HE WALKS AT NIGHT
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
In my hometown
It was Deerman,
Of a human and
A white tail.
To matter how,
He just was. Always.
Human from the waist
Down, deer above,
Legs, hooves and
Head. Antlers above.
He haunted old Saint
Mary’s Cemetery, near
Warning, no doubt.
But he turned up other
Places, parks, dirt roads,
Places you shouldn’t
Have been after dark.
If he saw you twice, you
Were lucky. Changed,
Somehow, but alive.
If he saw you three
Times, you died a
Death shortly after.
Local bad boys,
The Hastings brothers,
George and Joe, said
He’d seem them
Three times, laughed
About it. Joe died soon
After in a fiery car
Crash, George shotgunned
In a phone booth.
No one saw anything
Deerman has seen me
Twice. And one sidelong
Glance before I was able
To look away. I can
Never go home again.
ST. FRANCIS AT THE DOOR
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Still dark. Coffee’s perking. Black cat Blink
weaves purr around my ankles, he wants food.
Loki dashes out the front door
then back-flash to her puppies, who hum and mewl
in the closet.
Old dog Cowboy rolls on his back,
four feet waving his idea of yoga-pose.
Sheep bedded down, dreaming of gates
opening to daylight pasture.
I pour myself a cup of coffee black
as sounds of creatures coming in from the dark.
A knock at the door.
A stranger garbed in dusk. It’s Francis.
He must be hungry, wandering in poverty.
He nods thanks for a cup of brew,
sits on the floor.
Blink leaps on his shoulder.
Can you hear him? the saint asks.
Your sheep bid you meditate—ruminate,
in your terms. Sit down, low. Let Earth speak
with the words of that puppy-choir
in the closet.
How shall we feed God’s creatures?
You know what poetry’s for.
(first pub. on Poets Online)
VAGABOND CAMP BY MOONLIGHT
It’s cold. Seven human creatures—grandfather,
grownups, child—with a shelter not much bigger
than a pup-tent, and a dog for company.
The horse gazes over a gate that keeps them
from the next field. The woods are theirs
for the night—maybe no one has noticed, to run
them out. On the other side of gate, a path leads
wide and prosperous toward town with its high,
distant steeple. God-fearing folk huddle
around fires inside sturdy walls, under roofs;
circled against all creatures of the night.
The moon has risen, shining perfectly full
through pewter clouds with no market value
whatsoever. Vagrant campers have the moon.
Click off the chatter—entrepreneurs in a post-
artistic world, statistical sampling of population
pressure, decoding and translating screed.
Turn out the light. The evening slips to sleep,
to dream. Sometime in the goosedown dark
you wake to silence. No, a pressure, press
of feathers, wingbeats. On hunt the owl makes
no sound in flight. A rustle of the lightless,
a shift of air like breathing beyond all walls.
Are they real? You listen for a message. By
dawn-light do you catch a glimpse in leaves
of what, in bright sun, will cast no shade?
I wake to sounds of puppy Trek trying
to hero-worship old dog Cowboy in the dark.
static rises deep from dogsleep.
Trek’s groveling is a yodel down a slippery
slope. A gangly teenage boy-pup
shouldn’t flirt with an old Alsatian grouch.
Mother-dog Loki wonders what this
guy-thing is all about; she leaps between old
neutered he-dog and her adolescent son.
Trek bows and curtsies, scatters magazines
we store in the wicker basket—photo
of a tallgrass prairie shredded by pup trying
to kiss-up to the old patriarch dog.
So much for my dreams of sleep, my
schedule. And you kept sleeping like a log.
Leafless vines cling to the wall—wizened
grapes the color of dried blood or midnight
wine—where wind rode through the back
alley. On the main street most shops are
closed, their business done for the year, but
tides of bundled people lap the sidewalks
laughing at the cold. Would we recognize
the face of the new year if it knocked at our
door? My dog sniffs where other dogs
have written their names in invisible ink.
She can read whole tales there, like stories
the fire-escape could tell—part of a story—
as this morning’s glorious wind sweeps
the old away. My dog, mum as a new year.
It hasn’t snowed here but the earth is frozen.
Your fingers are cold but that’s not why you
can’t type words. The keyboard’s dying. It
gives you a couple of letters back and spits
the rest in a block of ice melting on the floor.
As if the pup ran through splattering every-
thing all over, like the morning news no better
than yesterday, like the Skater’s Waltz that
keeps waltzing through my head so the words
you dreamed don’t make sense with only
a few of their letters. What will become of
the year if it’s just those few consonants that
sound like shots across a frozen sidewalk?
The road’s a string and it’s tuned from where
I’ve been to that place I’m going. Blues
of me and the machine. No shortage of songs
but a warning from the teacher.
It’s all synthesized and comes a time of no
more changes. What can two fingers do
if they can’t touch the strings, the steering
that guides through the turns, the curves,
the music? Life’s long distance of the blues.
Can’t stop and we can’t come back.
The Future Blues played at 70 miles per,
years. Road’s a string to where I’m going.
Hazy mountain up ahead with views for-
ever, the tune we call God’s country.
And I used to think it was only the blues
turn of phrase, phrasing, a way
of touching the strings. Just music. We play
our song, the music goes on forever.
Many thanks to Taylor Graham and Kevin Jones for today’s fine fare! I hear that the new Einstein reading series which was launched yesterday (first Sundays) was excellent and well-attended; congratulations to them! Watch Medusa for info about future readings there. Taylor Graham read her “St. Francis at the Door” which is from her upcoming book, Uplift (Cold River Press), supposed to be out sometime this year.
Some of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s art was posted in the Kitchen last Thursday, Dec. 31, and we mentioned a movie about him. Michelle Kunert sent us a link to a second movie, Basquiat, made in 1996 and featuring David Bowie as Andy Warhol: see www.imdb.com/title/tt0115632/. Thanks, Michelle!
Michelle also let me know about the Crocker Art Museum’s Feb. 18 reading, Beat by Beat: Poetry in the Gallery, celebrating 60 years since the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”. It’s basically an open mic; see www.sacramento365.com/event/detail/441955233/Beat_by_Beat_Poetry_in_the_Gallery
And Gail Entrekin, Canary editor, sent us this letter: This is a call for poems on the subject of trees. We're all "tree huggers" in our hearts, and I'm hoping to get enough work to do a special issue on Trees for Autumn 2016. I have only one so far: 19 more needed. Spread the word. Thanks so much. May we all succeed in helping in some small way in 2016. And keep some joy in our hearts.
Well said, Gail.
Poetry is frosted fire.
—J. Patrick Lewis