(After the tone poem by Arnold Bax)
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Branches, always and everywhere the branches,
wild beats like panicked hearts convulsing, thrashing,
wind force and water devils nothing stanches,
and random enough to frighten, sudden flashings
jagged-specific or sky-whitening general.
Crowning the queen of mallecho’s sinister impdom,
this chromatic trauma’s no ephemeral,
it is your heart-valve stammer, sickness and symptom.
Love-conflict tears your dear innards with division,
division-scales in self-cloning violins
like multiple lizard tails shorn off, regenerate.
Such agonies, such contrapuntal singes
as mimic beechwood cracked, or scorched with incision.
Impassible nature slows: has time, can wait.
Rough wind-shear, snapped limbs, courtesy of Boult’s
baton—withheld, what strikes, of how many more volts?
If I forget, as at last night’s restaurant,
how we dined there with family when newly married
—one glitch in my cognition, but it does taunt—
and if I go on in years ahead to varied
symptoms of inelastic mind, strange lapses
of sequence and routine when feeding pets,
lost keys and passwords missed between synapses
where the wiring’s loose in the old cerebral nets;
and if sandpaper Time’s most casual erosion
abrades even you from a memory that was granite,
your face razed from Egyptian consecration;
if sweet thought uprooted though never so long implanted,
I’ll have lost all your whys, your wheres—
but not ever how much,
for that was intensely lodged, from your first deep touch.
TRYING ON BODY
I try on your young face to feel
how sunny is the glow of dimples.
I smile with your own lips: the agile
gesture, I can apply like simples
across my laboring chest. Sweet herbs
make up the warmest, most fragrant poultice
yet devised for whatever disturbs.
I dance inside your legs. The solstice-
lovely meridian day at leap
cavorts with your grand jeté, your caper,
so young and tireless, all the sweep
and passion that fashions your figure’s taper
enters me: I’m twenty-two again.
Oh, your bare shoulders, ah, your fresh hair
fit me so wondrously, I strain
out mane-shakes lionlike in your own air.
In your very frame, your atmosphere,
dwelling inside fair skin so sheer,
how can I die? What’s left now to fear?
Stuck alone in a small cell
With even smaller windows
Little to eat now dwindled to
Nothing, except maybe
One tiny morsel
It’s a sunflower seed
How I love those!
Perhaps I can bite it in half
And savor more chewing
As I view the gray morsel
A gray shadow follows it
Enlarging at least
The image of hope
This is all there is
Now my fingers come together
Ever so softly
The precious seed
To my mouth
But there is no firmness to it
It is just the thin skin
With no seed inside
This is all there is
I must make it work
Hour by hour
There is light from the sun
And sometimes the moon
So I rotate the gray morsel
To preserve its gray shadow
And as hours turn into days
I continue to feed on that shadow
My gray seed of hope
This is all there is
A LITTLE LATE ON THE BILL
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
The knock at the door
Came just about the time
I’d expected it, a respectable
If you were respectable.
I probably wasn’t
And so I opened.
Two guys this time;
I was earning credibility.
They more than filled
The door, the suits
And fedoras you can
“Kevin,” the one
Filling the larger double
Breasted pin stripe.
“Tommie the Q has let
You ride long enough.
Time to pay up.”
He cracked his knuckles,
But he didn’t really
Need do that.
The smaller pin stripe
Just smiled, every other
Tooth gone. The work
Did not, obviously,
Have a good dental plan.
“You gotta make good,”
Larger stripe leered,
“Now, or else you
Gotta hurt.” He glanced
Around. There was
Nothing left in the room
To hurt but me. He grew
Larger, smiling now,
In the anticipation.
“Go ahead,” I grinned,
“And what’s left of
Me will tell about
Tommie the Q’s life
In the monastery, how
He led the choir, especially
How he led the young ones.
And where and how.”
The pin stripes looked
At each other, shrugged.
Slammed the door.
I knew I had
A little more time
To make that last
Dollar, that last day.
MISTER JUSTICE SCALIA
could be a nice guy
when not on the bench.
Pity, the dogma
jurist and mensch.
—Medusa, with thanks to today’s fine poets and photographer for a hearty breakfast buffet!