—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
Woodsmoke hazes the canyon. On this
long ridge, leaf-trees are in full-blaze amber
goldrush yellow ember-red among
dark forever-green of conifer, live oak.
No ice, yet, on shallows
in a basin—reflections after rain.
A small red pickup’s parked
outside the bark-beetle research lab.
Beetles are killing our trees, these years
of drought. Last night it rained.
Everything’s quiet except a whisper-
breeze. Everything in its steady progress
through fall. Except my dog, charged
to follow human scent this morning,
meanders off on something
wild beyond his ken; leads me again
to what I might have missed. Here,
fresh black scat full of berry seeds—
a fox? Seeds gut-scarified to germinate
next spring come rain.
Age-old trail through fall, moving ever
toward winter and back to life.
WHO WEARS THE MASK?
One-eyed Charley Parkhurst, stage driver—
fearless, guiding a four- or six in hand
over rough Gold Rush roads—used a whip
to blow the warning-horn, on account
of cancer of the mouth; got the best
of that burlap-wrapped bandit, Sugarfoot,
who died for trying to rob the same stage
twice. Wore a patch over the eye kicked
by a horse; listed in California voter rolls
in 1867, before women had the vote.
At last, her autopsy revealed tobacco-
chewing Charley in guise of a stage-drivin’
They kept the waiting room close with muffled
clauses for roasting patience over the coals.
Venturing back out was not part of the design.
But somehow, a slip into invisibility-
guise, you slid from the way-too-cushioned
chair. Gone into the warp and woof of messy
streets, traffic garnished by sirens, honks,
a rock-slide of rip-rap from the open window
of an ancient VW speeding as fast as it could,
A vast grey sky said nothing.
I went down to the historic mine
but wouldn’t pay the bill to go underground,
to haunts of tommyknockers
smuggled by Cornish miners
across the sea in legend-trunks and boxes,
to trick them in the depths of dark and knock
the tunnel walls when only spirits sense
a cave-in coming. I thought
of you far asleep in your vast grey dreams.
The door to the mine was locked to me.
I found a secret drift into hillside
past litter left to decompose like bones.
It was almost Halloween.
It’s quiet now, the ditch that Gold
Rush miners dug to carry mountain water
to the mines, to separate gold
from native rock. Shall the water now
be piped underground? Once
you saw a buck lift his muzzle dripping
from the flow, dribbling ditch-water
onto forest floor. You saw
a river otter playing in the current.
It was not a dream, you swore,
nor reflection in the water.
Along the banks, you found bear scat,
and met a man who’d seen
a cougar there. Shall they tame
the water in a pipe? At last our ditch-
walk leads us back. Wild-grape in fall
tarnish before it turns to gold.
MAN AT THE BUS STOP ON HALLOWEEN
—Donal Mahoney, St. Louise, MO
The others, of course,
are more rabid than he
but less apt to show it.
Whenever he strikes,
he never romps off.
He stands with the wrist
that he's snatched
from the lady
tight in his teeth
as he waits with a smile
for the wagon.
He's one of the few
on the streets of Chicago,
and he makes his rounds
in old tennies.
His technique is simple:
He dives for the purse hand,
gives it a whack, and severs
the wrist without slobber,
then stands like a Vatican Guard
with the wrist in his teeth
until he is certain
he has no pursuers.
At night in his dreams he sees
the women whose wrists
he has held in his teeth.
They stand at the bus stop
like Statues of Liberty,
shrieking and waving
their stumps like flares.
He prays their screams
will bring to a frieze
the patrol cars glowing
in the middle of the street.
THROUGH WALLENSTEIN PUBLIC GARDENS: PRAHA, 1998
—Rhony Bhopla, Sacramento, CA
crown, arching thick
body over clement
ignoring the scant
desirous sky, the tangled
I will cut this
not with words, but
with the arc of my blade,
motorized steel teeth
I have inherited.
When will the sun
branch, plume in a gather
Stiffly, feet walk.
ABOVE THE SILENCE
I want from love only the beginning—
—Agha Shahid Ali
In the beginning we bent light
until the flash surrendered
over our bare shoulders,
something gone, that something gained
between hours of suffering, yet
nothing is missed—
warmth in rapture, in peace.
When you spill into my arms,
you slide into exodus
called ocean. What color never fades?
as the moon's illustrious shine,
stars in their dance send me
a scribe who wets the canvas
with hand-marks of a love story,
something gained past departure
passion seeks solitude
in the beginning.
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
One grain of sand
In the eye of the beholder
Makes the Rock of Gibraltar
Impossible to view
One tiny hand
In the arms of a new mother
Directs rivers of hormones
Each with no clue
An enthusiastic band
Plays the fight song over and over
The bounce of the football
Leaves them losing 45 to 2
Our thanks to today’s contributors on Halloween 2016! There will be no reading at Sac. Poetry Center tonight; readings resume next Monday, 7:30pm. Tomorrow, Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around in El Dorado Hills meets from 5-7pm. On Thursday, Poetry Unplugged presents features and open mic at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, 8pm; T-Mo Entertainment presents The Love Jones Experience at Laughs Unltd. in Old Sacramento, 8pm; and Poetry in Davis presents Arturo Mantecón, Gilberto Rodríguez plus open mic at John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 8pm. And Saturday night will be the release party for the new issue of Sac. Poetry Center’s latest Tule Review, beginning at 5pm with the gallery exhibit of Tule art plus music and refreshments, then contributors will read beginning at 7pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about these and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
DANCE OF THE DUST WITCHES
—William H. Simpson
Are you not weary,
—Medusa, wishing you a bucketful of treats on this Halloween, 2016!
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