IN THE NAME OF AUTUMN
—Sue Daly, Sacramento, CA
The maples are bleeding
releasing their quota of leaves,
we watch them
drift down to the magnetic pull
of ancient forest floor.
Our custom is to glean several,
marveling at each careful pattern
as we gingerly bundle them
for closer inspection later.
Perhaps we’ll press one in a book
or place samples on the table,
a gentle reminder
to shed worn-out ways
of existing in this world.
Sublime scents tease the air
as harvest-time comes round,
trees speak hushed wisdom;
we choose what we hear.
We stand in silence—
to face the coming winter,
to go on.
THE MEDIA ALPHABET
Black Lives Matter
Unfit for office
THE HOUSE OF STARS
—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
running from myself
gripping a bowl of fright,
I reached the House of Stars.
When it outshined my troubled story
I told myself: let this be a night of glory.
Then all of a light
and out of a cloud a stranger
stood there tall and calm.
I blurted, I've a bone to pick
with you, not that you care!
Unshaken, the luminous Stranger
offered a feast to share.
—Claire J. Baker
Under a copper-coated, 18 karat
gold finish, a real aspen leaf
is perfectly preserved
yet no longer shimmers
against the sky.
I hear aspen quaking
in Colorado, in Utah heading
for Grand Canyon's north rim;
in Ansel Adams' famous
Yosemite aspen-tree photo.
there are aspen in
Mother Lode Country,
where my ancestors
built homes, worked ranches
and fields, raised families,
found rugged work
and final resting.
The hillside’s closed by a gate of rusted
wheel-spokes—no one here is going anywhere.
Except in the parking lot below, an old
pickup with a one-horse trailer parked. No place
to ride but up the hill, beyond gravesites
marked by rusted iron spokes. Numbers
without names—monuments of ordinary lives.
Here, steel hoof prints are pressed into
muddy earth, headed up-trail. Shall I follow,
climbing as soul of energy driven
to labor higher? The bodies buried here
labored for breath until it left them, ascending
past the old miners’ ditch, the quartz-shaft
emptied of its crystal like frozen sky.
The graves are empty now, and the heavens
gathering clouds to close like an iron gate
before it opens up in hoof-strike against stone;
lightning, stampede thunder, blessed rain.
Look at the topo map, contour lines
from valley floor to summit, and the long
trail—a fine dashed line, a haywire
strand twisting upwards toward the saddle.
Contour lines like a musical staff,
compressed where the slope is steepest,
widening out on rests for breath.
We won’t do that hike today—the climb
and breathe, breath and pause;
the rests, the breaks, a chance to turn
around, look back over the vista
we’ve created step by step one boot
before the other. Instead, we’ll stay home
on this cloudy morning, mending fence.
And stop to listen to those twitter-
birds on woven field-wire, so many notes
on a staff, waiting for the sun to sing.
CALL IT CHARITY
Long forgotten. I found it in a box in the garage.
Dinosaur built by a child? Abstract design
in curves and disks, a hundred rough plywood
wafers strung on wire. Vertebrae on a steel
spine. Bones of a wooden beast. This rope
of tokens will never hold us on a climb. Xmas
ornaments on the tree of fancy, long dead.
Burnt into laminate wood, a memory. Circles
left from drilling door-holes for nest boxes.
At last you remember: all those boxes you built
and hung on trees and fenceposts. Homes for
cavity-nesting birds. How many eggs; thousands
of nestlings fledged. Your proof? wooden chips
on wire. They look like crackers, you said.
Too tough to eat. The dog will take care of it.
The map showed a back way to where
we wanted: November’s gold of harvest fields.
The map was a suggestion, nothing more.
A black line of twists and curves. The road
unwound under shifting blue, atmosphere
announcing change of weather. Clouds surged
from the west, still far off but shadowing.
The road plunged without a centerline into deep
green canyon. Leaves hung on against
the river pulling unseen from below. No chance
to scan for scenery. Just a glimpse of
weathered gray on the slope opposing. Imagine
an ancient abbey tucked into forest against
time. Gone behind a curve, another fold
of mountain. A place I’d never find again,
not on a sunny day.
LOST IN THE WOODS
He walks out unexpected, the door
an open question. The last line of poetry
not yet dry. Into the canyon-dark
of oaks waiting for wild grape to turn
bright enough to read by; festoons
of life that won’t give up in the cold.
Weatherman’s predicting storm. Already,
wind hollows spaces between bare
branches, between where he came from
and who knows where. He left his
parka hanging on a hook by
that still-open empty door. Imagine him
in parts unknown, trying to decipher
a mossy-damp log, its praise
of green mouths open, singing. Lost
in the woods that know what dark
is for. A flitter-bird feasts on wild grape.
It’s November, a break between storms. The earth is glad and giving, mooshing under my boots as welcome. Is this a day to go in search of treasure? Maybe the Lost Goose Egg Mine, somewhere north of Newtown. Or treasure buried by a Gold Rush storekeeper before he left Volcanoville for his home in China; and when he came back at last for his gold, the town had burned, taking his landmarks with it. Isn’t this the way with treasure? And the lost Kanaka Jack Mine, not far from where we’ve trained our dogs, a valley lovely in spring. It’s November. No matter which direction I go, searching for treasure, I’ll wind along a creekside road where wild-grape almost hides the oaks it lives on.
sun strikes the canyon
as wild grape turns a gray world
to November gold
Reached the age
When friends are dying
Brain cells retiring
Lawn not thriving
Planted special seeds
Now it’s all weeds
Complexities cloud judgment
Looked out of the box
Started with socks
No more sorting
Just black and white
Colors take flight
My new calendar is
Just one day
Our thanks to today’s fine collection of poets and photographers! Tonight the Sac. Poetry Center will present Amanda Wynn and Katie McCleary, 7:30pm. Other readings this week include two on Weds.: the Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around in Placerville, 5pm, and Mary Mackey’s book launch at Time Tested Books, 7pm. And of course there is always Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento on Thursdays, 8pm.
The US Poet Laureate will be in town this Saturday! This reading by Juan Felipe Herrera will take place at the Crest Theater, 1013 K St., reception at 6pm, reading at 7:30pm. See www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2585453 for info and to purchase tickets ($15). Also on the schedule is Sacramento’s Electropoetic Coffee poetry/music duo. 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.
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