—Taylor Graham, Placerville
for Elihu Burritt
A convocation of these ancestral antiquarian
birds is called to contemplate the regimental
colors lodged inside chapel walls. They have
no time for a kitchen-maid in the garden, nor
the girl peeling onions from a milk pail. Such
birds love velvet, silk damask embroidered,
punctured with words and symbols fringed
in gold to cover stone walls; fabrics that
capture light or let it fly like sunset lightly
falling through translucent weaves. Bunting
is not their style, much less that extra-medium
modern innovation, polyester. It cramps one
at the shoulders or the wings, the heart, the
fancy, declares one old rook. Even worse,
video images projected onto ancient stone.
Stop making jokes, the maid says and puts
down her knife. She’s done with dicing.
Over the mountains, above the peaks
storm-clouds rise like weather-castles built
on nothing. They look like smoke,
they don’t look like rain.
It’s fire season in our hills, and one by one
the mountains are burning. Flames
ignite a thunderhead that fills with lightning
flinted of wildfire’s own spark.
The next green ridgetop and the next.
The fire-falcon’s flying north and east,
leaving harrier-trails of flaming
canyon in the west. The sun glows blood-
orange through smoke, as day grows
dark to evening as we watch the wind
and ask the flames to pass us by—
our oak trees spared, the small green
pond. Squirrel and fox, deer and cougar.
We pray for the peace of clear blue sky.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Come milk me, cried the wrinkle-faced John Milton
to his three daughters. This was every morning:
dictation, nothing about a nice aged Stilton
first spurted from some cow’s teat. Just what was borning?
Paradise Lost, among other lines. Who first,
who last took up the pen, in relay sacred
to jot John’s versing dreams? Perhaps Anne burst
into non-view and inked that parchment acrid.
Next Mary, last Deborah? Who knows? His “Turkish contempt”
kept them reined in, his team of interpreter-girls;
his teeming creation theirs, and not. When spent,
pentametered out, he tasked them with chores like churls.
His profit small, theirs less, when the Book was done;
yet someone had had some Puritan kind of fun.
Now it’s your turn. Come write me, milk me now;
I’m frothing with lines inside me, white as sperm,
for “milk me” seems the likely spume-of-the-cow
argot Victorian men used as the term
in loving or merely climactic lingam-spasms
in anonymous gilded leatherbound books of porn.
But between them and ourselves lie canyon chasms.
I simply know with what sharp pangs you’re torn
out of me. How swollen I was—with whose white silk?
You speak, and I just know you’re no Milton’s daughter.
You lavish that liquescent flash of eyes;
I’m 20,000 leagues under Jules Verne water.
Your tears you display as rarely as your white thighs.
Your clarity’s here, encoded with unseen milk.
My bravest loveliest dairymaid and ruler,
you are not to be converted nor enslaved
to any mean purpose. Unraveler, my unspooler,
you are my muse, on you has been architraved
the beam of my door to beauty. All your goodness
feeds my dream milk as sure as is my depleting
by ecstasy. Who else dispels my moodiness?
Our skins even blush together—while never meeting.
But that is berry juice in the essential milk,
for we are the stuff that populates the clouds
when they most ripen over the sailors’ shrouds;
you and I alone live of that satin ilk.
What pours here is no black cream from your seeing-eye pen,
and all of it yours—just filtered through one of your men.
Thom Gunn contends libraries are wet dreams, dried.
He means most poems, reams of moist underpants
where passionate surges jetted, mummified
once-juices and -spices, but black with erotic ants
shot tingling up the electric-phallic anthill
and out into cloth. Such spontaneity,
we cry, then classify and shelve the dead thrill.
Libraries should not consist of oozeless velleity.
Oh, what I read has nothing to do with effusion
and everything, for you are concealed in it.
My tomes of you are enigmas, riddles, posers.
My palimpsest, I scrawl your darling skin confusion—
rich with tattoos, but your white shoulders begin it.
Let’s layer the falsehood—you with truest disclosures.
I’d help out with my church's library as a kid
and Rosemont Baptist Church didn’t have any computer in the ’80’s to track its books
They used the Dewey Decimal System labeling with a card catalog,
which wasn’t that hard when most of the books were under the Religion section 200’s
The church didn’t have any enforcement on returning borrowed books either
Some were expensive to replace
and the church collection also included rare or even out-of-print materials
I recall books by missionaries to foreign lands in Africa and Asia were among the most popular—
those along with evangelical theology from popular pastors including Charles Colson, Chuck Swindoll, and Billy Graham
There was just an "honor system” where borrowers were trusted to leave a phone number and address
That meant when books were overdue,
sometimes I made phone calls and hand-wrote post cards pleading for the books’ return in a “friendly" way
Oh yes there were church-goers who returned their books on time faithfully
especially those in the Korean church who shared the facilities.
Yet for the “stolen” books that didn’t come back
you had to pray they’d end up read anyway by anyone who needed inspiration from the Holy Spirit
or that someone who ended up somehow with that missing book got saved because of it
While you're scrolling, please note the new Medusa feature, "Webilicious", links to sites and articles that might be of interest. Here's one about poets who are/were also librarians: www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2014/librarian-as-poet-poet-as-librarian