Monday, April 18, 2016

Keeping the Light On (A Poet is a Verb)

Kimberly White reads at Sac. Poetry Center, April 11
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA
It was a day of U-turns—
teeth and shoes and all

Now I need to be smoothed down
by the gravity of home

I want silence like a blanket
I keep thinking I hear rain

We are sinking into patience
We are keeping the light on

               *     *     *
We are keeping the light on
wrapping ourselves

in silence like a blanket
in the gravity of home

I am smoothing myself down—
teeth and shoes and all

I am listening to the rain
forgetting the U-turns

I am sinking in.

               *     *     *

I am sinking down into patience
smoothing myself like rain

All I want is silence
All I want is a blanket of gravity

No more U-turns
I am keeping the light on


—Cynthia LInville

I am lost on the Midway
amidst neon-lit leers

Out of the top of my head I pull
a giant teddy bear
wearing black underwear:

I am riding the carousel
my white horse takes off
rises up up up into the night
a deep voice says, hold on tight!

When I wake up
I am wearing bunny ears


—Cynthia Linville

I think we are in some kind of Kansas
but maybe it’s only rain
the tendrils of wind
a distillation of smoke on the horizon

The cold has silenced us
in the spacious ruins
of whatever hope becomes

When I close my eyes
I see shoes so red
so bright
they seemed to be floating

I need shoes like that

I need something—
or someone—
to lift me up
to show me where home is

 Mariam Ahmed reads at Sac. Poetry Center, April 11
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

Night brings out lights
Joining the moon
From aircraft and stars
To trains and cars

Casting light on
Fixed objects
From signposts and hills
To rocks and window sills

A much wider brush
Than laser pointers
From near to far
From here to thar

A rock of interest
Enjoying the luxury
Not gifted with sight
But bathing in light

 Tim Kahl reads at Sac. Poetry Center, April 11
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

Didn’t arrive, and she
Didn’t arrive.  He sat staring
At the keyboard.  Nothing.
Finally, a light landing
On his shoulder.
“Where have you been?”
“You want the usual
Excuses, or the truth?”
“Truth, Muse.  Please.
Always.”  “Okay, at an
MLA meeting.”  His eyes
Brightened.  “No, not
That one—The Muse
Liberation Association.”
“And?”  “We declare our
Freedom from being
At your beck and call.
No more being the
Midwife of your work;
No more of this ghostwriter
Crap.  We have lives—actually
We’re immortal.  You don’t
And you aren’t.  From
Hereon, inspire yourself!”
He wanted to say she
Vanished in a cloud of silver
Dust.  It was more like clumps
Of black foundry sand.  Shook
It out of his hair, closed up
The lap top and walked away.
Felt better than he had
In quite a while.

Ernesto Via Lobos reads at Sac. Poetry Center, April 11
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

Women at play with their hair: men watch.
Something plummets like plum juice down
my sere throat, watching you finger your swatch
of rich black hair, which would otherwise gown
way down your long neck and soft back, clamp
itself between shoulder blades and car seat.

Don’t some girls think their hair whispers tramp
when let flow in long waterfalls, albeit neat?

One car ahead, your finger’s the spindle
on which you coil and spool the makings
of glowing new coifs; such black will kindle
equine dark fire. Sparks comb from the rakings.

Both hands knead your ponytail, knot it coarse
yet smooth into tuft; your car self-steers;
you’d guide with your knees, were the ride but a horse.
The obedient wheel nor strays nor veers
into wrong lane-pastures as colts jog asleep,
but straight as your gloss-of-the-pony will keep.


—Tom Goff

You looked for one to unite with and found me,
a being unlike yourself. I had no tale
to tell, nothing to speak of under your tree
of intricate story-branches: me, mere swale,
dirt-flat. In Shakespeare is found the ancient myth
of the bear newborn in no shape—or could it be cube?
Lump like an outcropped cube of salt to lick,
and lick that cube the mother does, with tube
of tongue. Soon shapes the clawed paws, lips, nose, head;
what’s cube turns cub. But more ways exist than lap
or slurp to reshape as you knead me to form:
you’re nature and nurture, no versus; you’re my bread,
my wine, all art or rite known to sculpt or knap
the youngling bear fit to bear up under all storm.

And if I at last have come to have a story,
it’s carved from your cube—not salt: your marble, your quarry.    

 '20s Dress with Quilts, Folsom History Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham, Placerville

She drew out a blank
sheet of paper from her sheaf
and handed me a pencil.
My puppy grabbed the pencil
from my fingers, dashed off leaping
puppy-joy at this bright-shiny
yellow stick which shattered in his
jaws. He dropped it, it rooted
into earth and sprouted
leaves bright-shiny green as spring
fresh as leaves in a book,
as my puppy springing puppy-joy
in squiggles of leaps
and boundings like a string
of free-hand letters
across the field, its sheaves
of vetch and clover waiting for
a mower. Look,
said the Muse, there’s a
wild goose on the wellhouse roof.
And here’s your
poem, if you can read it.


—Taylor Graham

Maybe your muse got lost along the track, green
overgrowing every trace in a daze of spring
forgetfulness—murmur of honeysuckle binding
oaks with breeze, vines pretending to be asleep
but bundling life-force into spiderwebs
to trap her. All she left was a scrap of paper
on the desk with a note: “though I get home
how late, how late….” Your thoughts evaporate.
The poem she’s writing is for herself alone.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham
This alley gold-mined into hills
gleams with April sun’s last light, spills golden
into twilight, periwinkle night.
By mind’s sleight, gold-dust fills the dark stone
hollows delved between wishing and getting.
Living green overgrows silence to entwine each
sense, immanence yet unseen. And still,
the sun flecks everything with dust—gold dust—
till shadows fling ghost shapes in the dark,
each a question-mark, a small spark glittering.


—Taylor Graham

I’ve driven by so many times,
this view must be etched in my head like
the sound and taste of moving water. And colors!
Blue-blue unflushed by man, blue deep
as sky, as water gathers everything to itself
weaving sandbars and boulders in ever-
changing patterns of Time. Unending journey
of sky, water, and stone, Nature’s old
rock-paper-scissors game. Now the river
blades its way deeper between flanks
of hills, shifting tones to violet-lavender.
We’d climb those hills in changing weather,
my dog and I, looking down on sweet
brush of willow along the banks, the shade
of valley oaks in spring-green
overarching a dirt road, its twisty flow
like a river—but someday to be straightened,
widened, paved? How to pause the view
as a painter works plein-air in tints of longing.

  '20s Dress with Quilts, Folsom History Museum
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Gratitude and thanks to our contributors in the Kitchen this morning! Cynthia Linville has edited a book of posthumous poetry, Outcry, by Patricia Hickerson (R.L. Crow Publications); watch for release parties around town (the first is this Saturday afternoon at Moon Café Gallery in Locke). Pat was a zippy little octogenarian with Penthouse writing credits who did a chapbook, Dawn and Dirty, for Rattlesnake Press back in the day. I’m sure you’ll enjoy her poetry.

Poetry Month burns brightly again in our area this week with a Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight featuring Josh Fernandez and Ian Kappos; a discussion of Vietnamese poetry this Weds. at Clunie Community Center with Frank Dixon Graham, 7pm; then an embarrassment of riches on Thursday: Poetry at the Library at noon; Cassie Flynn at Luna’s, 8pm; a discussion in Woodland between novelist Reyna Grande and Sacramento’s Maceo Montoya at 7pm; and Nick Jaina at Poetry in Davis, 8pm. Friday brings a reading in Placerville at 7pm from the ever-energetic, ever-fine Red Fox Underground Poets Collective, then Saturday afternoon you get your choice at 2pm between going back to Placerville for the monthly Poetic License read-around, or the release party in Locke for Patricia Hickerson’s posthumous poetry collection from R.L. Crow Publications. Finally, on Sunday, if you’re of a mind for a road trip (and not thoroughly exhausted), head down to UC Berkeley to hear a conversation about the creative process between former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins and Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Aimee Man, 7pm (tix at For details about these and other area readings, scroll down to the blue box (under the green box) at the right of this column.

Also note that Thursday, April 21 is Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day, another way to celebrate National Poetry Month and spread the Good News of Poetry as you go, like Johnny Appleseed. Info:

And of course April 22 is Earth Day; see  It’s hard to believe that this is Year #46! I remember Year #1, when Davis combined it with Picnic Day. Well, I guess that’s TMI about poor old, creaky Medusa…

 Poppy Quilt at Folsom History Museum, on loan
from San Jose Museum of Textiles and Arts
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Today’s LittleNip:

A poet is a verb that blossoms light in gardens of dawn, or sometimes midnight.




 April is National Poetry Month!
Celebrate tonight by heading over to the Sac. Poetry Center
to hear Josh Fernandez and Ian Kappos read, 7:30pm.
25th & R Sts., Sacramento.