Monday, February 23, 2015

Cryoseismic Booms

—Photo by Stacie Sherman, Orangevale, CA

—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?)


      CV. L’Héautontimrouménos
                (The Self-Tormentor)

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!

—Tom Goff
     (after Charles Baudelaire and Clark Ashton Smith)


—Tom Goff

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.  

  Chick Bling (Spring Chicken)
—Photo by Stacie Sherman

Who in California can put away their winter wardrobe all at once in “Spring"?
   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

—Michelle Kunert

Sun Door
—Photo by Stacie Sherman

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

The old bird is back, twittering

her unmistakable song

over the phone. We haven’t seen her

since last spring, when she showed up

in vernal plumage without

a poem but her head full of hum

and colors. Where does she winter?

Patagonia, maybe Tahiti,

or just tucked into cozies at home.

She’ll sing us something unknown

to my book-of-forms.

She doesn’t care about next week’s

sonnet. Bright as a pheasant

of Nepal—blue feather among so many

shades of flight, a bit more silver

than last year. Could another winging

season slow her down?

We see her now, then she’s gone.

Who knows

where she summers?  


—Taylor Graham

Let’s say you go over the falls in a barrel—

frigid, still falling, finding a river’s way through;

listening for cryoseismic booms as you hurtle

over the edge, blind in your cask.

Remember the old legends.

Aren’t you safer in a barrel than a canoe?

Remember a summer when you

came here careless as a tourist, a child.

How the world has changed,

its weather like a river plunging down.

This time you’re in a barrel.

How long until you reach a sunny coast,

and then the surrounding sea?

—Taylor Graham

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.

—Taylor Graham

Who is the patron saint of wolves,

I wonder, and puppies in a storm, or lost

when their mother is evicted, and

must carry them in her jaws from tenement

to sidewalk, keeping strict count of

how many are hers? Each pup humming

to an angel choir we can’t hear.

To the tune of tires on chip-seal, I wonder;

puppies behind the back seat, their

mother memorizing scents that must

seep through steel and rubber, no matter

how air-tight the engineers design;

keeping track, in case she must carry them

home. Could she be the patron saint

of lost puppies? When I’m not listening,

does she lift her muzzle above

horizon, sing wolf songs to the bright

of a moon?

Impressionistic Mother
(Loki Graham and her 8 Puppies)
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—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.

Today's LittleNip:

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.

—Michelle Kunert


—Medusa, thanking today's contributors (congratulations, Loki!) and reminding you that Allegra and Tom have work in the new issue of Rattlesnake Press's WTF. If you're a contributor and didn't get one at the release party at Luna's last week, let me know and I'll send you a copy. For others, free copies may be obtained at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac., or go to and have one mailed to you for $2. The next deadline for submissions is Tax Day—April 15!

Hydrangea, Hearst Castle
—Photo by Stacie Sherman