—Elijah Enos, Sacramento, CA
Crawling along the river’s edge
through cattails cold and quivering I saw
shadowy figures in black bulldozers
casting chunks of stone into the water.
Tearing down the levees again, their forms
loomed behind morning mist, their voices
distant as I forced myself to the soil—
how I desired to remain unseen
even as they floated toward me, emerging
unmoored now from dwelling and dimension.
Those faceless shapes faded as I stood—
an unnamed animal, I felt myself
erased as well—and scanned the current,
certain one of those gray stones was mine.
I who gave vowels color who sailed boats beyond knowledge
into seas of absinthe have found myself here clad in white
with black fez under a tree in Harar a town that sounds
like a cheer like a cough like a laugh all from the same throat
the coffee plantation lies below me in the valley
they work their work I don’t I haven’t written a poem
in eight years maybe nine they pick their beans while my pen
does nothing but spill its ink like black blood
I am older but not so old I must have something left to find
if I returned to France saw Paul again would there be anything
or is this how I end: as the other who staggers down
to the fields while they fill their baskets and night arrives
like some sick animal waiting waiting to be shot
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
What did the mountain say
when men came with water-cannons
to make swift the slow business
of erosion? Aren’t fairytales full of humans
seeking treasure in three quick tries?
Deep gouges into the dark
of forest, and things hidden are revealed.
Crevices where a man could lose
himself forever by his own making,
before the mountain closes up
again. I come this morning stepping
carefully. Never know
what you might fall into, knowing
nothing. Bear clover covers all the scars
underfoot, mountain misery.
But the birds still sing
through treetops. Pine and cedar
hold dug-out earth together, growing
taller than their brothers on the far-off
pristine ridge. What mystery
of the mountains?
I can witness without knowing.
She walked away from her life
which was a blade forever slicing
itself away. She didn’t walk away,
but became its perfect silence.
That night on the river, I thought
she was speaking with the stars
but wordless. A mumble hum
without a thought to hold together.
It was the river speaking to stars
in its language just beyond human,
echoing against the canyon walls
its perfect thought of wonder.
Out the side window, desert scrub
and a galloping line of dust.
A dozen horses keeping pace with the car,
keeping their distance. No fences
for miles and miles. Bays and sorrels,
a dun the color of desert. Manes
and tails flying. Dark foal at the heels
of its mother. Slow down.
Horses gain ground, the leader
veers toward highway, intuits ditch
and shoulder. Hooves
across chipseal, centerline, the other
side. One by one, horses pause
before crossing, then raise dust again
climbing the far hillside,
over the crest. We’re paved to
our destination. A line of dust rises
like wayfarer wings.
LOOKING DOWN ON MIRACLES
From the summit trail you can see
almost forever—Nevada, California.
Over your shoulder is where you came from.
The map doesn’t show where you’re
headed. How many minor miracles underfoot?
Mariposa lilies on decomposed granite.
Eons. In the distance
clouds jostle dark and darker.
Plant your feet. Become that windswept juniper
hunkering against storm, branded
by lightning clear down to rock; rooted,
Is that thunder? or wild horses?
Way too high. More like a humpback whale
aimed straight for the pass,
down below you. Military transport,
you’ve got the topside view.
Before you can prove it
with your camera, it’s gone.
What matter? Everyone sees long-odds
chances, mysteries, and miracles
and keeps on walking.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
Yes, I know and
Love Uncle Keef’s
Song for the
Back then, and
Back in central
Illinois, there wasn’t
That much wild—
Maybe coyote, possum,
Skunk, but nothing
To build a poetic
Career upon. We did
Our best, the
A pheasant here
And there flushing
From the underbrush,
And pigeons, always
Pigeons. But Wild
Horses, no, never.
And I don’t
Think we’ll ride
Them one day.
Finally he was alone
The time was right
He began to lower
His pajama pants
Like he had done
Countless times before
This would be easy
Down they came
Slow and steady
Then just stopped
This was not in the script
He summoned more intensity
And resumed the task
With renewed vigor
Wrist motion became arm motion
A respectful, mild oath
It was time to invest
In stronger closet hangers
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
to let the sun pass under.
A fisherman unhooks
a rainbow trout,
throws her back
that she spawn more rainbows.
In a Pamplona street-crowd
someone pours a bucket of water
over a bull's flaming horns.
On a cliff above the ocean
poppies open one by one
in time-lapse dawn.
A child frees a grasshopper
lightly stuck in driveway tar.
It flicks away—
a hallelujah flash.
to let the moon pass over.
(from author's Trails of Naming,
SHE SLEPT UNDER MOONBEAMS
—Claire J. Baker
(for a street person)
Though warned not to sleep
directly under moon's
rounded light for it would
reverse her magnetic poles,
disrupt her karma,
not spooked by the omen
she opened her ragged spirit
to the moon's benediction.
In a week of sleeping out,
no alarming fright, she
began a fresh direction,
a diction full of light.
Many thanks to today’s contributors for starting off our week just right! No wild horse photos (our Seed of the Week), but cows and Tigger make up for that, and one very wild brodiaea. And welcome to newcomer Elijah Enos of Sacramento; don’t be a stranger to the Kitchen, Elijah!
Regrettably the newest issue of DADs DESK, Sacramento’s only large-print journal which Carol Louise Moon has edited so capably for several years, will be its last. Copies are available at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sac.
Area poetry for this week starts out tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Dana Koster, Lynne Thompson, and Susan Kelly-DeWitt reading from Vol. 1 of Catenary, a hand-stitched letterpress journal of contributors from West Trestle Review (ed. by Patricia Kaspers), 7:30pm. On Wednesday, poetry will fly Off-the-Shelves in Placerville at the monthly read-around at the El Dorado County Library, 5-7pm. If you’re in Berkeley on Thursday, stop in at Moe’s Books to hear Sacramento gal Susan Kelly-DeWitt read from her new book, Spider Season (Cold River Press), 7:30pm. And there’s always Thursday poetry-fun at Luna’s Café, 8pm. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about this and other upcoming readings in our area.
A new feature: “Today’s LittleTip”. Yes, that’s Tip, not Nip. (Now we have both Tips and Nips!) LittleTip probably won’t be daily, but it’s intended to address grammar problems that I notice come up regularly with poets who send me their work, like today’s "'farther vs. further". A fun grammar site is the chirpy Mignon Fogarty and her QuickAndDirtyTips on Grammar Girl; see www.quickanddirtytips.com/grammar-girl, or click on the icon in the green column at the right, over the “Feelin’ Frisky” dog.
When is it “farther” and when is it “further”? For the most part, farther refers to physical distance (note the “far” in it), and further is metaphorical—but not always. For details and exceptions, go to www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/further-versus-farther/.
—Claire J. Baker
of a statue
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