—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
After things had quieted
down outside the window,
I looked back
to see that her seat was empty.
“Must have gone in
to see the doctor,” or so I thought.
I checked the magazines.
All from this century, but just barely.
I waited some more.
After giving a good bit of thought
to starting the copy of H.G. Wells’
Outline of History there
on the coffee table, I decided to check
with the receptionist instead.
“She left. You’ll forgive me
for saying this, but with your face looking
like it does, I thought it was you
coming in for treatment. I’m sorry, sir. No, wait.”
The other guy had looked worse,
but wasn’t feeling things anymore.
Which is why it seemed like a good time
to visit the doctor. Still, I should have counted
on her to have still yet another agenda.
Outside, the wind had picked up again.
I stood for a moment letting my eyes adjust
to the darkness, pulled the Borsolino
down carefully so as not to dislodge
any of the stiches or bandages, and began walking.
There were two ways I could go:
I could spend hours checking every dive
on the Southside, or I could go back to
The Sandman’s apartment just to see.
was going to have to let out his
Rottweilers and feed them anyway.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
for composition teacher Peter Elbow
So many influences, elbowing in, I see:
your expert book, Vernacular Eloquence;
song-phrases of Arnold Bax, transforming, right-branch
themes, his grammar through seven symphonies;
Sam Johnson’s rightward-tendriling Big Sentence.
Such systems are taxonomies of sense,
but also springs of streamline and of pounce,
not hesitance. Put these in place, to entrench
our thoughts in memory—we move ahead by traceways.
First, knowledge we know, then newness. Test by lips,
teeth, tongue, and voicebox. Echoes in the ear
turn night-vision lenses. Cop-probe each room. Clear!
Confident minds can speed (old-new!) vast spaceways
no moonblock obstructs. Star-radiance, not eclipse.
(Like Finnish: all stresses first-syllable, hammers like laughter.
We won’t lose big things in small sounds that come after.)
FOR A CIVIL UNION
Every love generates tension and strains
into balance. A desire, a question: What can we
hope for from Love? Love instantly retorts:
What can I hope for from you both?
Different these two demands, desires, both
valid, each as righteous as the eyes that meet
till the blended gaze turns unbearable. Outside
your smallest possible human circle
where four hands join, life’s hurry,
the aggression of work, the potential for love
in the going and doing. Inside,
stillness, affection, and quiet. Outside, commotion;
inside, communion. Happiness, arriving
in its one lonely way,
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
KEEP-AWAY FROM TIME
Morning mist breaks to blue-blanket
clarity, a stringer of heirloom vines along
the county road—the road itself a stringer,
fault-line between ranches and encroaching
town; a slow-down curve to circumvent
this hold-out homestead.
As if a dance, your pup leads mine
under a 1930s gate toward the old stomper-
barn—echoes of polka, schottish, Ländler—
mountain-hideaway of Frisco bohemians.
Rusting metal dragonfly has lost its lacquer-
gloss but still presides over the grassy swale.
Our puppies dash apart on whimsy
sketches of adventure, then bunch together
like camp-kids to Kool-Aid—a sprinkler’s
sprung a leak. Beside what used to be
pond, a small stone frog like a temple
keeps the waters and the days.
each other nothing, we collide
with blossoms in our hands.
—Chiyo (trans. from the Japanese by David Rey)