—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Tulip trees run flagrant now.
Firefly brilliance heaps each bough,
limbs draped in shreds from fabric-cloud
an Ithacan queen might sew to a shroud.
An Anyspring’s almost-scentless fuschian
minglement of sharp Confucian-
petalled wit: pink-lavender tips
or nails of fingers. Startling chips
of rare resilient bone-china shatter.
Some peelings suspend, some simply downscatter.
Indecision in these white platelets,
two-toned, delicate pieces of bracelets.
All this blossom-pregnancy
leaps or comes blown to vagrancy.
For each bright burden that loads the branch,
an afterbrown must edge the blanch,
then turn the bone-laolin-sheen bitter,
make way for a fresh white-violet litter.
What scumbles of mulch, these porcelain chips:
they all fall so sudden, spring fingertips.
(What costly adornments, satins for fruitful groves,
don’t lie down like medical sharps, discarded gloves?)
FROM LES FLEURS DU MAL
I will strike you without hatred
and without rage—like a butcher!
Just like Moses’ great rock gusher
—I will make, from your own eyelid,
to replenish my Sahara,
suffering’s waters spurt their drops,
so my desire will swell with hopes,
and swim on your tears a seafarer:
so, when this vessel plies the large,
the wave-void, deep in my salt-drunk heart
your lovely sobs pulsate the start
of the drum that beats the charge!
And am I not the one false chord
in the divine symphony
graced by the ravenous irony
that shakes me and that mouths me mordant?
She’s the one in my voice, the shrew!
My blood is all hers, this black, black toxin.
I am the sinister reflection,
my Maegara’s harridan-mirror view.
I am the gash and I’m the blade!
I am the knuckle to smash the jowl!
I am the limbs and I am the wheel,
the victim and That One who lops the pate.
I’m my heart’s own best vampire,
one of the grandly self-abandoned,
laughably forever condemned ones
lost for all time to nevermore smile!
(after Charles Baudelaire and Clark Ashton Smith)
SPRING STRING SONG
Your voice is a guitar, most resonant:
it leaps white-winged and soft from your
Only your shy soul, the revenant
in you who shrank from day-bright vibrant timbre
—from full-throttle strums above your belly-hollow
to magnify how praise begins as buzz,
gold left to shake from pluck as bees shed pollen—
could fend off my crass plectrum swipe that does
to guitars what soldiers used to do who touched
match to touchhole: why the scooped log spoke.
Oh, off-key thoughts I twanged you, many thumbs plucked.
a fresh affront with each note-jangled joke.
I still want to plumb you hand-and-finger to bring,
wring voice from you, fret, neck, bridge, back,
each ounce of spring and string.
The long thermal underwear you might usually wear in the mountains at the slopes
may have to stay ready in places like Sacramento until March and April
just in case there’s rain and you might get your pants wet
and you need them for your skin to stay dry
The jackets and sweaters may still need to hang around in early Spring,
especially if you live in or go to the Bay Area
even if there’s sunshine
it's still just too cold to wear any swimsuit at the beach as portrayed
in popular media.
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
To Peter, a young man who wants the job
of being Arcade Church's janitor
I told him remember to offer to scrub clean
the upholstered pews
so that they don't spread lice and germs
like movie seats can
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
The old bird is back, twittering
MADE OF THE MIST
Let’s say you go over the falls in a barrel—
Through a haze of sleep-
lessness eight puppies swim out
of her amniotic ocean, to this coast
littered with woolen remnants,
worn carpet, chair- and trouser-
legs. The newborns gasp without gills
for breath; blind as a new moon;
their mother calling them by scent
of first milk; calling them by names
a human will never learn. Yet
each will grow to heed a stranger’s
voice, and follow it to the end
of this eroding world.
WHAT I DON’T KNOW
—Allegra Silberstein, Davis
Cobblestones gleam in the café light
where Van Gogh worked solitary
in an upper room closer to the stars,
farther from food and friendship…
A waiter in white reaches
toward the black-robed patrons
who rest from the day’s work.
They gather in communal quest.
So many tables shining in the night.
So many empty chairs
beneath the sapphire sky closing down
outside the blue pillar of entrance.
Wood-framed glass panels filter
light––cobblestones lead to edges.
Alone, outside the frame
I dance with shadows.
The plum trees in front of the Sacramento Bee building
blossomed this year in late January;
by mid-February they were leaving a shower of shed petals
on the grey cement city sidewalk,
perhaps to throw blessings upon
the arrival of Flora and Fauna.