I have no frogs in my cake pans—the ones I put out as shallow pools
of water on my deck, where my wet-mop hangs after swabbing the floor.
Tiny masked brown frogs hang out in my mop, their ponds gone dry.
Two counties south are burning. So brittle, this cusp of a droughty fall.
Breeze carries oak leaves and pine needles to float on water
in my cake pans, so they resemble pools in the woods, refuge for a frog.
We cherish small water, portion it out for lizards and birds, and now
The thrift-store lady pointed to my 50-cent pans: Baking a cake?
They’re for water, I said. The sweetest taste of all.
No tracks in snow. The door creaks open,
a cold lung exhaling. Country mice had a party,
leaving hulls. Milled lumber shivers, naked
as it never was in its native forest. Does it dream
of returning, settling into familiar leaf-fall soil
for the long sleep? Winter inside and out,
the room so cold, I don’t know whose breath
I’d let out, warmed over, into air so old.
If we slept that long, you said, we’d never get
up. Invisible math of motion. It’s time to build
the fire up, it died while they were sleeping.
Its horses galloped away, manes and tails
flaming, hooves striking cinder, roils of ash
with no earthly breath to stir, no wind.
This morning between seasons, frost and
mirage, he flutes the tundra swan, rare visitor
to these wetlands as far from tundra.
The rising sun landed so long ago to twilight.
He flutes these passages, morning’s fabric
by the hollow voice of his willow reed.
Or is it wind blowing storm?
The iron stove’s shut tight to inside cold
that stays. On it rests
a fluter’s rusted pendulum of days.
At lake’s edge we found
the crow naked as feathers
that no longer fly.
Splay of black sunlight—
void that pulls against the will
to flight and away.
Analyze this mystery:
yesterday the crow, alive.
A pool is hunger
as the summer sky is thirst
but this is fisted winter.
Shatter of black ice
on the shoreline glittering
every pebble it touches.
The lake is a pool
of dark tears rippling away
in the arms of morning light.
not to over-cross our path,
this crow stays our loss.
POND IN OCTOBER
In spring the water’s alive with birds, aquarelle of wind rippling green fields away to the far hill. As if the meaning of this land were spring beauty. Now the lagoon disappears in bulrush and blackberry bramble, fruit still hanging wizened hard as Waka rock. The lake diminished to a scummy pond, fields burned dry by summer. A few wild geese convoy away. Kingfisher dives for what’s under-surface. What creature left these tracks and scat? one who stays out of sight, living between pond and thicket. Let’s sit and wait for what we’d miss.
from behind cattails,
from their secret of waters
rises blue heron
KNOWLEDGE IS KING
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
I was born and raised
In a Jewish family
That made exceptions
When it came to pork
Purim, pork chops
Bei Mir Bist Du Shayn, bacon
Sukkot, pork sausage
You get the idea
And my Best Man
Assured me I was
Christian like he was
So I can go ahead and
Make this reference—
Your rulers are rebels
And companions of thieves;
Everyone loves a bribe
And chases after rewards.
They do not defend the orphan,
Nor does the widow's plea
Come before them
Anything ring a bell here?
Our thanks to today’s contributors for helping us kick off this rainy week! Tonight, Laverne and Carol Frith will be reading (plus open mic) at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. On Wednesday, join the Placerville folks for a Poetry Off-the-Shelves read-around at the El Dorado County Main Branch, 5-7pm. Then Saturday from 6-9pm, Sac. Poetry Center will hold a reception for their January Gallery showing, Sable & Quill: Exhibit & Reading of Writers & Their Visual Art, with a reading at 7:30pm. And on Sunday, you have two choices: Mosaic of Voices at Avid Reader at Tower Bookstore with Steven Sanchez, 2-3pm, and Poetry at the Mine with Katy Brown and Loch Henson (plus open mic), 1-3pm. 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—but note that more may be added at the last minute.
First winter rain—
even the monkey
seems to want a raincoat.
—Matsuo Bashō (trans. by Robert Hass)
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