THE OLD YEAR RUNNING OUT, AWAY
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Morning fog’s settled in with rain.
Can’t tell where we’re going or where we’ve
Rain’s settled in to soil, muddying footprints
till earth can hold no more. The rain still raining
hustles down creek that’s been dry
A watershed knows directions, carrying
everything down, running away to sea.
I wake to cold, dry wind, shiver
of bird-wings through the room, a dark
mistral—the master wind—
from another world. We’re improvident
of light this time of year, dawn late
and dim, gone too soon.
The old dog’s asleep in front of the dark
TV. Will he stir to the morning
report? Imported gifts for a passing season;
traffic and weather so far from
the trails of his life. All those years
he’d push nose-first into the wind
to catch its news on the fly.
Now he chases rabbits in his sleep.
Before she died, the mother-dog
floated through the house in my dream,
The old dog rouses, the bright
of his brown gaze softened by years.
I stroke his furred crown,
wonder if he hears the master-wind
calling him weightless
as a homing bird to another land.
Bread rises, and fat of the steer is rendering
to tallow on the wood-burning stove. Morning’s
assembled dim as winter dawn. Its song spills
on the floor. Must she mop it up? Outside
it’s snowing, the black colt’s broken loose
again. She leaves water making magic steam
in the kettle. No time for close-to-the-fire.
Black skirts whipping her out the door—she
leans into it. The wind’s a quirt. Hoof- and boot-
steps tangling lines in snow. Where are
the men? On mountain paths, stones symbolize
journey, each obstacle a bookmark. That colt
will be a good horse someday. So many
unforeseens. The best striding out to meet them.
INTO THE MIX OF A YEAR
Midnight comes in the open door.
Its crows speak: The guts of mortality are
kept in place by membranes
shimmery as leaf-fat that wishes to become
candles burning into a new year.
Syllable by syllable, one beloved name
after another becomes loss
surrounded by silence; disappeared
into the mysterious beckoning of sky.
That baroque of wind and storm clouds
reveals loose scree underfoot,
chance of a broken ankle; earth opening
like clouds. A scalpel-shaft of sun
lets light pour down.
Can the hand that severs
also replace the lost, shiny new as
January, as a titanium joint?
In gown and goggles Midnight leans over,
explaining how good slips into bad
and back again. You’ll wake up
somehow mended. Count blessings,
not asking how they turn out in the end.
—Photo by Taylor Graham
We Nod God
ON OUR BLOCK
—Sharon Mahany, Roseville, CA
After Gwendolyn Brooks’ "We Real Cool"
We hang lights. We
See sights. We
Bake cakes. We
Wrap gifts. We
Buy tree. We
Sing tune. We
—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA
Flying feathers preened to go
no hairless look for this bird
nor color clashing reds
staying powerfully jolly
and alert to gaze out the window
at pink wafts of sky ribbons
at perfect circles on the earth below
and not know the origins
of ruler-straight lines.
recently, free flying
recalling feathered friends
propelled by jaunty winds
at the window and me
who sleeps and gazes
there at erosion, at rivers
beyond the cliffs, at circles
on the coffee table, and wonders
if landings are more intense.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
My grandfather would
Take us children
Out Christmas eve
Just before midnight
Just before the animals
Spoke. Never heard
Them, but still.
He’d point out
The North Star, Orion’s
Belt, like we cared.
Though just before
We’d go inside, there’d
Be others: Skunk’s Tail,
Napoleon’s Other Hand.
None exactly on the list,
But certainly vivid. My
Resigned: he’d tried.
Between the hedges.
Annie, our neighbor,
Sister of the Cole Brothers’
Flying Circus, flashing
Up there, signs,
Myths, and constellations
That never were, but probably
Should have been.
I grinned at her, through
The bushes, as we often did.
She nodded, switched off
Her light and went inside.
I love astronomy, the things,
The potential, we can find
Up there. It’s a beautiful starry
Night. But the most beautiful—
What you see on your own.
The song “Let it Snow” plays on the radio where I work
I live in Sacramento where the closest thing to snow is the frost that appears on lawns
I hate snow and like it that way
My parents grew up where they had to shovel snow
and they don’t want to ever shovel it again either
Their jobs as adults took them to L.A. where I was born
and I do not ever want the chore of shoveling snow in my life
I’m fine with just “visiting” snow in the mountains or other states
My parents never got any “rewards" for shoveling snow
People would sometimes offer them something for shoveling it
but often passed up jobs doing it because people wouldn’t offer enough for the hard work
People thought they could hire a kid to dig out their car
and dig a path for it for only like a quarter
With those my parents couldn’t negotiate with for better pay
they’d say something like, “Do it yourself, I’ll stay in where it’s warm…”
They weren’t that desperate, even though there were probably kids who were
Besides, a kid (in the ’50’s) could earn more either
babysitting, housekeeping, delivering papers, mowing lawns, clerking in a
store, or working on a farm
Picking crops at harvest time would get you more than shoveling snow in December and January
You could get enough from other jobs the rest of the
year, enough money in the bank to not have to settle for the lowly pay of snowing snow
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
A couple of years ago at Christmastime
My Dad had his home-filmed footage of his mom put on a DVD
However, much apparently didn’t survive the transfer
All my nephews saw that Christmas of Grandma Lydia Swandt Kunert
whom they never saw live in person
was footage of a rather eccentric elderly woman in her homemade housedress
who lived with her six cats whom she talked to like people
and of her carefully picking at a gift package so as to not rip the wrapping paper
a habit she had gotten into with her reusing and saving
There was no footage of the former music teacher playing the piano and singing
Those recordings must have decayed from sitting around too long in a box somewhere
or perhaps much of it got lost in our family's move from Los Angeles to Sacramento
It would have been so precious to show Grandma's playing of Christmas songs to my brother’s sons
and I wish that I could pull the memories out of my head of Grandma and put it on a television screen
They asked at work, “Are you ready for Santa Claus?”
I answered “No I have to be ready for Jesus to return at any time, all year ‘round.
But as much as I want Jesus to come back
I guess that friends of mine who don’t believe in him will have to go to hell…”
LAND PHONE ILLUSION
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
A violin note
so long, so sweet
sounds like the
first ring of
(first pub. in Brevities, 2014)
—Claire J. Baker
Here's to all
that after they
peak and pass
live on as stardust.
LET IT BE
—Claire J. Baker
In the changing skies
let us be
like flocks of birds
guiding each other
by touching wings.
•••The Bay Area’s Hip Pocket Press has a new issue of its fine journal, Canary, online at www.hippocketpress.org/canary.
•••There will be no Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight (12/28); instead, head on up to Placerville for the Poetry In Motion read-around at 6pm at the Placerville Sr. Ctr., 937 Spring St. (off Tunnel). Bring your own poems to share; read from your favorite poets; or just come to listen. Free; all ages welcome.
•••And also note that Sacramento will start the new year off with a new reading series, Poetry at Einstein, on the first Sunday of each month from 2-4pm at the Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright St., Sac. (between Cottage and Wyda Way). Jan. 3 will feature JoAnn Anglin, Rhony Bhopla and Ellen Yamshon plus open mic. Watch Medusa's blue "board" (under the green section at the right of this column) for news of the many readings in our area.
THIS SHORT DAY
—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento
The geese flew over.
They were headed your way,
singing that song, Ah? Ah? Ah?
Did you hear them? It’s winter.
Tomorrow will be longer.
(first pub. in Brevities, 2015)