DOG-WALK WITH THISTLE
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The leash in my left hand, with my right
I pull upstart Star-thistle from the edge
of bike-path, edge of town. I could never
strip that species from our earth where
under-gods keep pushing it up, a golden
bounty of blossoms; toxic to horses.
Noxious weed, but a treat for my sheep,
who’ve denuded our acres of stars. Beyond
our fences, star-thistle blooms its secret
of seemingly everlasting life, its seed
concealed in a spiny crown. Muted-green,
it veils the distant hills as it advances.
We can’t crack its hold. In my right fist
a bouquet handful of pretty, prickly stars.
She stirs the sponge
to open its catacombs of trapped
air, she punches down
the dough, lets a powder of grain
sift through her fingers,
cement dust into crevices
after collapse, a building pounded
down. She feels the earth
rearranging itself, shifting in sleep
and wonders about
the lands where men tunnel
a labyrinth seven stories deep as
of mice eating mazes,
battle rats on reconnaissance
undermining, and if
it all collapses underfoot.
starter. The bread will be sour.
15 MINUTES TO GET OUT
The fire jumped the ridge.
Evacuation’s always untimely—
say it with an accent not quite verging
on panic—but it isn’t permanent.
Unless it is.
Grab the really important stuff. Forget
that favorite old vinyl,
Gieseking playing Beethoven;
the almost microscopic petal by petal
perfect sketch your grandmother
made of a forget-me-not.
TWO RIDGES SOUTH
This once-in-a-decade gathering of friends—
we’d talk of dogs and verse and mountain hikes.
How could we know we’d fill our lungs
with smoke, just to be together? And share
the maps we carry in the twistings of our minds:
this has burned; here, the fire turned away,
and people—with their dogs and cats,
horses in trailers, trunks of whatever photos
they could grab—returned to find their homes
intact, or not. Smoke from not-so-distant
fires. In decades past we had other
things to talk about, and yet the same. Dogs
and verse, horses and mountains, always
a hint of smoke that downdrafts off our high
points or broadcasts silent on the wind.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
A response to Carol Louise Moon’s
“Trees: a Higher Language” [see Sunday's post]
Carol Louise, I smile to think
how alike, our impressions, our sensations:
our giddy willingness to drink
up or down all manner of green saturations,
alike overlorded by redwood towers,
their needles near-stars.
You, Nora, and I have all dusted our shoes
in the unquantifiable duffs of giants:
Muir Woods, and the Tamalpais hues,
all shadow and cool, and the hundredfold-pliants,
the bendables, laurels and sorrels, those powers,
and the odd fallen spars,
today these are yours, Carol Louise, and today
we made for such forest, the Armstrong Redwoods
in the Russian River’s back pocket; similar gem-tray
of level green forest floor, yes; but the dead floods,
the ghost creek, the bygone rapids, the dry showers,
all throat-parched sand bar.
But we feel the mandala-sacral sublime
even where no stream runs. Behindhill, river
still drifts, somewhat drought-skimmed, time-
pared, heat-idled. Still here, the giver
of nonpareils for us unembitters, unsours
the black-peeling plant-scars:
In a green fraction, bellies on leaf,
a dual tan-and-shadow female creation,
one doe and a second doe, nestling wheat-sheaf
close, and, its young skin-color more striation
than speckle, a fawn between them embowers,
all peace without mar.
This, too: once we stride echoless under
a thousand two hundred years’ umbrage.
Carefully as we pace, we trail no heel-thunder,
then a dry storm-clap above us, a breakage,
a split-second strew of lead-heavy flowers:
the boughs fell not far.
What a difference, should the branch-trajectory
alter just six or seven hairs.
What a green-deep sword-fern symmetry
in these trees of ours, in those
mandalas of yours.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
She was six-eight, muscular,
Wore longsleeve white
Oxford cloth shirts under bib overalls
In all seasons.
Nobody questioned her,
She was Mitty, and no one ever did.
Second day of grad student orientation
She grinned and said “This is the most
Tight-assed English department
I’ve ever seen. Let’s go get a drink.”
A few years later (Fewer somehow than the rest of us),
She finished her dissertation, possibly about
A play that a Hemingway mistress
Had written, and which had come within
Actually ever read or seen.
Somehow it didn’t matter,
And Mitty, with really nothing then to defend,
Had also, being not just an English major,
But also aware of opportunities in the humanities
Designed, threw, and cast the plates,
The bowls, cups and dishes for her own dissertation
Defense. And brought with her the leftovers
From the five-star restaurant
Where she’d worked weekends
No one questioned her at the defense. But she
Said to me: “Jonezzzzz,” as she pronounced it,
We don’t look good in sweat.” She was right,
And I probably should have listened.
But last I heard, she was teaching
In Bahrain; I ended up in Sacramento.
But if you get the right aloha shirt,
It really doesn’t matter.
MARTHA NEVER MENTIONED
That she lived across the street
From an abandoned golf course.
And given the first
Few years of our relationship
I didn’t notice nor did it seem to matter.
We were people of the dark: she’d
Meet me when my family liquor store
Would close, those weekends
When she’d make the train
Down from Chicago.
We were bookish people,
We thought, those
Nights: Ferlinghetti, and maybe a trip
Through town, mostly just to
Feel like I had a girl, or to
See my customers, if
They were okay in Baker Park.
They mostly were, and they’d
Offer us hits from their
MD 20/20 bottles,
But usually we went back
To my place, and talked
Poetry, drank Gallo red
Till dawn. I’d put her
On the morning train back
To Chicago, and feel sad,
And wonder about that field
Across from her folks’ house,
There in the dark.
The pencil wrote a report
With several mistakes in it
But it had no eraser
So the pencil drew a pistol
Which sounded its own report
And erased the author