—Jane Blue, Sacramento
He kisses me on the top of the head
before I am quite awake.
I hear nothing, my good ear buried
in the pillow. His touch is a little heavier
than a moth’s. I recognize it
for what it is: a blessing. When I get up,
he’s sitting lotus posture on the red sofa
with the green and pink afghan
draped over his shoulders. The cat
who mewls piteously in the evenings
is out back confidently scratching
his white paws in the dirt, daintily
covering his excrement. The birds are silent,
even the jay that harasses the cat in the evening.
He stands, the afghan dropping off him
like a molting life. We kiss
face to face. I can smell morning on him.
His breath is always sweet. The refrigerator
hums and gurgles, the freeway slinks
past the open window with the sound
of rushing water. It is my birthday.
—James Lee Jobe, Davis, CA
for d.r. wagner
these souls are transparent,
and one can see what is within.
through the hollows of night
many of us will look, just to see.
and then, next to the walls of day,
we will have to live with what we saw.
and what is there to see? just this;
what we are, and what we might be.
keep the fire burning
—James Lee Jobe
keep the fire burning for the gods you love the most.
the most private of prayers burns in the most quiet of hours.
you and the flame. faith and fire. the drumbeat of the earth.
the whispers of heaven in the quiet folds of your ears.
you have a secret name, and you speak it in the firelight.
—James Lee Jobe
i love the fragrance of your tiny garden,
and I love those herbs that rest below your belly.
in your teeth, you hold the skin of my love
the way a hummingbird holds a single drop of nectar.
the winds of this valley furrow your brow,
and you sing whenever there is music.
the children are grown, and now their children come.
when heaven calls to us, we will sleep together.
if there is reincarnation, then let a day will come
when I breathe in your garden again.
You rendered your suave ivory skin ashen;
not in the Rilkean way transformed your life,
but dissolved in a glass the bitter-almond passion
you chose, your chaser foam and fire. That knife
seawater cleaved & dispersed your cindered grains,
disbursed, that is, your maenad-scattered pieces
Carmel to Kyoto, in Orphic-lyric strains,
antiphonal contractions, tide-releases.
The day your lovers, mentors, scattered you
smoke-to-tidewater—trusting ebb-tide to take you—
that day shone blue, belying the gray mournful
silence, knotted & tough, in the shattered few.
They also trusted wave-shapes not to break you.
No one unstoppers a soul in one small urnful.
I know your protégé; her lifeblood flows
quite unawares in verse unknown as yours;
she aches for gold shores, and for the crystal rose
whose brittle mystic touchstone somehow endures
risen from chaos where fogbanks divide
revealing bared wolf-canines west of Lobos
red from the bitten skybloom oceanward.
Heart pulsing homage to the fear god Phobos,
still this young woman braves that undertow,
that rough surf, rushed into awkward rhythms fierce,
breasting her way to the Rose. Mysterious how,
granted fresh strong limbs and grace, she’ll pierce
the lonely dangerous watercourse she darts
where ruby distances fade to rose quartz.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael
MY LAST MYSTERY
You were all mystery then.
I saw you slip out that door,
leave me in bank-vault-deep night.
Now clicks the timelock again.
Lostness and distance before,
you are now absolute light.
Shadow devoured that door.
Heart steeped in ink, drenched in night,
I looked and looked for you then.
Eyes I could probe with before
lost with the last stripe of light.
Dawn maybe never again.
I too dissolved in the night.
Palms, wrists, and fingers by then
thinned through one last slice of door,
scenting for you and for light.
Where now? My hands thrust again,
wanting the You of before.
Here is the mystery, then.
How did you find the one door
sealed in my absolute night?
What depths did you cross again?
What cold star-summits before
you came back streaming with light?
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
No Zauberberg; in the mountains
a landscape of animated dust, a man (call him
Stranger-alone-in-the-Cosmos but for
the dog scouting his way) set out
toward the Dunklerwald, dark line of forest
cloaking a ridge. Beyond that,
landmarks dwindling to a higher peak.
Along the path, granite eroded,
knifed by weather but, in the light before storm,
soft with lichen. Sky brooded thunder,
no birds flew. Woods-creatures stayed low
in their animal destinies—so thought
the man. Only his dog forged
ahead and the man followed as if nothing
could change his purpose. He meant to climb
the peak, achieve the sonnet, solve
the nth power, the quantum.
If sky gave hints of glower, it quickened
his zeal. Light froze then splintered,
the bolt struck elsewhere, a different page
in the dark hymnal. A spark, surge,
ion glitch pinged a heart-chord
or flipped a brain-switch, puzzling the post-
mortem. What was alive and present
became infinite and now – not lost, but taken in
by the closing of the book so it could open
UNDER THE DESK
You thought the cat was tearing up drafts
of poems, stealing pencils, killing
rubber-bands and dismembering dust-bunnies.
But now the cat is gone. A baby rat skulked
in corners, but after pest-control it’s gone too.
No bat nor bird flutters against the pane.
No lizard in the closet. In short, no natural
creature at large. Where logic fails, we turn
to myth and legend. It must be a troll,
a small one—earth-tone hermit who wants
to magic your home into a mountain.
Better wait and see what comes of that.
Like a sentence of the dead: If Troll crawls
out into daylight, does he turn to stone?
If he stays where he’s kept, must he
live like his kin knowing nothing but dark?
New page of the same old legend.
From under the droughty bridge, tiny frogs
seek the only water they can find, a wet-
mop the old wife hung upside-down
to dry. In its dripping, tangled strands
are they caught, or can they leapfrog fly?
Sky breaks the trance. Imagine Troll reading
a thousand romances of desire and flight;
angels and dust devils, a language
of landscape windswept, the names of wide-
open places; sun that sets the heart on fire.
THE FINAL JUDGEMENT
—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento
Elvis returns to earth:
a sleek space craft
with chrome fins
—Medusa, thanking today's master chefs for this tasty soufflé, and noting that Jane Blue (and her twin) have a birthday coming up this Saturday!