We wrote a few words
It came together
Like the trifle you see here
* * *
A full moon and stars
Burned out yet shining
Teach the value of silence
* * *
Traveled to islands
but ghost towns without you there
* * *
Hot fudge Sunday with some nuts
My hot weather lunch
Yum, I'm to the moon
FEATHERS: A BRIEF GUIDE
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
Have you seen
A cat around
The back yard?
Has a leak.
Kid never did
IT SEEMED LIKE A GOOD LESSON PLAN
AT THE TIME
Sister Virgilius liked
To teach with parables.
It worked for one
Of her role models.
“Now class, gossip
Is like going to the top
Of the tallest building
In town, opening
A pillow and flinging
The feathers to the wind.
What’s my point here,
“Littering is bad?”
“You need a taller building?”
“You need a new pillow?”
“Foam is better?”
Sister Virgilius rolled
Her eyes. Retired.
a mythical dream-haunted, fog-shrouded island…
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Something to link both Shakespeare and Arnold Bax:
Ortelius, Shakespeare’s cartographer, maps an island
just off west Ireland, surely miles distant, lax-
lying as a brine-softened starfish, misted lie-land,
exposed to entice, across unwarily eyescanned
sea-reaches, lost ships, crow’s-nests and all, to wracks
on trident-sharp rocks. And is it from here that sly Fand
allures hero Cuchulain? Where the near-capsized boat
sags with waterlogged warriors, shedding salt streams,
yet makes landfall on these Tempest-gold sands? What shapes
does this sea-goddess take? Now bird, now bream,
when does she assume the lonely-woman coat
of fine-tuned dreamsong, this Ariel lady of capes?
I envision your glorious hair grown long again
and how wondrously askew it lies up-piled
on your perfect head. It’s not at all a strain
to pierce your lumberjack green-black plaid worn wild,
see to the clear you ornamentless, erotic
and, poised just short of the midway, seeming still teen;
tough of mouth when you want, you still waft vatic
yet soft-lipped essence, your aura angel-clean
as winter breath-vapor. What have I under this
my outward savanna of rags but bone? Yet summer
reclothes me in youth, you’ve brought the time back. All dawn
warming to hot. If we should hear Bax’s piece,
Enchanted Summer, the Shelley play-poem made glimmer
in music, us clinging to listen, faun against faun…
FOR VERNON HANDLEY (1930-2008)
AND THE BBC PHILHARMONIC
When Vernon Handley sands down skirling edges
in Bax’s November Woods, the shrill subdued,
and slows the tempest’s reel around the hedges;
calms sword-on-buckler screeches through the broods
of snapping, crackling branches which strew twigs
or topple the tough-barked birches—yet such gentle-
meticulous orchestra balance; the phrases figs
at summer’s peak (who says, “Not elemental?”)—
now daresay we feel Arnold and Tania here:
not groping bowed through bluster to a bed
of illicit thrills, but reminiscing storm,
willing the drench, the soul-torment to clear
then gather again its high-piled thunderhead,
blackberry-hued reverie, passionate wrong’s dreamform…
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Radio, TV, or books, it didn’t matter
as long as there was a clatter of hooves,
the occasional whicker or neigh
under murmurous cottonwoods at the edge
of desert, a guy in buckskins and bandanna,
the image of insouciance, holding
the reins in a desultory manner until—
whoop there was trouble, he was airborne
for saddle ready to involve his horse
in imbroglio (word I’d ask the grownups).
Background music evocative of thunder,
stampede, shoot-em-up. Southern border-
lands, badlands, canyon lands, Wells Fargo
stagecoach or main street, warpaint
and feathers, a skinny kid riding Pony
Express evanescent as dust. Imagination
filled the gaps, made it real right-now
efflorescence of wishing.
From the rubble that is your dream backyard,
my dog retrieved a tiny shoe (in its package
never opened). One shoe for a left-footed doll
or else a baby. Do you keep elves in your yard?
A stranger’s ginger poodle found you where you
were hiding for my dog to find. You protested,
you were fine, you hadn’t fallen, please don’t
help. Your cane was in case of sinking cities;
for fending off the owners of ginger poodles.
The Barred Rock pullets dash around
their yard crying the sky is falling
but I assure them, it never is—just twigs
and dead oak leaves catching
on chicken-wire roof above their heads.
But this morning
a pile of soft barred feathers
on the ground beside their feeder,
more feathers against the fence
on the side were the sun goes down;
and a small depression under flap
of fence—a gap we hadn’t noticed—
where some lithe night creature crawled
in and carried off one
of their flock. This morning
I count eight pullets
where yesterday were nine.
Eight barred dashes around their
yard, crying the sky
is falling. It fell on number nine.
I looked for you in the lilac’s leaves, green
hanging hearts, the blossoms withered, gone.
The garden’s Royal Empress in full bloom,
and two ladies in kimonos crimson as dawn.
The Taiko drums beat loud enough to rouse
grave-spirits, a pulse so deep, long-drawn.
Must home be always another place and time,
far from alien grasses brittling to the awn?
I couldn’t stay to follow shadows down
among the feet that press a watered lawn.
Mulberry will know your name, your face
as in the pond reflecting a doe with fawn.
CLOSE UP, WAKAMATSU
This landscape I know so well—
an aerial view on my screen. If I keep on
enlarging, I get a maze of out-of-focus
colors. It’s like that old film, Blow Up.
Can I solve a death, a love, a life?
Here’s the gravesite of that girl
so many people come to visit, who died,
they say, of grief; homesick
for a place forever unattainably west
across an ocean. I focus
on oak trees that over-shade the grave—
so many green squares for a single
tree—and a dot of white, the headstone?
Like history, the closer in I get
the farther off it seems.
Click back now, move to barn
and farmhouse reduced to woodgrain.
And these squares of dark—
what can bits of an old gate mean?
To north and east, thousands of blue
pixels compose the pond, ripples
of variegated colors. White of egret
lifting off from wetlands, how many
shards of bright feathers creating flight.
Our thanks to today’s handy chefs for fine photos and poems! Taylor Graham’s first poem was a response to last week’s “bonus” Seed of the Week, that box containing lots of less-seen words, and the challenge to use as many of them as possible. Her poems and pic of Wakamatsu in Placerville remind us that she and Katy Brown will be leading a workshop at Wakamatsu, the first Japanese colony in North America, on Sunday, Oct. 9 from 1-3pm. For more information, scroll down to “More Food for the Brain” in the green column at the right of this one. Fall is workshop season, so be sure to keep an eye on that section for, well, more food for the brain.
Note also, while you’re in the green box, that today is the deadline for Davis’s Jack Kerouac Poetry Contest; see natsoulas.com/jazz-beat-fest-2016
Then keep scrolling down to the blue column underneath for all the readings in our area, starting tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Susan Kelly-DeWitt and Susan Cohen, plus open mic, 7:30pm, or go to Davis to see the documentary, Flowers and Roots: James Ragan, Ambassador of the Arts, at The Pence Gallery, 7pm. Wednesday brings a workshop by Steve Davis of Cal. Lawyers for the Arts at the Sac. County Bar Assoc. on copyright law, 6:30pm. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe meets on Thursday, 8pm, with features and open mic. And Saturday night, 7pm, Luna’s will host poetry again, this time with An Eclectic Night at Luna’s Cafe: original music/spoken word from songwriter Mike Pickering with guitarist Chris Mackey, instrumentalist George Sheldon, poet/singer Jennifer Pickering. Sunday brings Mosaic of Voices, with Natalia Trevino and Norma Liliana Valdez at Avid Reader in Sac., 2pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column 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.
For more about the James Ragan documentary, see blogs.nvcc.edu/intercom/2015/12/14/james-ragans-flowers-and-roots-to-air-on-nova-tv-2
One day I will find the right words, and they will be simple.
—Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums
Photos in this column can be enlarged by clicking on them once,
then click on the X in the top right corner to come back