a good flash and
Bang. Tin cans, metal trash bins
Are particularly in danger.
Sometimes people ask about
The sounds. Repairing
Equipment is the answer,
Cleaning the engine
(They like a clean machine).
But those who know, know.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Some gardens have to be both known
and secret. Our condo association has rules
conceived expressly to tame such wild sweet
seedings and growings as Nora loves each daybreak
with her compact new garden hose. Oh, Nora
adores as girls do and much as her mother does
roses, perhaps the pink and yellow hybrid
odorous and sensual, maybe still more
the Sombreuil transplanted from Empire Mine
State Park where we married. And so the archway,
the metal archway trellis, rises like a Foresthill Bridge
but festooned all the way up with thorn and cling,
and aroma so sweet it’s a spice in spring. Yea high too
the bamboo. Casualty: the flamboyant and buttery
cannas, water-greedy, the ones I gave a voice to
à la Louise Glück, so long ago. But all these glories,
envy of neighbors and butt of injunctions, come
a cropper before the regulations, no green fuse to ignite
above fence level. Envoi: Be you never too sure
Nora and I don’t want it exactly this way. Are not
poets, so many poets, just like this: daring,
extravagant, prodigal of language, and all the while
tending the language garden humbly and low in its
bunker, half-squelched at mulch level,
ready to die the moment the gardener
lays down the trowel, the small spade, or the rake?
WHEN MY UNRAVELING COMES
When my unraveling comes, it will be in shrivels,
in spools of yarn, coarse packthread out from around,
no, inside, my midriff. In Braveheart terms, it’ll bé found
like that fake disemboweling, dwarf-yanked swivels
of sausage from under the garment of partner dwarf
tugged sickeningly because lightly as any scarf
-upon-scarf catena slick from the silk top hat
—and Wallace not as yet siphoned like a vat.
How apropos: to pick sausage for making mock
of all that emptying of living guts,
when of course those phony guts are the real knock-
wurst worst whose likeness lives in me, and those nut-
bag lengths, raw filthy reels of me the same
ceremonially ribbony strips for which you first came.
Let the Tombeau de Couperin of Maurice Ravel
waft over my carcass after the Big Reveal.
—James Lee Jobe, Davis
Everyone deserves a day off,
We all need a day to relax
with our loved ones,
to catch up on things at home,
to do some cleaning.
And even Death needs
to take care of his garden,
to pull the weeds
and pick the tomatoes.
Tomatoes and potatoes
and green beans;
no one has to die today.
Death's garden blooms.
—James Lee Jobe
I love the fragrance of your tiny garden,
And I love those herbs that rest below your belly.
In your teeth, you hold the skin of my love
The way a hummingbird holds a single drop of nectar.
The winds of this valley furrow your brow,
And you sing whenever there is music.
The children are grown, and now their children come.
When heaven calls to us, we will sleep together.
If there is reincarnation, then let a day come
When I breathe in your garden again.
—James Lee Jobe
Look at you,
White-haired and sweet
In the garden,
Pulling out weeds.
That is just the blink of an eye!
Your tomatoes are indeed nice.
—Medusa, with thanks to our gardeners with their poems of cool gardens and hot fires, including Kevin Jones, who says his son-in-law is a retired firefighter, and Katy Brown for her photos of water creatures from around the lake in my neighborhood, including Taylor Graham's black swan of D.R. Wagner lore (see last Saturday's post).