at Sacramento Voices
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole
She feels all that joy can offer.
Harsh winds change course when
they meet her breath. Boulders
soften edges for her leaning.
When she opens her eyes
swans on the Great Pond
dip and raise their necks,
drop pearls from their beaks.
She is a small raft of ripples
bearing light and color
through water that is sky,
sky that is water.
Sword-like reeds reflecting
metaphor cutting words from one
who simply vanished. She tastes
only an occasional shadow
peppered with regret.
When she asks the Great Pond
of what does joy consist,
the water whispers back
Any answer is momentary,
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
The last of the mystery harvest has come in.
It isn’t just that the underEarth of the gods
yielded the grains we cram into silos and bins.
Haven’t we stripped the natural husk that shrouds,
guards, nourishes, wards the mealworm from, what begins
nude nearly fetal seed against what are the odds
which direly needs thick dark and a sheath around skin?
What food don’t we hull, peel, shuck-crack, rind-slice, expel
the oil or essence of, process, pulverize?
Once amaranth kept its enigma-veil, its breath
of reed-fog, oarslap. From a dark current might bell
a monotone tune where a soul-heavy ferryboat plies.
A netherworld grain’s ground up in my cereal.
If I eat my own ghost, will it shorten my afterdeath?
THE SILENCE WHEN WE TALK
I think it started about the time
Vector Control began spraying mosquitoes
what, seven, eight-odd years ago? We closed
doors, sealed windows, cut off air conditioning
so as not to lung-suck the odorless up through
the intake. I think it started about
the time you came into the room,
one you’d entered before with your
mystifying smile after things you
had not been getting anywhere near
enough of, maybe nurturing, maybe—what
exactly? And for some reason your eyes
were tearing, nothing histrionic or tragic,
just a subtle welling of salts from your dark
eyes, a wound unable to help
suppurating. And something new
about you entered into my bloodstream
forever after, you with your sweet head-on
gaze and your mouth’s endless kissing
enigmas pressing upon any room’s barely
breathable mosquito sky. Is there a word
for a substance harmless in itself but whose
advent inside a resistant person does
death upon all the vital organs? All I know
is you came upon this place and found me again,
and I ever since have been killing me killing me
killing me heart and stomach
to keep some last unbreakable
silence when we talk.
The second day I found two guppies dead on the bottom of the tank
Just like had happened last year with one of the goldfish
None before showed any signs of being sick
I guess while swimming along they just both had a sudden heart attack
I shoveled the dead fish out with a net and threw them down the toilet
I’m not like the Mr. Rogers show I once saw
where Mr. Rogers dug a grave and made a tombstone for his dead fish
Still I hate it when any animal dies on me
even if is just a fish
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
“You got any dark clothes?”
She asked. “I’m a poet; I have
Lots of them. Some dark and
Gloomy as Poe’s last hours,
Others black as the pit. Still
More that would, beneath
A waning moon, have a woman
Howling for her demon lover."
"That’s Henley and Coleridge,"
I said, but I don’t think
They’d mind. Though my
Favorites,” I said, "are leathery
And grim as the Ramones and
Early punk rock: toxic,” I said.
"That’s not what I meant,” she said.
JAPANESE TEA GARDEN
—Claire J. Baker
We order jasmine tea.
A kimono-clad server offers:
"Jasmine fields imbue tea leaves
grown beside them." Inhaling
we sip steaming fragrance,
gaze upon water-lily pools,
arched bridges, a red pagoda,
mossy lawns, bonsai trees.
We ponder the huge stone Buddha
who holds in left palm
a lotus blossom—
the large enhancing the small.
We vow to remain open to all
the jasmine fields of our lives,
to cross bridges slowly,
drop pond-pebbles gently,
to mingle with crowds
yet steep our own essence.