A MOMENT IN APRIL
—Jane Blue, Sacramento
A cat sits on a piece of cardboard,
collapsed box, in sun and shadow.
Sun and shadow, sun and shadow:
that is life. The cat holds tomorrow
in its paws. Loam is piled in the street
and spread across a garden in the making;
bricks line up in the process
of being laid for a walkway; a wooden box
on the driveway, and draped tarps.
From here it looks like an artist’s studio.
A baby dove scratches in the gutter.
I’m not sure it can fly. The cat
has disappeared. Has it eaten the dove?
No! It did! It flew! Up into the plane tree.
Up to the nest. So many sweet smells
on the air. So many different bird calls.
(first pub. in Turtle Island Review, 2014)
on "Witness" by Patricia Artel
A woman comes with lilies sprouting from her breast and from her long pointing finger. She seems surprised as anyone; the lilies, her hair, bursting from her like flame. She is an unwilling messenger of peace; doesn't even know who sent her, what world she came from and what she is entering, like the doves arriving with her. Clack clack clack they call in warning, the pair rising straight up into the trees together. We, just like this delicate woman, they seem to say, never wanted the role of peacemaker. All we've ever wanted is to protect and feed our children. We are trying to make a nest. Don't you see the twigs in our beaks? That is all you should expect of us.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Which morning is this?
Everywhere birds are singing.
What springs from dead grass?
Five blue eggs in a dry cup.
Where do the birds nest?
Young willow leaves wish to fly.
ON THE BLUEBIRD TRAIL
for Gerard Manley Hopkins
Such charged percussion in your verse
mysterious as universe
a-shimmer with wings
as a Spring sky sings,
the thistle’s curse,
the toil and trod of gaitered legs.
This highway’s littered with man’s dregs.
But a higher crest
shows the long flight’s rest.
Look! a nest
with six warm eggs.
On a fresh green morning
my Shepherd-dog picked a single egg
from the wild-turkey nest,
carried it in her jaws and placed it
gently in my hand
as if I could mother it.
Barcelona: one night in a youth hostel, the two
of you for once not hitchhiking
but riding the train. So many stops, so slow,
he promised to step off and pick you a bouquet
from the miles of wildflowers blooming
for no one but the two of you,
and step back aboard before the train
was a distant memory. A whim of spring-break
so many springs ago. A gesture.
Together you picked each savor
from a paella, sucked eggs from market-stall
shells; green olives wrapped in paper.
Then the two of you
boarded the train again with a packet of mussels
fresh from blue water, dark and raw
down the throat.
On to Granada, the Moorish syllables
you tried to piece together out of arching
fountains and mathematical mosaics;
by bus twisting up to Toledo
in the dark above its snaking river; its myth,
spirits bursting in smoke and flame,
in stars over clouds breaking apart.
Just the two of you
so far from home for a week of instants threaded
on a strand of time, moving slow as a train,
whether the two of you were aboard
or not. Or so you remember. Or is it only
imagination? Or does memory lie like lovers?
The forecast was unrest in the weather.
Dark fell, it sounded like the heavens wanted
to pry off the roof, peel shingles like a sloughed
skin. What separates us from the world?
Lightning. Roof twisted tight around an invisible
metal key to open our den like a tin of sardines.
Air roiled with water, wind drowning out
thunder playing fast and loose with metaphor,
transforming. By morning, bones of trees
lay on the deck littered with birdseed, its feeder
gone. Flung-over bins and woodpile.
Our dogs stood ready at the door—
to see how their world had changed, or
guarding against its rush inside?
If I were author Harper Lee
I would have been a hell of a lot more vocal in my final years
I’d say: “I wrote To Kill A Mockingbird in the civil rights era
only to see every day in the news now that America is in a post-civil rights era
(although I’m a white woman, I can never say I've been “color-blind”
I am very aware of the civil rights struggle of Americans of color
as was antislavery, feminist preacher Harriet Beecher Stowe, who wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852)
For instance I not only hear of unarmed black men being shot and murdered by cops
but black men also shooting and killing each other—
black men more likely to die a violent death
as well as poor black Americans having far shorter lifespans than whites
(Is it all part of a plan of eugenic “genocide” of America's “undesirable" citizens?)
Oh yeah, musician John Legend is also right when he said while receiving an award for his music for the movie Selma,
‘There are more black men under correctional control today than there were under slavery in 1850…’
Legend probably now told, like once were the Dixie Chicks told ‘to shut up and sing’
Alas I leave this world with a lot of students in our schools graduating from high school sadly never reading my book
as well as many other American authors writing about our nation’s historical fights over civil and human rights.”
behind the quik-stop,
bramble, an old quilt’s neatly spread.
Someone calls this home.
Our thanks to today’s contributors to the Kitchen for a charming cioppino to start the week off right, including Michelle Kunert’s photos of the Feb. 8 Sac. Poetry Center Black History Month reading, and, as Black History Month continues, a tribute to Harper Lee, who passed away last week.
Be sure to to scroll down to the blue box on the right (under the green box) for local poetry events, including Poetry in Motion in Placerville tonight; Wagner and Grizzell at Sac. Poetry Center (also tonight); and Billy X Jennings at Sr. Readers Speak (Sat. at GOS” Art Gallery). Be sure to watch the Kitchen for pop-up readings—those that don’t get advertised until the last minute… And take a look at Medusa’s Facebook page, too, for our new photo album by Katy Brown: Springtime in the Valley.
Those who enjoy ekphrastic poetry might be interest in the daily blog, Ekphrastic California; Patricia Wellingham-Jones has current poems posted there and sent us this link: ekcalif.blogspot.com/. PWJ also noted that an ekphrastic exhibition will take place at the Enloe Regional Cancer Center in Chico in July at Enloe’s Healing Art Gallery: www.enloe.org/community-health/healing-art-gallery/. Of course, Sacramento has its own ekphrastic journal, Ekphrasis (ekphrasisjournal.com), published by Laverne and Carol Frith. See also San Francisco’s Rattle for its monthly ekphrastic challenges at rattle.submittable.com/submit/34289/. The current one ends Feb. 29.
Submit, I say—Submit! Get your competitive spirit on and check out the contest opportunities in the green box at the right (under the mail box), including the local Friends of the Roseville Library (deadline Apr. 16). Why shouldn’t you take home some of the Real Money?