(for my five nieces)
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
I bid you claim between the lines
Douglas firs and sugar pines
from where I've camped, composed in peace,
inhaled a campfire's bacon grease.
Walk in my bootsteps; they have climbed
to where the summit's snow has rhymed.
All jewels, coins and crystal fade
but not the gifts of sun and shade.
Look above the legal words
and spot ascending flocks of birds.
Then know my eyes have studied flight.
I bid for you a childhood kite
with breeze enough to lift the moon
and when you're old a silver spoon.
A will is but a lawyer's page,
but smell upon it desert sage.
Then find beyond the listed goods
summer nights in fragrant woods,
a firefly's lantern in your hand,
your children's footprints on the sand.
(Grand Prize, Berkeley Poets' Dinner, 1984;
first pub in author's collection,
On Trails of Naming, Book One)
—Claire J. Baker
A masterpiece statue
magnificence of air
—Claire J. Baker
Standing under the Falls
we gaze from pool below
to high up in the flow.
The trail we climbed
easily when young
will now no longer
spring us forward.
Two eagles sweep us
onto wide wings.
They soar through spray
to the top where the Falls'
placid stream plunges over
in a curvature of rainbows.
MORE THAN JUST THE NAMES
OF SOUTHERN ILLINOIS TOWNS
—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA
to go skydiving.
Fitted him with
A leather helmet,
There be something
More?” Coyote asked,
“A parachute, maybe?”
Scoffed. “If you feel
Too much just fluff
Your tail.” Coyote
Decided to watch
From the airport bar.
Where have the August bunnies been?
Nearly a year with nary a cottontail,
then yesterday three bunnies in my yard
—a large white rabbit and two youngsters.
They spent the night under the olive tree
where I broke up some old carrots for them.
The white rabbit is an escape artist,
dug under a fence or lifted a latch
and burst her confinement.
One of the little ones, a white-tailed
brown bunny, attests to mama’s wild ways.
Her white offspring sports rusty tips
on its swiveling ears.
I’ll leave some carrots tonight
in case they return, to entice
three September bunnies.
With toes like hooks,
the upside-down mantis clings
to a baluster near the landing
of a wooden stairway.
It whispers grace,
waiting for some early dinner.
Hunting will depend on these
inconvenient humans moving-on.
We don’t. We pause
in an interrupted clatter
down the wooden stairs
—uneasy under surveillance.
The mantis swivels
its triangular head and long antenna
in our direction, tiny black pupils,
dots in the opal eyes.
On the cream-colored post long enough
to turn a pale shade of wheat,
the mantis risks discovery if it moves.
It steps to the outside of the post.
Something about the angles of its legs,
about the hatchet-shaped head,
the tiny, untrustworthy pupils,
the precision of its steps,
something of the menace of jaws
makes us jump back when it
springs away in a rattle of wings.
It will change vestments and resume prayer.
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
I’m the filigree on the globe
that crowns your baluster.
Look quick or I’ll be gone.
I stopped for just a moment
to go down on my slender
knees, to pray; my two
arms supplicating the grace
of daily bread, providence,
a bug. For that instant I’m
the color of your world,
design of light and shadow.
You fumble with your
camera. You’re too late.
Already I’ve become stick-
figure of a bird, an angel
taken flight. I’m gone.
Why would she try to remake
her face, her image? dancer who tries
to break herself by wind or ocean,
candle flame or rivers of sand—
beyond the flung-off veils,
a dancer’s limbs.
Art, the eternal process.
The universe moving in her.
Now, past middle-age—
would she erase that birth-
mark from her chin?
It makes her face, we say.
A point of stasis, she replies.
She wants to unmake it, to move
on with the dance.
—Photo by Taylor Graham
MUMMY IN THE MOUNTAINS
Why do you bring up mummies now,
in the shriveling last weeks of summer?
Motherlode mummies, no less—
knowing that my curiosity goes dusty
this time of year, near mummified by heat
and the brittleness of being. The story
sounds familiar—preserved in long, winding
tales of old friends now dead, and annals
of historical museums. How hardrock
miners dug down and found not gold but
a tomb of Aztec mummies. Could
them back from centuries’ long sleep to
life? as you’d set the alarm-clock
to wake you in the morning. How much
voltage to restore breath, pulse,
thought? I’ll take a coffee break, flash
forward to the mummy revived. A ghost
story if I ever heard one. I’ll go out
of doors and raise some dust and bless
the hot dry bludgeoning of summer;
how prickle-sticks of dead thistle
come back alive in spring.
NEW PEACE MAKER
—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA
marigold garlands around shoulders
hard fall is over— the peace maker
enjoys the interim between dreaming
waking bliss suspended
truth plummets from kissed blooms
lotus is a soft carriage cradle
sunrays curve kohl-lined eyes
shine with every blink reflections
appear on the forehead serene
Our thanks to this morning’s cooks for their labors in the Kitchen on this Labor Day. Taylor Graham and Katy Brown each saw the same praying mantis recently at a workshop, each took photos of it, each wrote about it. Taylor Graham continues her on-going replies to D.R. Wagner’s work which appears in the Kitchen each Saturday; Kevin Jones continues to report on Coyote; and it’s always a pleasure to hear from Claire Baker and Rhony Bhopla.
This week’s poetry in our area begins tonight at Sac. Poetry Center with Rosie Ochoa and Martha Judith Garcia, 7:30pm, then continues on Tuesday (5-7pm) for the new Poetry Off-The-Shelf poetry read-around series at the El Dorado Hills Library. Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will meet on Thursday at 8pm. Then Saturday will be busy, with the Poets Laureate for 100K Poets for Change at the S. Natomas Library in Sac. (2-4pm), featuring Julia Connor, Jeff Knorr plus special guests; Women’s Wisdom Art will showcase their work at Sac. Poetry Center from 12-5pm (poetry begins at 4pm); and saddle up and head down to Yountville to hear some of the Elko, Nevada cowboy poets perform at the Napa Valley Cowboy Music and Poetry Gathering, 7-9pm. Stay overnight while you’re down in the Bay Area and drop in on the Valona Deli Second Sunday Poetry Series in Antioch to hear Sacramento’s Mary Mackey, plus Bill Mayer from L.A., 3-5pm.
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.
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