I have five Hawaiian shirts
Hanging in my closet
They spread cheer
Wherever I wear them
My first one is silken
Stunning bright red
Made in Hilo
Everybody knows Hilo
Now 2 sizes too small
It shows too much of me
My other “Hawaiian” shirts
Wash and wear style
Came from the lesser-known
Such as Bangladesh
And Viet Nam
All bring a smile
I MISSED IT
All because I am
I missed it
All of it
What was it?
Don’t know at all
My attention span
Is too short
So it never
Had a chance
To become a
Plus my memory
Is too short
So it just up and
Left my mind
I’ll never know
What it was
I missed it
Living or inanimate?
Image or event?
Typical or unique?
Don’t try to force
My temper is
Just accept that
I am too short
I missed it
Put it in your pocket
ALOHA SHIRTS, AND A LITTLE MORE
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
If the shirt
In the dark
Gone too far.
Of the missionaries,
Max Von Sydow
And Julie Andrews
Should wear clothes.
So what we have
Is basically a
On top, nobody
In the last
Shirts, and chasing
Buses they’d missed.
Done my best
The rayon factory
For the shirts,
I mean The Shirts.
The ones from
Here to Eternity,
The war, and
Look and feel
Like the last guy
On the bowling team.
Starting out with
Stick with reds and
You want to
Go subtle into
That good luau.
Most anything goes.
Little grass shacks.
To avoid topless
Wahinis in little
Grass skirts. Can’t
Wear them to work,
After all, and it’s best
To save something
For the neckties.
Are good. Had one
Once in day-glo
I sent to a player.
Trim: you felt
Never heard from
The guy again.
Cowboy shirt, pearl
Snaps, yes, but with
Cattle and horsemen
In the print. No,
You are not hallucinating,
My all-time favorite:
A black back, hibiscus
Theme, with gold lamé
You thought they
Only sold what your
You to wear.
For the wedding (Cue
Noel Paul Stookey),
The funeral (Pace, Don Ho)
Or else after six.
Of Duke Kahanamoku.
I’m ready. You?
You really don’t
Have to be there.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
They called the old team back together
to put another of our lost
to rest. Come in uniform, they said.
I searched closet and drawers, found my old
khaki shirt, veteran of so many
wanderings through the dark by compass
and topo map, and beck of a dog’s nose—
a dog already put to rest
years ago. The shoulder-patch outdated,
insignia spiffied up twice
since I wore the shirt. It would have to do.
Isn’t it remembrance that counts?
My young dog—my living dog, trained
but not mission-ready—brightened,
sniffed old khaki as if she smelled a friend
she’d never met. As if she
smelled adventure, the call of her life.
THERE ARE BIRDS HERE
So many birds—the unseen, the ones
I hear at dawn, rising to midday
then into the afternoon at fading light, intervals
of the night. The owl that calls each morning
out of dark. They say it calls your name.
But how to respond?
I don’t know if it’s the name-call owl
or another. I don’t know the language, there are
so many. The bird that tricks me
from the depths of thicket. And that sweet
twitter as if from above
the front door in daylight—I’ve never seen it,
don’t know its call, its name, its message
which must be important.
All these birds, wild hearts unfolding song.
The day bird as the night bird
insistent, unknown. Trying to tell me
It was late spring, but still hard-freezing
overnight. Next morning early
we walked the farm road up into woods, stepping
carefully to not disturb
crystals the night had formed with mud.
A magic I’d never seen before.
It looked like penitent-ice
moving from sunny orchard to the darker
secrets under trees. A band of tiny white monks
illuminated in first-light
crossing a bridge to Pentecost.
If we missed a step
the earth would shatter, the woods
shut tight, a sword across the path. This
is all I remember, ice-tongues
in a language I didn’t understand, music
of a silent praying.
Wishing for silence, she walked deaf
through the crowds; past the cheering ballfield,
amphitheater with its plugged-in sound,
alongside a pond that smelled of yesterday.
A bridge to a clearing, sunlight filtering through
green. Drums muffled morning to a heartbeat.
Ancient people lived here; gone now
into the spring of Time. An old man sat on a log,
mumbling thoughts or verses, who could tell.
The gray-skin pond began to ripple, a song
of water moving without stirring sound.
The pines were speaking of winds passing
always overhead, unrooted as raven.
She felt the tug of earth through her shoes,
playing each nerve ending. Language alien as
a poem not yet written, words she’d known
all her life as nothing but words. Magic
when May meadow-grass spoke their names.
AT HINCHINGBROOKE, 1564
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Her Majesty Elizabeth’s going on progress,
dining in state on plate wherever she is,
entertained at each stop near to royal excess:
chiefly on plays, heart’s meat and spirit’s fizz.
Hinchingbrooke. Her Grace comes, amid courtiers’ carts.
All rein up and settle in this old monastery,
seat of the Cromwells, now that it’s not of the Church.
All wish to rest, but the hardiest hope to make merry.
Boy players who’ve straggled behind catch up, accost her;
Your Majesty, if it please you to hear a play…
Queenly Divinity’s body has traveler’s limits,
yet body consents, despite what kindness will cost her.
Soon they play her their “device”: young mummers begin it,
mime Catholic bishops (jailed after the last queen’s reign).
The great chair scrapes. She rises, red hair ablaze:
Desist from religious satire—you mock our late sister.
You dare flout her rule—what stops you from mocking us?
How durst you show holy bishops eating the Lamb,
one dog-headed with the Host in his slobbering mouth?
Out of my sight, louts—impudent tongues be blistered!
She hoists a slim arm as if to flog the rout
of miscreant whelps, just as our Jesus did whip
out of the High Temple all crass traffickers.
Then calls for torchbearers: “Lights, lights, lights!” and exits.
Left in the dark to muse—for is it his play
that so wounded the conscience of a monarch?—
Edward de Vere should’ve guessed: however she hated
her sister Bloody Mary, she’ll not put up
with subjects of any rank who preempt that hate.
He’ll dream up theatrical use for such high rage:
a murderous king, tricked into revealing guilt.
Young Oxford, standing on black and white tessellate floor,
from scenes of uproar broods vast Hamlets to be,
in the wake of this drama that plainly was not to be.
If ever you catch me in my best-loved shirt,
you won’t mistake what wearing it must mean.
It came to me from your soft hands, you flirt.
Oh yes, it fits—I’m still one size too lean.
But you won’t catch me wearing it when next
we chance across each other somewhere strange.
So swarmed with thoughts of you, my life’s too vexed
to want you to blush with pleasure at this change,
the change from wrinkled costume into you;
and anyhow now you can’t tell if I wear it
or I wear woman—your gift, I say with rue,
is grafted into my body: touching it’s
knit vein to vein and ghost to ghost, my sin.
Your shirt clings deep beneath our sheath of skin.
Many thanks to our breakfast potpourri of contributors today! National Poetry Month may be over, but we’re still partying hard, poetry-wise. This week begins with a reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight by members of Frank Graham’s Writing Across Continents workshop, 7:30pm; tomorrow is Big DOG (Day of Giving) for 24 hours; and on Thursday, Poetry Night in Davis presents Matthew Zapruder, Jason Bayani and open mic, as well as Poetry Unplugged here in Sacramento at Luna’s Cafe. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for all the details.
DRESSED IN CLOUD
Wind chafed roof and gutter, flagpole
and curb. It fisted clouds across the bay,
against suspension bridge where they hung
like dirty laundry. It reassured, in this midst
of city, how close we still live to weather.
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