—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Down Main Street, everybody’s
sandwiched between curb and storefront,
elbows and boots, blaring bands,
hoots and hollers.
But driving down the hill I saw
our creek after rain, late winter sun spark-
spangling silver sequins, water
giggling secrets too quick to celebrate,
gone like it was already spring
without my noticing.
Miner’s lettuce taller than an elf umbrella,
every heart-shaped leaf green
as a color-blind valentine;
and, poking through mats of old dead leaves,
a mushroom golden-red as a heart.
on a drawing by D.R. Wagner
and lines by Loch Henson
Our old cat lost her touch with fairies.
She, who used to fly from roof to wind-chime
and leaped the van to catch a piñon jay
in flight. Cat chittering, a siren language
beckoning bushtit through window-glass, magic
akin to a wood-sprite’s. Was it in Nevada
she snagged a fairy? evidence scant
as a translucent cross-veined wing on desert
sand. A human can only hypothesize,
and say the old cat lost her touch. In later
lives, she took to tucking lizards
and deer-mice under the bathroom mat.
Barefoot, you’d find the corpses
in the morning. Was she waiting for us
to scream? Language has its limits. Species
to species, images that never convert
to words. A scribe does his best
in the dim before dawn, before coffee.
KING OF BIRDS
Back then, we lived with the king of birds.
We never saw him, he was elusive as royalty
in exile where used to be his realm
a forest we were helping to unravel.
On quiet mornings I could hear him beating
a deep tattoo with beak and heartbeat
against a dying tree. Flashes
of light. Red black white his colors,
and the crested crown.
We scattered ashes of our ancestors
homeless among lupine so it bloomed blue-
lavender again in May. Then we left.
We hadn’t heard the king of birds
for years, but I believe he’s still there,
outlasting us humans.
big and gray and slow—
“The Circus Parade,” Katherine Pyle
The circus shut down or moved on years ago.
Or maybe it was the movies. Only these animals
left behind without a job. No more parades;
super-annuated. We were supposed to do
the story, with pix of this refuge for the once-
wild stuff of a child’s imagination. You pointed
your SLR into a tiger’s open mouth. I looked
past empty eyes. In the distance, a wrinkled
caretaker led two small elephants. The younger
rummaged his back pocket with its trunk—or so
it seemed from my vantage. Without thinking
I aimed & shot. There was no time. The photo
black & white, grainy. The man looked
like a pachyderm’s brother. Jobs quit or go
somewhere else. No matter how slowly
elephants place their huge feet and lift them up
again, they’re gone before you can focus.
In their stead, something paces through the mind
slow and gray, to develop years later without
—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento
the tired sales girl at Ross
brims with unspoken curses
begrudges me a smile when I confide
that I’ve blown money
painfully saved for a vacuum cleaner
on a rose and cream lace bra
that fits perfectly
trying it on before my mirror tonight
I think about my sister
who hasn’t called me back
since our last phone conversation, months ago
who stopped eating when Mom died
food won’t appease her real hunger
too many days lost to vomiting and diarrhea
she cancels her housecleaning gigs
somehow finds cash
to feed her cats
keep herself in cigarettes
It was a half moon tonight
One half shining the light of truth
And the other half slyly eavesdropping
Over everyone’s back yards
A quiet ant trail
Programmed to survive without caring
About being thought of as pests
Healthy without funding from PACs
Propane barbeque grill
Side shelves down
Draped like a handcuffed prisoner
Blindfolded to the knees
Folding chairs with generous cup holders
Clean and dry seats at last look
Now gathering leaves, silt, and moisture
To complicate the easy motion of sitting down
Dandelions yellow flowers
Bragging about being somehow overlooked
During the last weeding parade
Angular shadows of a garden hose
Advertised as “will not kink”
Do I still have the receipt?
Too much bother
The family dog bathing in half moonlight
Faithfully doing its business outside
A neighbor’s dog barks
This time ours chooses not to join in
Apricot and plum trees
White blossoms, green buds
Tricked into thinking this was Spring
Peeling-bark young apple tree just a ghost of itself
THE GREAT BISHOP HILL, ILLINOIS
FOURTH OF JULY CALLITHUMPIAN* PARADE,
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
The parade steps off promptly
At noon in the little former Swedish
Communal settlement, led by
A line of ancient farm tractors,
Repainted, retuned, polished:
John Deere Green, International
Harvester Red, Ford Tractor Blue.
They are followed by the junior
High band, kazoos, combs and
Tissue paper, sauce pans and sticks
(Music and arts budgets
An issue even back then).
Behind them, every
Other kid in town
On a bike, streamers,
Clothespins and baseball
Cards in the spokes.
Next, a variety of candidates,
County board members,
Looking sincere on backs
Of Mustangs and
Wish your grandfather
Had owned, and never
Sold, trying hard
Not to sweat.
Finally, the county sheriff,
Either on a dark, heavily
Or the back of a fifty-nine
Red Cadillac convertible,
Either way, looking like
With a hangover.
The little parade went
Around the tiny town
Square once, twice, again.
People finally realizing
They’d seen it all before,
Ambling off towards
Dorothea’s Colony Inn
With the growing heat.
*In the Midwest, a loud, discordant
Parade, largely for and by children.
And the child-like.
Our thanks to today’s fine contributors, starting the week off just right! We’re headed for a very busy one, poetry-wise—especially next Thursday, when you’ll have to make some hard choices between the Art Mantecón tribute in Davis, the Beat reading at Crocker Art Museum, and the release of a new WTF from Rattlesnake Press at Luna’s Café (Ann Wehrman will be one of the poets represented in this latest issue). Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box on the right) for more info on these and all the other wonderful readings happening in our area this week.