—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
She was the sacristan
For the parish church,
Kept the place clean,
And the priests in line.
Also had a small religious
Items trade on the side—
Missals with silk ribbons
Flying like tournament flags,
Medals of saints who may
Never have existed, and who
Long ago left the calendar,
Scapulars of every color
And intention, holy cards
(Trade you two Katherine
Tekewithas for a Mother
Seaton), candles, sick call
Sets, holy water bottles,
Enough to fill a medieval
Rosaries like rainbows.
We didn’t know what to do
With all the stuff when
She died. My father suggested
We give it to the nuns
At school. Maybe they’d
Treat me better. Didn’t work.
Sometime later my father
Asked the nuns what they did
With the inventory—give
It to the poor? Reward good
Little boys and girls who’d
Learned their prayers? “Nope,”
Said Sister Virgilius. “Traded it
All to Sam Rinella (Sam was a
Local beer distributor who’d
Gone to Notre Dame and never
Let anyone forget it. Raise
The volley cheer on high!) for
A couple of cases of Bud,
And had a good party
In Irene’s memory.”
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
How quickly the rarest bargain hops into hand,
fist open without the least prior desire to close.
I’ve searched for Millay’s lone opera. Prize unplanned,
it’s here! The King’s Henchman, just where our impulse chose
a Davis bookstore to dart into. Boards and cloth,
sewn signatures, corner guards, High Tower font, laid paper.
A best-selling seventeenth printing. No, the wrath
of drugs, drink, Depression, implausible three-blade saber,
can’t slash at her life quite yet. So how deep must I
thirl through this Anglo-Saxon love triangle?
Hard tholing, through dank fog, night-wet undergrowth.
A dragon impresa, my moon. I slither through tangles,
beds of verse-pulse, crawl-spaces where snakes go loath.
A grave yawns. Wisps of red hair. Where each eye’s a dust eye.
THE MASTER OF THE TRIOLET
His name evokes nameless architects,
folkways carved dark into grooves of lost time,
word-resonances no one now living reflects.
His name evokes nameless architects
whose ruins he reigns over, their pontifex.
Creator of innocents doomed for small crimes,
his name evokes nameless architects,
folkways carved dark into grooves of lost time.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
My mind danced me to sleep.
In the humid dark it said “do the splay-step
unlinking joints, a rag-doll dancing
as a human’s meant to dance
when consciousness gets out of the way.”
I tried. My mind said it was second-
nature but I couldn’t remember how.
Some part of brain explained,
“forget the dance. Make a long dark silk-
stroke down the page that says
lights-out.” The paper was blank except for
blinding shadow, shimmying, jostling the pen
in my fingers wriggling like a wild
thing. Where did I put my consciousness?
Furiously I wrote as the indelible
mark slipped away. I recognized the stroke.
Afraid to look in the mirror for un-
equal pupils. I closed my eyes
and woke to morning-char, dawn sparking
the twined draperies and sliding
down the black trunks of oaks gleaming.
South county is full of ghosts. Driving back,
we passed watersheds of For Sale signs—
6+ Acres, 73 Acres w/ Well. Past the turnoff,
what had been our house. In its window
I glimpsed the ghost of myself 30 years ago.
We only came for her celebration.
In the crowd I hardly recognized anyone.
She was the ghost in the sunflower
someone placed on the blade of her tractor.
She nodded her golden head—or was it
the westwind beckoning our view,
what I once knew of sunset. Ridges
on ridges. Black oak, ponderosa,
incense cedar. Our horizon. Yes, she
nodded. I was the ghost there.
OUT THE WINDOW AT 4 A.M.
So early Trek woke me. Look!
The glasses are full of moon! What could
a puppy know of plenilune, how
it gathers shadows around the house,
moon-dragons that inhabit the night-
shade of trees—my puppy who spent
his first two months in the safe dark
of a stranger’s garage, missing
all the lunar phases? Does he think
the moon will never look this way again?
He wakes me as if I could do
something about it. Moonlight playing
through the screen door, winking
through window-glass. Or maybe he’s
watching the glance
of an angel through canopies of oak,
and wants me to see it too.
All night I dreamed of backup plans so dawn
comes stale as overnighted air. But here’s
my puppy Trek. Out of his crate, to the deck’s
far corner, he loops & circles, scanning old
papers, leaving scraps of yesterday’s news;
grabs his favorite bone—memento of some
creature’s former life, its scrimshaw ivory
worked by old-dog teeth. It stimulates some
memory, maybe, so he whirls in all his mind’s
directions, every gusto of a dawn-wind,
he’s tattering the household and all its shadow
dying into light; tail wagging him a-whimsy—
this souvenir, your shredded sock.
Eyes so brownly bright, he’s pure joy
dancing with my slipper.
COLE CREEK AUBADE
All night the creek kept
whispering to its stars, a lovers’ web
of light in so much dark,
so far from trailhead. And then
it was morning, time to wake
from dreams or visions,
voice of those departed lost
to words speechless as a creek
of spider silk.
It was morning, time to wake,
make coffee (instant, from a jar),
break camp. Another hike
through mid-Sierra lodgepole,
the dust of July, for
it was morning. Time to wake
and get moving. Forget
spirits casting nets in sleep,
old friends fishing the deep waters
of midnight, distant loss.
It was morning. Time to wake.
Before the sun goes down