I rest my head on a
Panoramic pile of pillows
Moving slowly en masse
High above all else
Harnessed together like
Elephants, trunk to tail
Talking to me in their sleep
With gentle, subtle ripples
There is more movement
Overhead, courageous colors
Bursting the ribbons that
Surround gifts of pleasure
Now the greed sets in
I demand more time than
People ever have to
Admire this spectacle
Fears spoil the serenity
This could be a trap to
Snare prey for hungry beasts
That roam in our dreariness
Whatever my fate the clouds
Will keep drifting along
Parading proud hues
Oblivious of news
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Now what must it be to see morning and evening amber?
Yes, and by amber I mean the sweet-swirl cream
spun into cloud-stone, not that translucent sunbeam
some insect eclipsed, gum-stuck in its primal clamber.
When towns were hutments, and the odd smoky puff
all that could pall or appall the afternoon,
so dawnlight held and caressed the same amber tinge
as eventide, each timeframe cradling the moon,
sundown and sunrise liminal, each one a hinge
on the door of day or night: but, already, enough.
Tell me, my amber, my young sweet one, are you
the cream-yellow resurrection who enfolds
my aging skin, or are you the dying golds
whose tints enhance my skeletal white, the one who
can promise for all my dying a tenfold rebirth
in supple, yielding, inseminating youth?
Come show me the heaven you are, your underearth,
your dawn and your twilight equally clear and amber,
so that if I speak, and speak the truth,
you may deign to reveal, inside your chamber,
your scented sky-skin, your armpits of hush and cloud,
your dying and borning glow, so though I rise
twelve hours late, still, you put on no shroud
or cope like our evenings’ asthma-making haze.
Declined from the Golden Age, we feel the smear,
the tarnish rub off on our hands, on the evening breeze.
Yet under your sensitively modeled hands,
I can’t tell apart dayspring and dayfall, there
in the gloaming, the mistful substance we love and breathe.
Through rough Saharas I’ve dragged and I’ve knelt the long ways
to you, all dawn and all dusk one melting amber
poured into one promise of sugary aftersands.
How subtle you are, appearing so suddenly
near me. On silent feet you alight like dawn:
you’re not the back-cloth clumsily overdrawn,
scrawled emblems of sun over barn and rooster abruptly
muffed backstage, let slip down with a bang.
No: graceful and unafraid, in with true morning
you glide, from the utmost cosmos come volplaning
mutely and easily, revelation’s fang
piercing me with the ecstasy of you,
the rare touch of your deftly tender hands
surpassing all the ladyfinger lands
I’ve labeled heaven, caressing me gold before blue.
Some dawn imposter may swoop down, one more claimant
who, beside you, is just one more crow: squawking, clamant.
What bleeds from this core seed into the fruit,
scoring the ripe dawn-amber with red decline?
What is it about this heart so like a small moon?
Eclipsing the peach, it yet sends welling through it
sun and more sun, with a stab that surpasses cane
for sweetness. What beginning pegs the dark
so deep in enigma-gnarl, in pangs of wolf’s-bane?
Do wormholes in the seed admit small sparks
of life within? And does your cerebral kernel
breed toxins, seeping cyanide-subtle traces?
My sweet dark hardness, chokepoint at my center,
who’s gnawed you, molar and wisdom, till you splinter?
What grit of yours with liquescence interlaces,
tingeing your blush with syrups from the infernal?
FALL THROUGH GRAY
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Gray under November skies, gray as when
the dandelion gave up blooming, when the cat
stopped being a kitten; gray as limbs
overhanging the dry creek, a tree that once
broke out in pussy-willow; gray as that harbor,
cold and hard, where a small child
grovels in sand as if he could dig clear through
to summer, its boat songs. You say
the willow will bud out again, the dandelion
blossom yellower than yellow.
You, believer in romance, see everything
through memory or imagination, clear
through the immediate gray.
The stranger said, You’re dim as moonlight
at dawn. And yet, within you is a ship
under sail. Can’t you feel it?
What you feel is a mysterious pain
in the back of your side or the side of your
back, too deep to explore or explain.
All day it waits its time like a bird of prey.
When the bones won’t dance, it’s up to tendon,
ligament, and muscle. You flex and hold,
and then release; dawn like a burst of crows,
and the dire night-bird flies
as muscle-dance becomes morning.
Press the moon in your side.
Watch the pain as it dims to distance,
till it’s a glow not quite lost at the horizon.
Crows are bursting with their own black song
above Main Street, as we step out of daylight
into thick walls of rhyolite, the old Gold Rush
relic soda-words. Everything that isn’t stone
creaks. Overhead, a ghost might be massaging
memories, looking down through paned
glass on our speeding century. We order iced
tea, as if the ice weren’t freezer cubes, but
chunks of a frozen lake, from a block hauled
down-mountain on a dray, kept summer-long
in a tunnel dug into this very hillside.
We carry our drinks back there, to the caves—
chill cubbies barely lit for us to read our
offerings, our poems. This is word-mining:
sense and symbol out of Time and Everyday;
not a passing avocation. Sometimes the cavern
lamps blink dim then bright. I’ll see a flicker
out of stone and hear a whisper, as if a ghost
echoed our words. At last we emerge to those
black glints on daylight, Main Street crows
with their undiscovered motherlode of song.
A BURST OF CROWS
—D.R. Wagner, Locke
I thought they were flowers,
So soft and reaching upward,
But no. They had eyes, dark and glittering
And the petals were great wings that clustered
Round the morning in bursts, as if they were a greeting.
Bouquets for the day just before the sun quite knew
What to do with the whole thing. Crows, hundreds
Of them gathered on the trees, then forming into
I lie in my bed looking through the screens
As it all unwound. The bouquets, the bursting,
The raucous voices assaying to sing but hopeless
When it came to other than calling and scolding.
Sun finally touching the tops of the trees.
Flat on your back on the xray table—
“what’s this?” the tech demands.
Your flashdrive on a string around your neck.
In case the house burns down, you say.
All the poems you ever wrote, updated daily,
what might be your plug-in to eternity.
“Tell me a poem.”
You recite from memory.
The rest of your opus, your eternity lies—
like you—beyond your grasp.
Flat on your back, you release one poem
to this small cubicle, to air, and listen
as it shimmers out the door.