A herd of sheepskin rugs
Extends from the parlor
Anchored by a baby grand piano
Down the hallway
Alongside the kitchen islands
Snaking its way past
Hard wood flooring
Boldly reaching all the way
To the front entryway
Covered there with
Clear plastic, reflecting the
Gentle chandelier lights
The doorbell chimes, bringing
The lady of the house who
Bares her teeth and hisses
“Shoes off at the door!”
INTERROGATION OF THE WIND
—Katy Brown, Davis, CA
listen with me to the howl
of the moon-struck coyote
— to the murmur of bees
echoing through the hollow oak
the night sky, full of stars,
sighed by an over-full moon
in the frosted breath of winter —
the night sky glistens
a young dog pricks his ears
to listen for the wild wind —
listens to the frozen air convey
a song of the wilder world
dark limbs crack from trees
falling in runes on frozen ground
— pointing to the known edge
beyond which dragons rule
THE LANGUAGE OF STONES
The Old Woman sits beside the stream,
plucking cobbles from the bank,
washing them in icy water
before setting them aside.
Then, one at a time, she retrieves
the water-dark stones,
turning them over in her hands,
studying them, listening.
She places a rounded piece of granite
on the flat rock beside her,
moving the stone around
to eliminate wobble.
She chooses the next stone, jasper,
to rest on the granite. Rest,
not balance— or she lines up
the rocks along their centers.
The jumbled rocks beside the stream
murmur of a world out of balance.
They reveal to the woman
that every stone can find its center.
In this simple act
of aligning a tower of rocks,
The Old Woman begins to
rebalance the wobbling world.
IN THE SONG OF A BIRD
A red-eyed towhee calls down the canyon,
its insistent song bouncing along Zion’s walls.
The heat of August, clear and rising,
carries currents of air
that support a pair of falcons.
Along the canyon floor, reeds and grass,
swaying in drafts between the walls,
struggle from the mudstone and gravel.
Silver-green aspen leaves shimmer
and mutter in the still morning.
In the stone cathedral that time
and wind and water carved from rust-red rock,
it is easy to imagine,
in the echo of the towhee’s song,
the melody of a willow flute.
Easy to imagine the murmur of basket-weavers
who long-ago gathered there—
mothers teaching daughters the art of coiling stories
made of grass—of how the moon used to be
a man with a face. Of how the world was made.
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Lesbos, where Sappho’s little feet once pressed
soft dandelions, dancing to her own verse
while plucking her personal lyre with sweet zest
that knows no future loss nor fragment curse,
that Lesbos would not know this desperate crowd
amassing like anthills or bastions of sand
children beach-sculpt, or lapping oddments of land
as salt foam will when wetting a trailing shroud,
so that stained sand and drenched soft cloth so blend
as not to give clear sight of where edges end.
But these are people-foam and people-sand.
What room for a song in sweetest meter where
clamors and pleadings rise among tree-stones
(petrified remnant poplar, cinnamon, myrrh)
strew fresher rocks with bleachings as of bones,
and Sappho’s greensward chokes with impromptu fumes
where refuse burns, these Syrian refugees
burn likewise, where mingled spumes and plumes,
smoke and seawater, hedge the petrific trees
& are hedged with coils of steel, fanged underbrush
that, fencing the smaller, exiles the still bigger crush?
TO ANY GUN
For the lost ones, slain at Umpqua Community College
No, I have nothing to say to any gun.
For me it is never as when a unicorn
is come to by a maiden here to stun
or tame pure silence’s unreddened horn.
No, guns are not to talk to or about.
Not though at all event we euphemize
as do the cautious ones rehearse a rout
of men on easier beaches than the warwise,
more muzzle-headed, minefield-strewn, pillboxed
sand-strands we innocent fear will scatter red
ribbons through the shocked shingle into salt,
until the lastmost slow unshot have fled
on backwards boats. Your standard gun cannot
be preached out of shoot, beseeched through its round slot.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
My dog was digging as if for miracles.
What he found were bones and roots living
their long lives underground the way my dog
might grumble in his sleep, rumble of joy
like a train delving deeper into night,
into the core; tuberous blind eyes and smallest
bones of fingers reaching down in search
of beginnings. Stones and roots itching
with the ur-hunger of things whose stories
are never told. My dog was digging
but then he paused, listening as to a silent
music, and dug some more.
Of course it’s the wolf at the door.
A tooth-mark in the psyche passed down
for generations. They spoke of hard desert
crossings, and the child tasted alkali flats.
The well went dry, the child dreamed
fire in the throat. They told of pestilence,
mothers and fathers dying. The child
shivered in a solitude that holds no hands.
What to do but walk out the door
and find a way. A large beast
followed, padding quietly, eyes glowing
in the dark. What to do but
stroke its ears and ruff to quiet
the ancestral fears? What lives inside.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove
“Who was that knocking?”
“Wolf. Came to apologize.
Was all a huge
Said Coyote did it.”
—Medusa, thanking today's fine contributors, and reminding you that tonight at 7:30pm, Sac. Poetry Center will present publishers and poets Patricia Caspers (of West Trestle Review) and Katherine Case (of Meridian Press), plus open mic. 25th & R Sts., Sac. Host: Wendy Williams.