Monday, June 22, 2015

Parrots & Wooden Legs

Halo, Citrus Heights, CA
—Photos by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Caschwa, Sacramento

When I visited the dentist first they told me
I needed some work…lots and lots of work
Then they quoted me a figure that was
Completely more than I could ever handle

So I thought maybe I could take out a loan
You know, one of those collateral loans
Using the very teeth they were going to correct
As the collateral

If their work was as fine as they claimed
And worth even half of what they charged
That would give a much greater value to my teeth
So why not?

Of course I could get a loan against my house
But if I had trouble with the payments
I couldn’t will the house to my heirs, and none of them
Seem to want my teeth when I’m through using them

Piggyback, Napa

        (Kirill Gerstein’s restoration   
        of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto)

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

Tchaikovsky shouts vibrations onto a cylinder,
discloses a voice both pungent and high-pitched.
Sardonic and shy, almost as if it itched:
strain speech, or God forbid, music through a colander?
This Edison sieve retains all that coarse fiber
and loses the juice. He feigns the rugged Russian,
but suavity comes first. A thuggish, Prussian
crudeness would be to him a musical viper,
as happens when our twenty-fingered fists
pummel the opening chords of his first concerto.
Roll them with your most subtle touch, those chords,
don’t wreak unnatural shocks no ear should flare to.
Since his death, much as needles lance our cysts,
we ballpeen those same notes, thick spikes through boards.

This restoration, as through a time warp brightly,
brings back his piano, like a fine harp, sprightly.


—Tom Goff

“Being an anonymous human being can be…a very great satisfaction…”
                —One of the “moles” who rescued people trapped
                   in the rubble of the Mexico City earthquake

What would it be like to live without a name?
Or if you have a name, not have a voice
to volley the same in every handball court?
I think of it—my name an echolocator
so every passing bat could glide its choice
of ricochet through dark caves into the frame
of trees as easy and soft as escalators!
Then I hear tall stentorians distort:

their doings go all over town, and that town small;
reptiles grown scaly with brag, they puff their dragons
eagle, their stomachs beaks attached to flagons.

I love a sly telepath who won’t amaze or appall
with any neural-networking self-referential fable.
Her silent mind speaks magic wands,
         each wand a sable clear cable.

 Cannery Light, San Francisco

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove

My father was a boilermaker by day,
And usually got many layers dirty.
But he cleaned up well—exceptionally
Well: he was the dandy of a small
Blue-collar Midwest town.

When he was turned out, which
Was usually after 4:30 pm, his
Cordovan wing-tips glowed like
Old fire beneath carefully
Tailored dark suits: charcoal, navy,
Ink black, the occasional pinstripe
If he were going away on union
Or political business.

He kept a running tab at
The local men’s store (Remember
Those?), a closet door hung
With carefully chosen ties.
It was sixty years ago, but
He liked to push: polka dots
With stripes, muted plaids.  And
He could bring off a pink shirt
With a black knit tie, a black
Shirt with white, or a black-on-
Black combination, all while
So not looking like a small
Town gangster.  No, he looked
Towards Chicago for his
Sartorial inspiration.

His shirts might have made
Gatsby himself weep: soft
Collars, fabrics that had the
Hand of flannel, but weren’t.
And seldom just white—those
Were for funerals, going in
A body to view the body; he
And his union or party cronies
Never tired of the joke.

Besides, the white shirts would
Always somehow disappear
In time with Uncle Bernard’s
Visits and departures.  “He may
Need them for court,” my
Father would sigh.  Bernard
Played even closer to the edge
Than the rest of the family.
But never, never, a blue Oxford
Cloth shirt.  Never.  “Do I look
Like some local television
News anchor?”  His inevitable
Response.  Well, yes, sort of.

He’d finish off the look with
Cashmere topcoats, kid (Yes!
Kid!) gloves.  And he wore fedoras
Even when people stopped
Wearing fedoras.  And a watch.
Just a watch, small, elegant, white
Gold, understated, versatile.

I still have the watch.  It still
Runs, but I can seldom bring myself
To wear it.  Not yet.  “But I notice
You usually wear some sort of watch,”
She observed.  “My father always
Wore one.  I wear it for him.”
“But he also wore a wooden leg.”
“Working on that.  The parrot too.”

Placerville Gargoyle

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

They didn’t come dressed for this—
shorts, bare shins, sneakers. But the man’s
got a new puppy, and his young son in tow.
Boy and pup are game if dad is.
The June morning’s a wind full of questions.
A playing-field narrows to dirt-trail
into the woods. Without knowing this place,
the pup leads a way, sniffing pine duff,
brambles, a feather. Where are we going?
the boy wants to know. What
can a father say? Somewhere a lily pond.
Blackberries not ripe yet. Indians
summered here but now they’re gone.
Where does anyone go? A father knows
on the wings of his children.  


—Taylor Graham

He’s been here too long already.

So young to be caught inside bare walls.

No whirligig above his head

to replicate purple cloud, dragonflies, shadow

of the hawk—tribal fear, a wish for wings,

imagining rooftop escapes.

His floor is littered with years-old

newsprint. Is a larger world calling him

by name? What is his name?
No syllable. And the heart beyond

its functional four chambers? a cathedral

fertile with fresh cut fields

and meadows blooming awake at dawn.

Can he see? Curiosity

astronomical as a shepherd gazing

at the stars. Where is his sun?

Dim translucence through six square

inches of pane. Mind opening

its moonglow eyes.  

Flowers at Darling House, Santa Cruz

Today's LittleNip:

Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance.

—Carl Sandburg


—Medusa, with thanks to today's fine contributors!

Clear Lake, Ukiah