—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Thursdays are my worst days: the fatigue
just after rehearsal night. The traffic…why
in God’s name, Thursday? Everything in league
to thwart me—(anger issues I deny?)
Today, my record rage. A monster accident
I deked and dodged around, quite unconcerned
if four fire trucks meant no mere fenders bent,
but injury, blood. What mattered was, I burned.
So where has my compassion gone? What harm
ten minutes late for work? Quite brave, the cool
old man fresh from the wreck who stood diverting us.
You’ll know if you read this, you who are the charm,
the tenderness of my life, I hate when fools,
spells, karmas delay us, separate us, keep hurting us.
What’s in your trunk in the attic? Medusa’s prompt
for poems this week. What last word won’t you have?
Or symphony still half-drafted, dance unstomped?
What inhibitions breed as glaciers calve
in the blood, to keep my undone all undone?
The American Scholar for this month divulges
Roger Grenier’s bemusings on such trunks.
The contents of mine? Dust, mold, or moth—such bulges
of yellowed whim as may atomize, dry vapors
of crumbling leaves and crumpled states of funk,
the torque and torture stuffing my inner jerk.
What sings out past the burn point of my papers?
The shine and softness and youth of you? My evil,
my lovely slaying my termite and my weevil,
you are—but why?—my undertow, my subliminal
wisp, my murmur, my meme, my tumor, my germinal.
Each election cycle we put forth
Candidates who take positions
On major issues, which sets the
Stage for a continuous debate
Will this candidate take actions
That represent the best interests
Of the nation, or are their programs
Just part of a special interest agenda?
It would be easy to get around
All these inflammatory issues
If we just put an amoeba into the
Highest office of the land
Birthers would drive themselves
Crazy trying to trace the family
Roots of single-cell organisms
Who divide to multiply
Polls and pols alike would simply
Not reach the amoeba who has
No connections with political parties
Or with rating schemes
The arguments for and against
Harvesting embryonic stem cells
Would be politely withheld while
An amoeba is in office
We needn’t drain our resources electing
Both a president and a vice president
When an amoeba could easily just
Split in two and fulfill both roles
COMES HOME AGAIN
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
They’d fly back to Kewanee, Illinois
Every year to start their season.
Coming low out of the Southeast,
Out of Chicago’s Meigs Field,
They’d buzz their sister’s place.
Annie’d stayed home to tend
Family affairs. She lived
In the house behind us.
Suddenly, brilliantly colored
Biplanes roaring out of the
Pale blue Illinois spring
Sky. A Red Baron streaming
A wingwalker in bright tights
Just above the elms
Shouting, “Hi, Annie,
Scared the shit out of
In the neighborhood.
Except Annie and me.
We’d be out in our
Back yards cheering,
It was over,
We’d nod, smile,
And go back inside.
LUKE, PETER, AND I DIDN’T
REALLY WANT TO KNOW
Used to donate my chapbooks
To my hometown library. They
Seemed grateful, and put them
In special collections.
In the basement. Got a letter
From them once talking about
How the library book club
Was doing something different
That year—local authors—and
Each member would take one
Writer and make him/her
Their own. I could only
Think of the Glidden boys,
Who grew up to be Luke Short
And Peter Dawson, Wild West
Novelists (No, they never
Went there) and, well, me.
Small book club, I thought.
Library also sent
Their reader’s guide.
Read it with interest till I came
To the fifth question:
“How, where, and when
Did your author die?”
Was quite a while before
I sent them anymore
Of my chaps.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
He’s up before dawn, when his stoop—
that spinal question mark—throws no shadow
as he journeys to the kitchen stove.
Through the window, subdued hues of moonlight
balancing the thought of sun. It was a full
Harvest Moon. He remembers walking between
rows of corn and beans when he was tall
and straight, and young. Dust on a farm-road,
maple trees in snowfall. His dog churning
a wake of bubbles, chasing after a stick
in the pond. The crow that spoke to him
from the well-house dark. How many revelations
when you live so long beyond threescore years
and ten. Here’s the sanctuary of a kitchen table
in dim morning, coffee brewing black
for the bowl she would always set before him.
Nothing can cross her face out of his memory,
his past balanced between moon and sun.
He hunches over his coffee bowl as if giving
thanks for a humble meal. His life.
A DOOR LEFT OPEN
To the falcon you saw flying overhead, you
meant no more than a hair-brush, or the crinkle
of a letter opening, the stamping
of its secrets in fading script. Children played
outside beneath a contrail,
watching the winds dissolve
cloud into sky. Doorframe between window-
glass and hinge—such a small window—
you imagined your
boxed life, itself too small to contain the five
directions a professional globe-master talked
about before closing the windows
of imagination and pushing the school-door
shut. A child dares ask no questions.
You chose the weathered stone
around the corner, and waved back at the falcon
trailing its feather-script from five directions
caught in the door
and the row of windows passing.
The clock radio wakes you to say you will be
drenched with tedium today. Time to get up,
throw off the cotton quilt your mother sewed
for you so long ago, fabric scraps in orange
polka dots, yellow spirals and blue flowers
true. A comforter, sunshine of a rainy day
with those fairytale books of enchanted isles
borrowed from the library. Forever-keep
of the imagination. Close your eyes and look.
You never know about polka dots, especially
the orange ones. O child of the wandering sea.
I guess I wonder how he is doing now since I haven’t seen him for so long
(and please I want to hear updates from anybody who knows him—
Ann Menebroker told me at The Shine Cafe B.L. told her on the phone that his computer no longer worked)
Anyway I dreamt B.L. handed me some crummy, worn black tennis shoes he found
He explained the shoes were “magical”
and told me in his New York-style accent how I would be stupid not to take and wear them
I guess it was an analogy to say that nobody will hand me “ruby slippers” for a golden road