The rag-tag bummer lamb dances on linoleum,
a zig-zag step of shiny black patent hooves
that can’t keep their legs upright and straight-line
at the same time. She’s gypsy outcast, cinder
in a fairytale, lamb-lamb. Her brother
is the prince. The aging queen-ewe can’t afford
twins, but shoves her girl-child out the Gate-
of-Where? to rag-tag dance for supper
in a stranger’s kitchen. Are ears not wings?
Can tiniest hooves not pirouette to magic
slippers? She suckles anything—newsprint,
armpits, thumbs and collars—she tugs at rubber-
nipple happiness milk. She doesn’t seem but is.
Boots. A brisk walk before sunrise
to scare coyotes out of rimrock so they flow
up-creek like the dark of dreams, up
the pass to daylight. Images, not teeth.
A walker’s blood runs after them, washing
off sludge of sleep. Words to spring
the barnyard gate and out come sheep, new-
born lamb speckled as pied beauty
on February grass. Sun’s up now. Lift
my arms, open my hands, let the dreams
drift on a downslope breeze. Fill my palms
with nothing, with light.
Up the mine-trail, past the graves,
a fragment of gold-slate, jigsaw piece
to the mystery of a poem; lay it back
in its place. Destroy nothing.
And down the trail, a bearded man
hefts sacks of litter, recyclables—
$200 a week he earns. I’ll recycle
him too, not for money. Poetry takes
and gives, but it doesn’t pay.
born in a drought,
we shall name you
fortune and doubt.
Who wants sheep
for pastures that wane?
Soothe you to sleep
with songs of grain.
Full moon tonight
will spend in coin
its silver light.
The stars conjoin.
Who knows what comes
this good morning.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
I’m about to burst. I’ve downed both of them:
two women, two gamines, two bittersweet drinks.
One lady, this melnais balzams, ink
of Latvia, licorice stir and stem
of everything muddled in a vodka blur,
birch and oak and linden tree,
dense enough, spoons could take root, stand free
in such thick blackness, such sweet liqueur.
The other, this ouzo, light and Greek,
a shy sharp deceiver, all sugary clear
drenched in Mediterranean wet, her sheer
infusion, merriment and rue,
not Latvian black—still, distilled licorice,
now cloudy, now clear, but what afterhue.
Twin absinthe rainbows, each one my “true gen,”
my test of the tough in an apéritif.
One is a vixen, one is a thief.
Two swigs of dark eyes, two hallucinogens…
—Don Feliz, Vacaville
I braid memories—
follow my family maze
from birth among
whose first services
crave only a smile—
but then expect
athletics and speeches
until I serve myself,
enter life’s literal labyrinth:
shabby noisy rooms,
dark dangerous streets,
costly textbooks, and
sleepless nights through
decades of career.
I reel up memories—
find unexpected love.
I can hear the friction of my corduroy’s rubbing.
WHY DID YOU LET YOURSELF BE CAUGHT?
The grief wrenches me as if to my knees in sand, as to nuns kneeling on rice....
I wish him wrath, I wish him to eat songbirds poached in a hood of shame,
Slake the volcanic thirst for acceptance, for love with paltry delusional suffice,
Vain and powerless, an empress with a newly donned crown of flame,
In affluence of fury, in fight or flight, audibly impotent column of throat in a vise,
The Moon and his Red God came walking my shores,
COLOR HER DOLOR
She marches in seven-league boots to the very cliffs of aspiring,
Knocking down small shrubs of aspiring hope, heel to toe, shoulders bowing,
In Wednesday’s panties she recalls piercing an orange with thumbnails, firing
By Bodega candles, moaning until the very rings of Saturn are glowing,
Bringing to mind, stares at broken fingernails, tasks at hand—the rending,
Hating her hair, she pulls it in grief and now small stones bruise palms, not hushing,
I went outside to see whether or not Magritte had painted a hole in the sky.