—Taylor Graham, Sacramento
A skull-shaped cloud floats
overhead, changing as clouds do
but so slowly, a mortal can’t
see it happen. White as sheep
yet sweet with a hint of rain
to water this parched landscape,
a cloud soft and porous
as bone-casque to absorb
moisture from earth, breathing
in and out with the wind,
the spirals of weather
and evolving sky.
I think it became an angel.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
Turkeys on the two-lane,
crossing and re-crossing. Acorns
disappear. Deer are on the
move, the field is full of geese.
When they fly, as they enter
flight, you can hear each feather,
an individual voice. And yet
they fly as pattern changing as
the weather. Every creature
hoofed and winged is moving.
What do they know
I haven’t fathomed yet?
WAITING IN THE PARKING LOT
Out of my book flew enough
blackbirds to crust a king or dream
a poet. It was too dark inside the book.
Released, the birds glistened
with wet ink. Their shadows rain-
bowed greasy pavement where two
women pushed their lives in shopping
carts toward the weedy fields that edge
the slough. One hand-slapped
but innocently the air. There was
an eye in her hand. The birds ascended,
November sun divorced the clouds.
“Bogard’s blue,” she said.
PERFECT NOTHING TO DO
He woke up from dreaming rain to find it was
raining. Now he sits at the window looking out at
rain. The oak trees are alive, waving their limbs
gently, rocking, as if cradling their crowns,
meditating on the oneness of root with earth.
They’re content in their place. So are the sheep,
not wanting to leave the barn, to step out into
weather. Only the grass and clover are dancing,
opening their green mouths to rain-songs.
He releases his outer self, bundled in oiled wool
tight-woven, to walk in the wet gray world,
to bring in firewood. Sing as the spirit wishes,
sway with the great oaks, dance with the clover.
ERASURES OF MORNING
A bridge, its toll.
Ink still wet, hoping for birds.
Waiting for the light,
God, a sunny day. Everything breaks
holds together past the gardens.
Enough to start a fire,
birds of different colors,
words on the horizon.
We must stand in this wind
walking on the levee.
No more logic.
We create another of ourselves.
Time, sand and wind, wind and sand
own names and stone eyes.
The fire charm,
dances of the lightning
sliding through walls,
floating ships of water.
Near the creek
a yellowing book of tales.
Dark forms fluttering
the lights on the tower,
spinning of the earth to catch
drowning, a mirror.
Our true selves.
—Lelania Arlene, Sacramento
Fleeing down Jackson highway,
Sometimes bookended by geese and hawk.
Now parenthetically by runnels of fat cloudy tears.
I slam on the brakes so I can feel the seatbelt noose,
Choke-hold strap, satisfactory and bracing.
Feels like the way you make me hate me.
I now understand the siren appeal of the noose.
Who wants to drift off, puking?
Choke me, Make it real.
Make it what it is.
The honesty of a rope.
Drop it like it’s hot.
Outside the hive you still get pricked,
Port flush without the warmth,
Inside the hive you might get dicked,
An iron breech births on and so forth,
Shine on, shine off.
She child-laps water from the plastic dog bowl,
Nightmares crept in like reaper cats on soft padded paws.
They must have ridden in on the fogs!
Screw you, sleep.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
And so the doctor’s going through her checklist:
“Where’d you get them?”
“Well, one in Bloomington, Illinois
And the other in San Diego.”
“No, where did you get them?”
“No, where? Prison or a
She looked relieved,
Made a big check on the list.
Didn’t even ask what they