Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dancing the Bones

Pier 39, San Francisco
—Photos by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

I’ve seen roadkill on centerline, and
I’ve seen the holiest of holies
in the midst of a heap of weathered sandstone,
what you humans call waste-land.
Your happiness flies away on black wings
for lack of a roof that’s open to the sky.
A whole long list of things you overlook.
Your mortal cry of longing.
I’ve watched a withered girl fill the cup
with rain and call it sweet; then
crawl into a hollow tree stump, pull a cracked
slab of bark over-top, and disappear
to the root cause of changes, into the roots
of earth. Shall I caw her to sleep, or reveille?


—Taylor Graham

I’m not sure about the conditional.
If the sun sets in adjectival glory, electric-
orange over the Pacific, then daylight
will be done. If my dog brings me
a stick as conditional offering, to prove
his faith that I’ll throw it again
and again for everlasting fetch, must it
follow that the stick won’t end up
in the slash pile for burning?
I’m not positive about the subjunctive
either. It recalls things that aren’t
quite solid. How can I be sure
that smoke is what it seems, and not
my temporary shadow; or the ghosted
woods, their plain quiet beauty; or angels
who haven’t yet settled their wings
for unconditional night?


—Taylor Graham

Not in his favorite chair,
not hunting flies behind the curtain,
not in the box-springs lining
of the bed. Could he have slipped
outside without our noticing?
Go check the cellar—wait, no cellar
in this house; that was the old
place up the hill. Let’s try to keep
our wits about us. A cat could be any-
where—behind piles of papers,
in a basket in the closet-dark.
We can’t find anything anymore,
we spend half our time
just looking. Do you suppose
we’ve misplaced the cat?

 Michelle Kunert's cat, Hurley

—Michelle Kunert

Picking little black fruit
In a dusty orchard in midday sun
Shaking and raking branches
Thick with leaves that scratch bare skin,
Throwing the fruit onto the tarp below
On which they are sorted,
Picking out the spoiled
Or immature with wrong green shade.
The harvest is too bitter for the tongue
Until a “curing” with brine water:
How did I ever take for granted
The labor to put them in a jar
Or pressed into oil to savor?


—Michelle Kunert

I have recurring dreams I Hate—
Such as using filthy bathrooms
Where I have to pee,
Or suddenly being naked in public.
I Love the dreams of writing poetry
Or painting lovely pictures,
But I despise waking up
And wondering for one brief moment,
“Where’s My Art?”


—Michelle Kunert

Different shades of jade-green beads
And bangles lay in thick inviting piles
As vendors extoll their virtue of
Bringing luck this Chinese New Year,
Not accounting for the toll on human lives,
The suffering, to extract the “Stones of Heaven”.

China rips apart the land, stripping
The “Good Earth” so beloved
By Pearl Buck, to meet the
Western world’s greed for jewelry,
And for trinkets shaped like animals,
Creatures in danger of extinction.

 Pier 39

—Robert Lee Haycock, Antioch
I can still savor on my mind's tongue each candy cigarette, bubblegum cigar, every hand-wrapped ball of caramel corn and candy apple, all those sugar daddies, sugar mamas and sugar babies but I can only remember two of my trick-or-treat disguises. Dad always gave me a flat top, a crew cut (Mom, where's the Butch Wax!) in the garage with his buzzing, tickling clippers but in anticipation of Halloween one year had forestalled a trim or two. Zzzzhhhrrr!!! Vvvvzzzbbb!!! I was a Mohawk warrior before any punk had posed and preened with a guitar, a sneer and a silly haircut. I can still smell the cork aflame that was smudged on my cheeks to transform me into Emmett Kelly's 'Weary Willie' for a night. Did I really see him in Reno (or was that Lake Tahoe) with my folks or am I mis-remembering that? We would roam the neighborhood for hours, returning home to empty our grocery bags and set out again to range farther afield. No razors. No needles. No fears. We knew where the mean lady lived, and she didn't give out any candy anyway.


—Robert Lee Haycock

They haunt me
They taunt me
At my eyes' corners
They wink and
They blink from
The deeps of shadow
They know that
I know that
They are always near
The Autumn light thins
They tap then
They knock and
Walk my dark hallways
They look o'er
My shoulder
While I am reading
They tell me
There is no dying


—Robert Lee Haycock

Even now the dark comes on
And nothing grows except the cold
It is too dark to hunt
Too dark to spin

Even if I understood
The magic of the monks' scribbles
It is too dark to read
Too dark to pray

Too dark to hope
Too dark to fear
Too dark to love
Too dark to fight

It is never too dark to sing


—Robert Lee Haycock

We dance the bones, the thankful bones
And throw them on the fire
We dance the Great Wheel in its flight
And watch the sparks mount higher
We dance the death of summer light
And king and fay and fool
We dance to praise the growing night
And burn, we burn 'til Yule


Today's LittleNip:

—Robert Lee Haycock

These spirited winds

Dancing with the summer's shades

Hush the trees to sleep


—Medusa, assuring you that Taylor Graham's cat, Blink, was later found. Cats do disappear through walls, you know—especially at this time of year.

Pier 39