THE EAGLE’S CRY
30 years ago, Union Valley Reservoir
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
I readjusted my binoculars,
looked again across the inlet. What could I see
but a ragged mass of sticks—3 feet wide,
precarious—near the top of a great Ponderosa?
You were zeroing in with a borrowed
telescope. Mid-Sierra, summer-cold at dawn.
We set up camp the night before, hoping
for a glimpse of the rare sight: a Bald Eagle nest,
cause for celebration. Our national symbol
endangered in her homeland: habitat destruction,
illegal shooting, DDT…. I thought
I could decipher a nest from that ramshackle
platform so high up in the pine. Where
was the eagle? Out, hunting the lake for fish?
I imagined wings over ripples, deadly
flash of white, the sun just rising. I listened
for her high-pitched whistle-cry,
or a low kuk-kuk. How does she sing
to her baby?
Ennui, you said.
The horsefly on a blade of grass,
a pious sheep across the neighbor’s fence.
Ground squirrels dash
under the circling of a hawk. Sun-glint
and glare that makes of this
pragmatic speckled rock
a pyramid of light. The sidewinder creek
no longer sandbed dry, but
brimming, leaping from last week’s
everything is still. A winged
as if close to the sun. Look,
way up high, dark speck of bird—eagle?—
gone, flying so fast upcountry
there’s not a sound. Not an echo
QUIRKS OF THE PLACE
Will it rain today? Clouds of black tea.
We’ll hike the creek again, a moonscape
of rock and ghost-pine. Hints of how
the mountain was made. Serpentine belt
through granite and lava; a place shattered,
disjointed and complete in itself.
A place of Sierra shipwreck. The biker
who set off down the ridge—no
motorcycle malfunction—the hunter
whose head broke into birdsong;
no bear or cougar got him, but his own
familiar body. Metabolic quirks
as changeable as weather. And will it
rain? Waterfalls and boulders slick
when wet; sudden drop-offs into a creek
not steep but tricky. Thanksgiving-
cold, ready to storm. The most familiar
place becomes adventure in quirky weather.
ONES THAT GOT AWAY
That lake caught in the hook of mountain
is full of the ghosts of fishermen—
the tales he tells around a campfire
against a chill of wading early snowmelt
in his memory. The memory
of someone gone, always hungry for a fish
that got away. He speaks of shadows,
reflections at the last of sunset
leaving only a forever flow.
One who slipped into the South Fork,
the reservoir, the pond, or else
gave up and went back home to die.
He’s imagined the mask: eyes
rippled by water-striders on a still surface.
He tells these stories to the embers.
By dawn he’ll be out again fishing. How
a man becomes what he longs for.
Hungry not for the taste of trout, but
the gleam of rainbow, that tug on the line.
HAVE GUN WILL TRAVEL
—Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby Hills, OH
There was a 1950s Terran TV show
with the same title as this part of the poem,
a show with a hero who helped out
only those who sought his help,
to impose himself on those who didn't
The show had a catchy theme song,
the rhythm of which the Seven adopted,
given the pace of technological change
the card was figuratively, not literal
the message got through just the same
Have Brain Will Travel reads the card of a clan
Knights without armor saving sullied land
Total reclamation when you call them in
Eco-redeemers are the clan of Paladins
where do you roam?
far far from home
They travel on to wherever they must
Approval from creatures is their badge of trust
There are space-camp legends the astronauts spin
of complete cleanups by the clan of Paladins
wherever you roam,
you've made a new home
The new home was the reclaimed space,
again habitable for the natives of the place,
occasionally one of the Seven
might decide to stay after the job was done,
if that happened was immediately replaced
Too early in the poem to tell
if that will happen here
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
A scant few nights ago, we saw you, Moon:
wished you to become in truth
the Goddess-Hero forever promised Soon;
oh we breed Somedays like green youth.
Your brightness was a portent; you would swell
so blinding and silver, even the Sun
would cringe; moon-eagle high up with talons fell
swoop crying to outsweep the Hot One.
No, your great rising gave off no influence,
not so much as one long tide,
one dashing breaker’s commotion that torments,
that tortures even the seaside
out of accustomed shape. We looked next day:
the clouds hung hard upon the dawn
as pregnancies by their very swell may delay;
we fear the pushed-through fruit stillborn.
But no, the day-orb, although cloud-filtered silver
as if to make Supermoon double,
threw off sky-gray rags in one massive shiver.
We were back at the source of all trouble.
Who’d ever have guessed, Walt Whitman,
that your irregular verse—wandering afoot, nay,
tramping, trampling, trampolining over all
conventions of rhyme & meter, following only your own
unmeasured illimitable pay-it-forward spin—
would prove so singable? Long after our
Protestant hymnals drone their last drone to our sleepy
sewing baskets, long after the nodding snore unawares
in the churchly aria, we feel your systolic pulse in the most
scintillant music—Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Sea Symphony,
ecstatic in Joan Rodgers’ surging cresting voice;
VW’s Dirge for Two Veterans; Howard Hanson’s
Song of Democracy, recorded at Eastman so Mercury-intimate
it torments (O student orchestra, O student choir—and what students!):
To hear this intimate fire, this antiphonal roar and plunge,
this caress of lovingly young voices, young instruments—it is
to sit in the “Living Presence,” at once gathering self
and dissipating self. The harmony of you, Walt, and us, naked
and daring to touch the Burning Bush, then coming away
as from all fatal meetings, both deeply singed
internally and outward whole, fresh and unburned
though tender the skin to the lightest touch…
BY THE BREADTH OF ONE HAIR
Scrubbing the floor, Jane Kenyon finds a hair,
an ancestral hair stuck in her half-full pail.
She thinks it quite transfiguring, as if there
all human continuance were stranded. Fail,
that argument would, with me. The brush I share,
rich with tresses sloughed from me & mine, grail
to Kenyon, oppresses me with stubborn care,
care the coarse hair I’d whisk aside, nay, flail—
the thought that what illness visited, and I suffered,
slightly, as one suffers the staylong guest,
could soon return to mingle with chemistry,
rob me of all that remains of my birth-crest,
denude my pate that once held strong sun buffered.
To accept, as in life, new weaves, new tapestry…?
And you, my real one, you whose tresses shine,
you came to my dream as ever, not utterly mine.
Pressed fingertip to my face, as by a hair’s breadth, soft, slight, fine…
I had a dream that Donald Trump resigned as President of the United States
Trump went into a rage and then quit by walking out of the White House
and he left no forwarding instructions on what to do until another election could be held
I didn’t vote for him so I actually felt a sigh of relief
and I was riding my bike around to see that plenty of people were just fine with that, too
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
Our thanks to today’s poets and to photographer Robert Lee Haycock for our fine Monday morning brunch on this beginning of Thanksgiving Week. Tom Goff’s “Supermoon” poem appeared on Facebook on Nov. 16. For today’s version, he says he changed “moon-hawk” to “moon-eagle” out of deference to Medusa’s Seed of the Week (The Eagle’s Cry).
Tonight, novelists Jordan Okumura and Doug Rice will read at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. I’m guessing that Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe will not meet, since I’m sure Art Luna must be closing the restaurant for Thanksgiving. On Saturday, Poetic License will have their read-around from 2-4pm in Placerville at the Placerville Sr. Center. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
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