Monday, November 16, 2015
City of Lights
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
I remember, in parts. The city, a flow
of faces like its river in love, each droplet
vanishing down the flow as its current
endures. I remember walking
as on a human wave of language partly
understood, grammar of voice like water
beyond the breath of teaching,
a tongue that learns to grow.
The city has been broken once, twice,
who knows how many times.
The river licks its city’s wounds,
and faces float like voices, like flowers
on its flow.
MYSTERY OF PROTECTED SPACE
Past the technology store flashing
zap of a thunderstorm; around the back
corner, shopfront all in glass but dark,
interior unknown. A spot of dim before
dawn dreaming meridian; dim before
the lark ascends. A moving spot repeated
in dark mirror. Pointe. The figure
composed herself as lily unfolding slowly
into wings. No sound. Split the lark
from girl to mirror, shall you find music?
Too many people stuffed in a room,
patter of inside weather without hope
of rain. A stranger saying, “and then
I found a deer with his head stuck
in the fence. Young buck with just
enough antler snagged in the weave,
twisting to get loose, my old hunting
dog wild as the buck that was white-
eyed struggling against field wire.”
I watched the buck pull himself free,
followed him leaping to silence of
wildwood. The party an insect hum.
THE CLOCK STOPPED
A day is a calendar crossed with deadlines repeating like a bad habit. Last night I felt the first snowflake, and dreamed leagues of white. No lights, no phone, no road. Familiar spartan life: printing bootsteps to woodpile and back, feeding the fire; scooping snow in buckets. Straight-back chair at the north window, reading words to spark a poem in the brain’s woodstove ticking intervening time between waking up spotlessly snowbound and the inevitable crossings-out, the melt.
messages in twigs’
calligraphy on whitefall—
dogs write snow-angels
Snow didn’t procrastinate this year.
Daypackers, picnickers, cyclists have gone
to lower ground. We’re looking for a man
destined to join the list of lost people
on the evening news. So far, not a clue,
no footprints. A Sunday storm has covered
ridge and mazing canyons with beautiful
white cold. Will we find him? Jury’s out,
a dozen ravens have flown. Sky bequeaths
lullaby-breeze, a comforter of snow.
THE IRIS MURDOCH GAZE
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
It might be Churchill from the philtrum up.
A snub determined nose is the ridgeline
gullying darkly into each eyecup
alongside. The mood swings dark, or it swings fine.
The bangs are forest fern-curls, bracken so thick
the eyebrows ask permission to stand out.
Yes, interrogative brows, yet dark and quick
the eyes, shaped pounce-and-judge, still savor doubt,
or maybe a hurt, or possibly love. The mind,
that intellect caught in Cave yet attaining Sun,
in that Homer-deep brow, full skull behind,
but what of the moist reserve so softly spun?
See where the small fine lips live gently pursed
for kisses and laughs unpracticed, long rehearsed.
IMPROVISATION ON EDNA ST. VINCENT MILLAY’S
LAST THREE LINES
The lady lord of words is forging swords
once more. Atop the stairs at Steepletop
bebottled, nonetheless Vincent rides astride
fresh verses, ringing with dark ink the words
I will control myself, or go inside.
Spine pledges psyche: soma won’t leave you bereaved…
She’s roosting topstep, frame elfin. This selfsame spearleaf
flame-cap once took worlds by-storm-by-girl.
I will not flaw perfection with my grief—
this crystal phrase too bullseyes her firm ink-swirl,
plus, Handsome this day: no matter who has died.
Her fiercest she-hawk-half applauds this strain;
her Karenina-half ducks under the ink-black train.
Tumbles she now sharp corners topplesteep.
Flash: poet departs peak for valley of crumpled sleeves.
Perfect-bound, I want one book to leave,
just one tome qualifying me among
fine candidates for immortality
so-called: but something of me not to grieve
nor to forget. Yet—immortality?
Of the old kind that deftly kept us deceived?
Given our species’ urge to plunge self-flung
into the abyss of dodo and ghost pigeon?
How brief all simple beauty’s humblest smidgen…
Death granted, immortal dreams do seem a joke,
and yet of imperial visions just a toke,
one hit of smoky bong is all I want.
And you, my reverie-bound, who love to paint
—long may you sway to that rapt trance the young
must worship: in truth, painfully kneel before.
Evoke in water and pigment that far shore
whose evanescence can be no sour jest,
any more than the iridescent sunset’s
touching its nightly torch to sky in one jet’s
quick fire. So, love, let us dye our ephemeral West.
Our thanks to the two TG’s (Taylor Graham and Tom Goff) and to the anonymous Paris photographers for whipping us up a fine breakfast, and our loving sympathies to our French brothers and sisters as they try to cope with this recent madness.
Also a note that our area has a humdinger of a week ahead, poetry-wise! Check out the blue board (under the green board) at the right of this column for the many events that will take place, a reflection of the wonderful diversity of our region—everything from poetry at the Dharma Center to readings in Davis, Placerville, Sacramento… Or maybe head down to Monterey for the Cowboy Poetry Festival. Enjoy!
He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.