—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
You’d think there would be
Sounds, odd noises there
In the dark. But no, it’s
Generally quiet, maybe
Too quiet, like after
The drums stop
In the B movie.
Sometimes I’ll find
The energy, the courage
To check it out back there.
Always the same—nothing
New these days:
A Franciscan monk’s robe,
Burgundy velvet dinner
Jacket, black leather
Jacket (Literary critic
Style, not biker), opera
Cape, top hat, bag
Of wands, cowboy
Boots, battered Stetson.
Things I wanted to be once,
Or thought I did. Or maybe
Should have been. Or—
Who knows—can be yet.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
Ted Finn, in all my innocent ignorance,
I might’ve thought your warlike name a Finnish one,
yet truth dawns translator-late: were you named under Irish sun,
did all your poetry pulse to a harper’s warlock legend,
an Erin dance?
Oh I remember your unamplified voice
raised lusty, outrageous pranks of open mic.
Long swept into dark locked closets the memory spike
and pikethrust peculiar words; yet in the choice
of all you boomed out senza microphone,
legend and lore and knowledge of poetry,
so often an undersong dimly heard in the free
free verse and slam and projectile pun and groan.
Unheard because unlistened for?…Go slow,
my heart, be not a judge, but come to know.
Go slow, my heart, slow down and come to know.
And when I ever do come to know, though slow
my heart to go with my oftentime slowness of head,
I will comprehend, never the leader but always the one led:
oh once or twice did we talk away from the mic,
slow enough of Neruda or Rilke or someone,
someone famous you made more famous to me,
for you worked all day in a library.
Extraordinary your poetry, voice and swagger, to one
who thought librarians denizens not of sun
but of shadow, stacks of books, lip-fingering shush.
Now, barricaded by infinite stacks, call numbers,
bindings dust-coated, from you and intimacy,
I throw over my shoulders the mantle hush
who knew not enough of you in the time we had to go slow.
Even now I too slowly know.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
From the back corner of her closet
the cricket sings background music of leafy
meadow to this cornered world
he’s come to—a cricket rubbing its live wings
together from a pair of snow-white
mukluks, apparition of big daddy bear
released at last out of arctic winter.
From the ceiling hangs a stole, a coffle of red
fox-heads like so many former lovers;
it hangs over a merry xmas sweater worn once
forlorn, or so the explanation goes.
The cricket simply keeps on singing breezy.
She thought to clean her closet
out, but can’t part with the memories.
There’s a hint of montane meadow and river-
bottom mud clinging to vibram of my
hiking boots in the far back corner of the closet —
places this puppy’s never been.
What scents is she cataloguing as she
sniffs the space of her blind puppyhood?
Most of her siblings are gone to homes
of their own; the others, scuffling in the kitchen.
She set out on her own—hall
to bedroom, closet that smells old and close,
familiar and worn. She’s vacuuming
the rug, inhaling memories from each crevice.
Meditative stance. Now she traces
the outline where her mother slept beside
our bed; follows invisible scent trails
to the sliding glass door,
puppy-route to their first fresh-air
excursion, sun almost too bright for their eyes.
At last, she finds her way back down the hall
and sits quietly by the entry.
Does she know, tomorrow a stranger will clip
his leash to her collar?
Is it in the nature of a puppy to think
of past and future? Her unknown life.
SCOUT THE GARDEN HELPER
does battle with the drip-line, snaky black
creature that gurgles and spurts furtive pee.
He digs among clover that it feeds. He’s
a breath-powered blower to wind-row
the weddings—all this overwintered dis-
array of green.
I put him outside the fence. He finds thistle
I uprooted and tossed out for the sheep;
it bears my scent. I tell him “good seek-
mine!” This could prove useful training, if
in my overwintered disarray I should mis-
place my keys.
FLUTE OF THE BONE
Scout grabs with too-sharp puppy teeth so I yelp high-pitched as a hurt bird, hold my wrist limp, a broken wing. He stops—looks up at me so his ears stand straight poised in air. Will he grow into those ears, ancestral, alert? He’s bored with the bone his mother buried under my pillow; the tug-toy I dangle before him. He wants something real and alive in his jaws. Knuckle of the universe he longs to taste, legbone he’d gnaw to its marrow. What beautiful scrimshaw teeth make. He’s hungry for the world the way his mother teases him—
open-mouth snatching at sky, dog-smile of praise for the great ungraspable. She’s teaching her child the tooth-grin that never bites down hard, how to hold life without hurting. At bedtime by dimmest lamp, separated by wire-weave of his crate, they spar with yips and growls floating on wind unmeasured through the screen-door, mother to pup and back again, generation to generation.
somebody put up a sign about their missing African grey parrot
it has added “needs meds”
(possibly for depression or other psych problems birds develop as house pets)
and offering a sizable reward
I hope this parrot wasn’t stolen
but somebody “liberated” it
Or else the parrot decided to sneak off and fly away
finding a way to fly to Africa to be with its own kind
to not die all alone as did Alex the grey parrot at Harvard at age 31
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento