—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
The Poet-Sage of moon reflected on the water
had me wondering, how many dreams
does it take to lubricate the friction of the moon?
Instead, you drove us up the mountain.
You promised me a rare and endangered bird.
The moon disappeared behind a ridge.
We made camp, rolled out sleeping bags,
and waited dusk till dawn. It was Sierra-cold.
At first light, you pointed high up a tree,
a massive bundle of sticks and branches—
nest of the Bald Eagle. Already two fishermen
were casting across the lake, and the great
bird herself grabbing fish-snacks to feed
her young. I looked through your binoculars.
In the midst of sticks and leaves, could I
see a fuzz-feathered head peeking over the nest’s
edge? I thought about the poet’s moon
reflected on reservoir; low-energy light but
still electric as the maybe-sighting of a rare,
endangered eaglet about to take wing—
one of these days—and fly. It’s what poets do.
That year I fell in love
with Middle High German, Minnesang
under the heart-shaped leaves
of Linden, Tandaradei!
Was it blue-flame eyes of the singer
or the name of the man who
composed the song, medieval poet
of the bird-meadow?
The shadow of fifty years
has passed between, a Jugend-
herberge meadow with its stream
dancing through, singing
of a September that would fade
in Rhenish fog and the ancient halls
of Literaturkritik. Shall I
translate its music, its Bach to “stream”
or “brook”? Meadow-
words in a language unchanged
by centuries. Tandaradei!
Minnesang under the Linden is love.
FREE TO GOOD HOME
Dregs of sunset red as cabernet;
then dark. The phone rang. “You still have
those hens? I’ll be right over.” So late?
Our chickens had gone to bed. Easier
to catch now, I guess. Rhode Island Reds
who quit laying quite awhile ago.
You had no gumption for beheading, nor
I for plucking three old stewing hens.
We put up ads at the feed stores. And now,
a pair of headlights wavered up the last stage
of our tricky drive. Old battered pickup.
A man no longer young climbed out
in rancher’s hay-pitch suit, fetched a big
cardboard box from the bed. I led the way
to the dark barnyard, he carried the box.
Our old hens, fast asleep. He deftly lifted one
out; into the box. Then another.
Searched under cobwebs, found the third.
All loaded in his truck. He thanked us,
promised a good home for our girls.
Praised the beauty of chickens in a yard,
reminders of his childhood home.
Quoted the clever Beecher limerick.
Handed us his card. A banker? How often
I’ve dissed them. But even bankers
can be homesick for an old feathered hen.
The same old sun rises—
does it matter if it’s just climbed mountains,
or sailed across an ocean to get here?
The same moon looks down on loneliness
or wonder. Our red-flag wind is cousin
to the brickfielder, and well-water in a new
place may taste a little strange, but she
gets used to it; it slakes a dry throat
just the same. Homesick?
She’ll tell you, only for the once-
long stride of two good legs,
and how her fingers used to fly,
tying a bowline, or touching the reins
just so—and now they can’t
thread a needle, so she lets the sewing lie.
—David Wright, Sacramento
Childhood was both ideal and a
The task of selfhood escaped me so that instead of
Saying I was a shy kid or loud kid or a mean kid or a nice kid,
I was all of them on different days and places, from
Hour to hour or minute to minute.
In middle school when I encountered six periods,
Six different teachers and different groups of students,
I presented a different personality to each class.
As an adult too, unity of self, of a social self, eludes me.
This makes it tough for others who never know what they'll get.
What made me laugh yesterday now pisses me off.
You get my friendly smile, get up for a beer, come back to my scowl.
Who likes that? I know I don't.
People like that are jerks.
THE GRUNION RUN AND OEDIPUS COMPLEX
He said all chess players are artists.
Then he presented a urinal as art.
I love chess but am very average.
I like to think my writing is better, but...
As a kid my father took the family out to the beach to see
The "grunion run."
It's a pretty good show, have you been?
Iridescent little fishes on the beach.
Big waves cracking and you wonder how these
Delicate-looking fish survive in that world.
We'd scoop some up and have a fish fry.
When the fourth quarter began they'd let us in for free.
A few hundred of us kids would charge into the L.A. Coliseum to watch the
Rams. My hero was
David "Deacon" Jones, #75.
I loved his "head slap" and used it myself in my own games, but that's
Like saying saying I loved Ali's jab, and used it in my own fights.
They get called "the greats" for a reason.
My father was a sports writer.
He covered boxing, and so I got to see some pretty big fights.
I'd hang around the gyms where I picked up some skills.
I had a good straight-right.
"A puncher's chance", they'd say.
Skilled fighters would carve me up pretty good.
If they'd put us both in a phone booth instead of a ring...
I fought amateur, won four, lost four, with two draws. Heavyweight.
My father wanted me to turn pro but....
That was the Oedipus Complex talking.
"GOD BLESS ALL WHO ENTER HERE"
The machinery of this micro society was going full tilt,
No let-up due to rashes, gashes, punctures, or crushed egos.
Death was always right around every corner.
A day off. A box full of the sweetest candies.
Back at work, behind the walls, under the guns.
I find bloody shoes in a bucket in a cell.
That cell's inmate (think of the helmet's head),
Had by now left the cell block for his job in the wood shop.
I see a trail of blood from the shoes that leads out of the cell to the tier.
The trail leads down the stairs to the first tier, then to a cell.
Inside the cell I find a dead man and a scene of horror.
I blow my whistle to sound the alarm, and dash in as if I might save him.
Later the docs said he was stabbed seventy-seven times.
He's carted off on a steel gurney, obviously dead, damned near decapitated.
From inside his cell you could see a sign he hung above his cell door,
"God Bless All Who Enter Here."
Being a rookie guard, the sergeant ordered me to clean the cell.
Said "Welcome to SQ", and handed me a mop.
Inmate block workers do the cleaning in cell blocks, but
State regs won't allow them to have to clean a crime scene.
No argument from me with that, but still, it was tough duty.
Lost my lunch. Blood on every wall, and I had to get a
Step-stool for the ceiling.
That was San Quentin in the ’80's.
That was my first week on the job.
CONFESSION OF A CLOSET CHRISTIAN
If asked what movie best depicts
Jesus, I'd say go watch Nicholson as
Randle Patrick "Mac" McMurphy.
And I'd add that Louse Fletcher as
Nurse Mildred Ratched is as good a
Satan as you'll find.
Having said this, having offered this qualification, I
Am almost ready to admit to you that
I am a Christian.
Let me add though that to me,
Those who say the earth is 6,000 years old, or that
Man walked with the dinosaurs, are close to psychotic.
I believe in science.
I wear a cross, always tucked inside.
One of the first uses of the cross as symbol was when
Constantine had crosses melded onto the Roman spear-heads.
Much innocent blood was spilled.
Unthinkable carnage and sin has been done from behind the cross.
In wearing one you must own that, you must bear the darker shadows of history
To be worthy to also feel the life loving, the eternal hope it also stands for.
Let it be known that "Jefferson's Bible" will suffice for me in place of the
New Testament, and that I call the older book the Jewish Bible.
Jesus was a Jew.
Paul was a Jew.
Poor Paul, he never read the instruction of Jesus to first
Purify your self before judging others.
Know that with his writings.
Let it be known that I nominate Charles Bukowski,
Sylvia Plath, and David Lerner for sainthood!
I could go on but the
Snake is only asked to shed one skin at a time.
With what I have said, let me finally confess, painfully so,
I am a Christian.
(Keep this between us.)
The end of spring—
the poet is brooding
—Medusa, with our thanks to today’s fine contributors!
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