—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
For Georgia Faye
Had no license of any kind.
Didn’t matter. The old
Boat house on the Mississippi’s
Rock Island shore,
Just down from the Arsenal
Bridge, where, improbably,
Back in the day, the feds and
Their prey would meet, just
Before dawn and work time.
Big Del the Gambler told
Me this, and he claimed to be
The last Made Guy on
That part of the River,
So it must have been true.
G-man at the counter, warming
His hands around the white mug,
Contemplating the donut tray.
Guy sidles up: “You lookin’
For me?” “For years, asshole,
But now I got all these fugitive
Warrants. You’re going down
About noon. Fair warning.”
Guy looks at the coffee mug:
Could use some. “You buyin’?”
“Seeing as you’re going away
For past forever, yeah.
Just this once. Seems fair.”
“So how’s it gonna go down?”
The guy asks, stirring more
Sugar and creamer into the mug
Than seems possible, even wise.
“Usual way,” says the fed. “We knock,
You run out the back, start
Jumping fences, we chase.
You’re not as young as you think
You are. You miss the last
Fence, you land in a pile
Of garbage and dog shit. If
This were a poem instead
Of real life, we’d call it
Guy nods. “Yeah. Thought
Maybe so. Familiar. Can I
Have a donut?” Eyeing the tray.
“Sure. Take two,” says the cop.
“Make it all quicker, maybe avoid
That last fence.“ “Can I have
The ones with chocolate frosting
And sprinkles?” “No. Those are
Mine. But anything else.”
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
At the bulk coffee grinder, I’m dreary
waiting as the machine sucks dark beans
down its throat with a clatter of river churning
pebbles from bedrock into sand; at last
a rumble-sigh, silence; run-down, finished.
Story of our earth. A stranger has slipped
in beside me. She’s old as I am; points
to the array of beans—almond toffee, amaretto,
French vanilla, Irish creme… which?
Her foreign accent I can’t place. I’ve got
hazelnut to mix with generic store-brand roast.
She fills her bag, gestures at a sign. How
to make the machine work? Lift the bonnet,
pour in beans. Which grind? whatever
I did. Press Start. The roar exudes a sweet
nutty scent. She nods, smiles. I move on:
nonfat milk, dogfood, checkout.
I can smell the coffee. There she is, placing
her bag of aromatic grind on the belt.
She turns and smiles grand as if I’d given
her a voucher to America.
We were opening books and binders,
passing around poems, drafts and almost-
final versions. She whizzed in with
a big flat cardboard box. “Party leftovers!
Help yourself!” Apple tarts with a sleek
melted-sugar shine. All kinds of donuts.
Around the table, glazed eyes. I passed
the box on, fumbled for my poem,
something about green grass and clear
water. How metaphor changes the every-
day to revelation. You bit into a cinnamon
swirl, I could almost. The magic of
sugar transformed in a sheen of glory
that leaves a begging emptiness in the pit
of the stomach. I ate my poem, tasting
every syllable, each consonant and vowel,
the rush of words addictive as sugar;
the sweet rhymes, a few tart bites to work
on—leftovers to take home.
The donuts weren’t on loan, they were for sale,
but we had the option of becoming sales-staff.
So many shapes and flavors, some with that
translucent film like angel-slime – he called it
glaze – some with devil-berry jam inside. Don’t
try to deconstruct, he said, you’ll break the trust.
Could he see the tic growing fierce in my left
eye? Itch like tick-bite, a hankering. Donuts?
Participation’s optional, he assured me, I could
cancel at any time. Didn’t everyone love donuts?
I had world enough – a dog-walk in the woods,
runner’s high that isn’t fueled by sugar – and
time. Yes, time to get out of this donut dream
and run as fast as I could away.
He loves that verse about a tree,
insisting it’s true poetry.
It rhymes so well. It makes you wince
each time he reads it Hallmark’ly.
You love trees as well as he does.
So when the recitation starts—
after subtle hints,
a yawn, a glance ceiling-ward or out
the window—out the door
you walk with trees. You leave prints
in loam, feel underfoot
the forest floor;
check some bird-quick edges,
leafy shores not yet man-tended.
Let the rhythm find
itself, a flow of air, the beat of wings;
and rhyme in winding,
minding of meanders. There you’ll be
as green-song through the branches pours.
SHADOW AND STONE
Up and down the sidewalks, people weave
their shadows in ever-changing patterns
past the donut shop, its patrons sipping coffee
hotter than daylight. Sun-slant measures
the time of afternoon, the time of year.
Each passerby’s attached to Wednesday
by his shadow lest he float away.
On a hill behind the alley, stones rest
on their centers, balanced lest they topple.
The language they speak is a dark
story, in spite of periwinkle twining to
hold the hill in place, its hope of eventual
blue blossoming. On a hill across canyon
golden shale holds down the graves of those
whose shadows couldn’t hold them.
VISITING THE RUINS
A place of gatherings, praise, memories, love
wrecked by sword and weather. Age-old
story. Tell me again, which war? which storm?
Flood against granite, wrath eroding heart.
Unstable ground. We call on legend, myth,
and lore, each hedge against time. We love ruins,
how a door was wedged too long closed, or
open so the wet got in. Rust and warp. Listen
for voiceless angels. Which poet meditated
here, hoping to lock in Forever-more? Broken
stairway to a ledge of grins, gargoyles who
still gutter down the rain after the cathedral’s
gone. Here used to be the market square,
where old men crippled would beg bread
and widows mumbled blessings on the giver.
Sparrows survive on crumbs, seeds, empty air.
GOBLINS IN THE BED
all over the floor, plumes of dreams
from your plumpest pillow.
I didn’t know goblins
would mess with the mind’s
meanderings through sleep.
What a mess! So much mending….
What will your dreams be now?
You say it was the puppy
mined your pillow out of simple
I tell you, it was the goblins.
Our thanks to today’s fine poets, riffing on our Seed of the Week: Coffee and Doughnuts, and on D.R. Wagner’s Medusa poems last Saturday, including his conjuring of goblins.
Our thanks, also, to Michelle Kunert for the photos of Sac. Fine Arts Center’s Open Mic Night ArtFEST which took place last Friday (1/8), celebrating “Animal House The Exhibit”, which will run through Jan. 30 at 5330B Gibbons Dr., Carmichael (www.sacfinearts.org/specialEvents.html/). And save Jan. 23 on your calendars, when Sac. Fine Arts Center's annual fundraiser will present art, poetry, and jazz featuring the Dave Brubeck Institute Quartet. Sac. poets will compose verse inspired by SFAC’s current Animal House Art Exhibit. Info: www.sacfinearts.org/poetryartjazz.html/.
This week’s readings in our area include the launch of Tim Kahl’s new book, The String of Islands (Dink Press) plus open mic tonight at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm; Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around in Placerville Weds. (1/13), 5-7pm; American Poetry Writers Sue Daly, Francis Knoll, Crystal Lorraine Shelton, Jason Henderson and others (plus open mic) at Luna’s Cafe Thurs. (1/14), 8pm; Sac. Voices Nikki Cardoza, Linda Westphal plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center Sat. (1/16), 4:30pm; Poetic License read-around in Placerville Sat. (1/16), 2-4pm; and Poetry Sunday Live with Laura Ann Walton, Bob Stanley plus open mic at Nello Olivo Winery in Placerville Sun. (1/17), 2-4pm. For details about these and other readings to come, scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right. Lots going on this week in Sac—and lots in Placerville, too! Be there!
SILENCE OF STONES
This bowl of stones still wet
from running river, how water
loves its rocks, forever polishing
and sheening with its flow.