—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
We are a nation of recipes
Health and hygiene
Weights and measures
Suit to taste
The boiling pot of slavery
Little kid smirk of a good trade
Sibling rivalry, winner take all
Sit where you are told to sit
It’s still personal
Resentment, lack of trust
Remove the lid
And the steam burns your eyes
Spoils of war
Bugs in the pantry
Other uninvited guests
Must we alter the
Layout of flatware
For a left-handed diner?
Sorry, no exceptions
Marinade the meat
Preheat the oven
Save some for the dog
Your birthday, just
the two of us
Music way too loud—
The bass guitar
my heartbeat. The
trumpet blew our
ears wide open
to lyrics I
blood and soil we
all are born of.
Wake up younger
than your bones but
older than you
ever were. Look—
the sky’s immense
and blinding blue.
with sunlight of
the heart and eyes,
and memory of
a brightness where
the shadow lies.
Another morning to watch the dark
unfold into gray silk lightening to bright
above Stone Mountain where
lives the tax collector out of sight and mind
as I walk to the well-house, turn on
untainted water from underground this
blessing of earth spirits not quite
taken for granted, a garden where ground-
squirrels spare some few zucchini
and tomatoes waiting to be noticed—split
from stem to ripening into that full red
summer taste I have no word for
which the markets wouldn’t sell—o
the smell of stout green vines. Another
morning on two good legs to climb
back up to the house its scrim of dust
and lacy cobwebs where coffee is perked,
ready for my favorite mug. Soon
you’ll flip the TV news on and I’ll wonder
at the unfairness of this blooming
world how it works or doesn’t
but I can’t argue with the sunflowers.
We have no horizon for hawks.
Red-tails soaring so high overhead
we can’t see field-marks,
then disappearing behind canopies of oak
to seek the ridgetop,
perching far invisible above us
scanning for prey.
Cooper’s a guerrilla hunter
of underbrush, rare but
sudden and up-close, instant-flash
vanishing between trees.
Sunset is striking
but just as stealthy, its taloned
colors pixilated into leaves.
What if I tell you I forgot to dress up
for the reunion and arrived early in cutoffs
and raggy Tshirt the way I like to be?
I walked all around that gigantic house
looking for the door, and tried one but it
started blinking red and screaming—
don’t you know, I forgot city folk who live
in McMansions have to put up with alarms
‘cause they’ve got a lot of stuff to lose?
Would you believe I ran for my old car, and
surprise, there was my dog running
with me? I meant to drive home, see? and
dress up and come back the front door.
But I kept making wrong turns and so why not
just take a hike, I was dressed for it,
old boots and all, and there was my dog—
why not? Why should I show up at a reunion
with people I hadn’t seen in so many years
looking like somebody I wasn’t?
If I tell you it was all a bad dream, would
you believe that? Shouldn’t I stay home
and send them a poem instead?
BRINGING YOU OUT
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
I’m reading Michelangelo again,
his verse to “a lady beautiful and cruel,”
perhaps, but centered around the brusque renewal
of crude rock his claw chisel can debride
by scraping, “with the intelligence for guide,”
the rose-heart shape within debris-free. You’ll
not see what I’m sluggishly chipping at, a newel
post atop rickety stairs, involves no brain,
and here’s my no-brainer. Even if I could sculpt,
it’s “intelligence,” that Michelangelo air—not ease,
but nonchalant genius intuition: —code
for calipers, plumblines, resistance sounded, then pulped
till the pulsing form yields, breathes, glistens. It’s no cheese
he’s carved. He dissects his way to the deep lost lode,
equal parts hammer and quivering instruments.
When ants heft great weights, don’t antennae have influence?
NO WORDS NOW
You asked for no words, no more intimate thoughts
of you made public, at open mic. It hurts
to speak of you, it hurts not to cast lots
for dates, times, places to release in spurts
my loss of you, world missing you. Such deaths
this year, and I’m reduced to speaking out
loud to myself, or muttering—in breaths
that rasp from cinched intake to outward spout—
soft words to my dead. For coffee we never met,
our intimacies came all in the crunch of crowds
of poets. You nonetheless were just, were kind,
we spoke as two artists wholly absorbed, and yet
as Paula to Rilke, your fled spirit clouds
my eyes. Hands probe. All void. No sound. Can’t find.
So much more you could shout to me but won’t,
so much more I could retort to you but can’t.
We’re Jedi and Sith transfixed in separate zones,
and when the force field dissolves, we’re slant to slant,
lightsaber on crackling lightsaber. Is this
what you conceived when you first voiced your need?
Why did your need instill my yearning wish,
call it my yen to yearn? Beyond sheer greed
for skin of your touch, touch of your skin—like rhyme—
this yearning was my controlled transorbital burn.
I envisioned our piercing ionosphere to climb,
my rough limbs fastened to your smooth limbs, to learn:
When two aim at space, this wisdom has to be
—my stage must detach, for your sharper trajectory.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.
Unwell this morning, I find I replicate
Jane Kenyon’s lyric breakfast elegy:
cereal—oatmeal for me, she’ll adumbrate
not at all what grain hers. Like Jane, I see
sweet milk, and pour. Apply “ripe flawless peach.”
Jane’s milk derives from grass, via pliant cattle;
mine, from the green soybean. So short a reach
to stomach’s desire. Yet something’s off: some prattle,
in the wind, through the screen door. What stir
of words mosquito-in-ear? To mask them, chew.
Freshness itself in my cereal bowl. A blur
of thoughts and outdoor references brew.
The golden peach I’ve quartered, & quartered again,
is skinned with red, dark-red-cored, striped as agate
here and there across the cross-section grain
where lay the nutrient stone. Pomegranate
the russet tint that saturates the skin.
Real as can be, yet hinting effigy,
false world mixed with enigma, near as sin,
indwelling as death in Kenyon, radiantly.
Still in my novitiate, I know not what to do.
The girl Persephone succumbed to a dark,
dark lord seducing her down from morning dew
to gloamings laced with song from a blacker lark.
O Myth, O Death, I know I am no girl,
yet know well neither of you is a respecter
of gender. My inner daughter, thin leaf-curl
in my chest, is primping for her chosen spectre.
And now you come, dark lord, with one more bowl
of grain, but lacking milk or delusive peach.
Girl-shaped, you extend the oatmeal a foal
might first ingest then stretch its rickety pleach
of equine limbs from the vault that is its barrel.
Accept or not. I spoon into my mouth
the dose that drugs me downward into peril,
or out. But always to a Jane Kenyon south.
I hadn’t thought Master Death was You, slim tomboy,
nor figured on this crimson-skinned peach sun, joy.
(Bax’s First Symphony: original piano version)
Strange man, all shy and quiet; clangorous
music sapping the iron piano frame.
Mussorgsky gates reboant on stone exclaim,
then hush of woodland footsteps on pine duff.
Fast-surging mercury in the Thermometer
of Pleasure, transits from Arnold’s music room
to Keats’s Maiden-Thought-Chamber to tomb’s
reverb, as Clifford* would swiftly register.
First uproar, then ungodly quick relief
in what must become a cue for Irish flute
(how meet to fit the fife of James Galway),
pianissimo piano from the hallway
next wing of the house. From intimate—think lute—
to orchestral consecration, lord of the fief.
*Clifford Bax, Arnold’s brother, a noted poet and Theosophical writer
FOR ORVAL “BUDDY” HARPHAM (1921-2016)
Bred to the saxophone at UOP
—then College of the Pacific—you rose up
dispensing arpeggios from your alto cup,
stars, rainbow streamers just like those we see
in animations. You made friends, made gigs.
We think of Paul Desmond. You were the proto-Desmond
chiffoning or meringuing tart-pure lemoned
uproar fit to have placed you with the bigs.
First you, then Paul, the needed gadfly sting
could goad Dave Brubeck’s bluesiest plainsong.
Your aboveband carryclear rang out rattling strong.
Paul’s meters oddball, lightly subtly swung.
Jazz-orphaned, we feel our Harpham and Desmond missed,
two sounds: firelit opal, recessive cloud-amethyst.
His seventh he
Later, a kid he
Didn’t know at the
Door. Gave him a
Left. Sixty years later,
Trying to fill it up.
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
Our thanks to today’s cooks in the Kitchen! Carl Schwartz (Caschwa) says that “cookbooks and law books actually have a lot in common.” Tom Goff says he “stumbled across the word "reboant" in a thesaurus ("loudly echoing"). Had never heard of it, though Tennyson uses it…” Taylor Graham took the bait in last Tuesday’s post (by Joyce Odam) and sent us a Minuette (“Birthday”) and a Doriece (“Taqueria”). And Kevin Jones continues his Coyote poem cycle, talking about the life of that wily trickster.
Speaking of El Dorado County Poet Laureate Taylor Graham, she has put out a call on Facebook for poems inspired by the Patchwork Sierra quilts on display at EDAC. Check it out at (www.facebook.com/ElDoradoCountyPoetry/).
Our poetry week in this area begins tonight with Sam Pierstorff reading for Sac. Poetry Center’s Hot Poetry in the Park at Fremont Park, 15th & Q Sts., Sac., 7:30pm. On Wednesday, Geoffrey Nutter and Crawdad Nelson read at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm (25th & R Sts.). Then on Thursday you have your choice of hearing Ann Wehrman at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café in Sac., or Davis Poet Laureate Emeritus Allegra Silberstein and another Nutter—musician Timothy—at Poetry in Davis, John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. On Saturday, 3-5pm, El Dorado Arts Council presents Poetry Off Main in Placerville, featuring Kate Wells, Lara Gularte and open mic, 772 Pacific St.; then on Sunday, Mosaic of Voices will present Juan Carrillo and Danny Romero at Avid Reader in Sac, 2pm. Lots to do this week in our area, as always! Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about these and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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