—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Never alone—I always travel
with my partner, seaman of the fluid
dynamics of air, seeker of doors
that dissolve against leavings.
He’s his own kind of language, following
songs of angels to the overlook.
Those angels fierce as August that grants
no rain, and then without warning
they sprinkle the air, a mist-
spray to moisten the scents of every
season. Again my dog
has opened a journey, his nose
a compass at crossroads
that lack a posted sign. He’s found
the portage, the boat;
from shore a rhythmic rowing,
a pulse between water and sky.
THE QUAKE’S LABYRINTH
There appeared to be no door.
Not true. We climbed stairs to a landing,
and a door, but it was jammed.
Minor de-construct of earthquake,
its rhythmic pulse that knocked down half
a building here, dissolved some walls,
left others standing—disconnect of
highrise labyrinth—and jammed this door.
Beyond, a long bare corridor with
countless open doors. The secret lives
of offices past closing time,
one night watchman making his rounds.
Where was he? We had no leave,
no prybar to open that door. But a dog
is license and language
of her own. Open sesame, she wriggled
through. Door by door—a slat
of light let us watch her—mirrors on
mirrors she disappeared; back
into view, diminishing, progressing.
Finally, returned. No one there,
she said. But so much more labyrinth
beyond what might not be a door.
Endless passageways of nameless doors
where a person could go insane with numbers;
wilderness of diagrams labeled “You Are Here.”
Stuck for hours. Impact of soles on marble;
the stone will always win. In the old days, there
was a quitting-whistle, a bell from the tower,
duet of metal and breeze. Today the world
is 24/7. At last you find the outer door, past a man
staring blankly at his paycheck, which will never
be enough. Everyone else is gazing skyward
at a peregrine, raptor of city-birds,
hoping to watch him dive.
I Glory, Gory, Gone
From 1774 to 1782 our Revolutionary
War cost us about 50 thousand lives
200 years later traffic deaths reached
About that sum each year
II Open the Floodgates
I used to play in quiet La Ballona Creek
Admire the pollywogs and tiny frogs
Sniff the less than palatable mix of algae,
Wastewater, and who knows what else
Then the powers that be decided
To manipulate its course and they
Brought in tons of cement to convert
The creek into a flood control channel
Another such channel nearby
Lay bone dry most of the year so
Some people thought surely it could
Be converted into a major highway
That would have worked just fine if
Only automobiles could survive the
Several feet of rapidly gushing water
The channel withstood each winter
Now I look at our elaborate freeway
System so many people rely on and
Die on each year and cannot fail to see
Each highway as a flood control channel
III Loser Take All
Our forefathers sprayed mace in the eyes of
A brutal monarchy and kept it at a safe distance
Meanwhile, the very temptations of hierarchy that
Created and sustained the monarchy embedded
Themselves into our culture and stained our history
HAVE BEEN A WARNING
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
Worked for years, thought
It was a career, maybe
Even a vocation.
Just another job.