breaking the formula
free to hang out
I ride the tunnel
outside of town
pull into a lot
with old vehicles
from a low place
I see the street above
a traffic light on red
climb with my bike
to cross, but once
there, water swirls
past abandoned trains
creates another barrier,
I am alone on the edge
a trapeze artist in the sky.
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
I recently announced
From state service
Many thankful co-workers
Wished me well
“You will be missed”
That is good to know
While dodging the stones
Thrown by others
In whose eyes
I am now a baby tooth
Long overdue to fall out
To make room for a
New, bigger and better
Tooth to emerge
Clean out your cubicle
Now is not soon enough
Write out, review, and edit
All those procedures
You taught yourself
So your replacement won’t have to
Suffer a learning curve packed with
Trial and error
I will do what I can
Until I leave
Now is not soon enough
AN EGG OF SORTS
—Carol Louise Moon, Sacramento
Egg ‘n’ plant
‘n’ plant an egg
‘n’ watch it turn purple.
And black out the
black part, ‘n’
admire the purple
while rolling it
in the sun.
Round ‘n’ round,
But it doesn’t spin too well.
An egg plant
from the ground
in the sun—
to own and admire
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Sacramento CA to St. Joseph MO
That old barn—unpainted, losing its boards
to let light shine through—might once
have been a station on the Pony Express.
I drive on past. The old post office. Nicker
of a horse waiting under saddle—pinto
flicking his ears, listening for distant clatter
of hooves. I’ve driven miles on hints and
hunches. I’m just in time. From west
on the county road—a lank, pale palomino.
Rider slips to the ground, swaps the mail-
bag; new rider swings astride her pinto,
not a moment lost. Horse and rider are off,
a shadow moving at Pony-pace along
galloping roads that encroach where horses
used to run. An image through the dust,
leaving childhood memories scattered
on the shoulder of a two-lane. Mid-June
approaching dusk. The future slipping away.
AFTER THE BURN
We’ve come to see a moonscape,
mid-Sierra forest since the fire. We’ve
crossed the river that runs clear again,
flickering June dawnlight
after winter storms. Now we’re climbing
familiar switchbacks. On both sides
of the road stand ponderosa snags
like splints to hold the mountain
together. Ash and char. And fireweed!
with peavine binding the hillside
in vibrant pink presented like sunrise
after a dismal night. But it’s
fireweed I love. One of the first plants
to come back after inferno; here,
a whole blooming meadow of flaming
pink, the lobes of each corolla
open like a blessing.
MAGPIE ON STREET
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Too black to be pavement,
too white to be pavement stripe.
Pressed feathers: only the wind stirs them.
Beak halves so wide-parted, not since
the hundred-degree June heat,
or since this one so opened them, hatchling who pled
by force of hunger for vermiform bread.
But that was among siblings, all pressed
Now the spread gold beak sticks straight up.
The black eyes beg to molder.
What “invisible worm,” having just slunk in
through that wide yellow mouth to the heart,
slips back out the beak onto street,
knowing no food to be found?
HOW TO PITY A TERRORIST
How can we offhandedly speak of the love
so many proclaim unconditional?
Or can we yet believe that that love is all
the prompt a terrorist needs to turn true dove?
Eric Hoffer, the philosoph who’d shove
boxes and bargeloads for a living, did call
fanaticism a floating or free-fall
into mania left and right, regardless of
which creed or banner. Each looks just as good:
so pick what’s on hand, ISIS, neo-Nazi, Baathist.
But something seethes in the gaze: a singeing rage,
a burning-glass beam, sears dragons into the blood…
Till we widen the young gaze from its narrow gauge,
how do we know how to pity a terrorist?
I drive to work while In Memoriam
Patrick Pearse stings keenly from a CD,
then ache for something frangible to slam
against the guns-for-all-the-citizenry,
open-carry idiocy at play;
remembering only then that violence
is primate-level, reptile-brain display,
or that all tender rue just shy of silence
is gold my elders once would recommend,
I mumble my solution: when you find
Amendment Two spells gun rights without end,
you lay claim to all its terms; the contract binds:
so, honor to you, our guardians in all strife;
you’ve signed up for the militia—and for life.
Our thanks to today’s fine cooks in the Kitchen! (Carl Schwartz—Caschwa—is due to retire July 13!) Our poetry week begins with the second half of Cal. Lawyers for the Arts’ workshop, this one on “Understanding Self-Publishing”, 11:30am at Avid Reader at Tower in Sacramento. (Reg in advance to save money: www.calawyersforthearts.org/event-2228835/). Tonight will be Sac. Poetry Center’s Hot Poetry in the Park at Fremont Park (not at SPC) as you celebrate the Summer Solstice outdoors. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café takes place each Thursday at 8pm. Next Sunday (6-8pm), Sac. Metro. Arts Commission and Sac. Poetry Center present California Poet Laureate Dana Gioia and Poetry Out Loud winner Chigozie Maduchukwu as part of the Remarkable Artists series at Crocker Art Museum (Setzer Auditorium), 216 O St., Sac. Info and reg. at events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/event?oeidk=a07ecooi99a2b037bdc&llr=5nnautdab
—Masaoaka Shiki (1867-1902)
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