THE WATCHFUL OAKS
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
They stood over what was once
a literary society’s dance and social hall.
The town’s not mythical, just hard to pinpoint
on a road that twists and dips to creeks and
rises under overhanging oaks—tall, graceful
Valley Oaks. How could the town exist
without its oaks? They watched as the building
rose more than a hundred years ago—hall
for dances with a live band. They
watched as literary society gave way
to post office with a zipcode. At last, one
of the great old oaks crashed down
on the building in storm, and another tree
with it. Still, the mail must go through,
while all around, mythical oaks
stand guard and cloak what man has done,
so you’d hardly know it’s a town.
short of hurricane,
not quite berserk it blew clear
into living bones
whistle like willow
in a wind weaving branches
baskets of water
logic a wool scarf
knit up tight to press the throat
in a ribbing itch
one ancient live oak
split open laid its half-self
down across the drive
a bird blew by in spite of
its wings—we held breath like wind
Parents would shake their heads,
wonder when we’d grow up and get serious
about serious stuff. We loved
dogs and anything with hooves, and
words that rhymed or not, but made sense
in a westwind sort of way.
We rode our imaginations bareback.
We never grew up.
But now it’s come to this—
no cowboy-poetry for the town’s old-west
event. Let’s meet on Main Street
anyway, watch for the teams coming
down the mountain; stand on the corner,
ears tuned for hooves on pavement
drumming the heart.
We’ll read horse poems
to each other and anybody else
who cares to listen. And as we watch
the first big black Percheron
come into view—a wagon-teamster’s Pegasus—
we’ll be flying 17-hands-high on horses
of our never-grown-up dreams.
NIGHTMARE—JANUARY 19, 2017
(After William Butler Yeats’ “The Second Coming”)
—Ann Wehrman, Sacramento, CA
whirling and whirling, black circles on gray
move out of the forest
out of time, from past or future
cannot know, dare not say
turning, progress ever closer
from far away, arrival imminent
vortex of death
powerless in its path
I beat on the door
immense stone building
enter a shop inside, approach clerk
choke on my message—
no time: shelter, duck, cover
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
Today a very learned public servant
Who shed light where he walked
Respectfully gave up his chair
To an older, whiter, businessman
Whose obsession with power
Cast the shadow of a hostile takeover
Dimming the typically hopeful tones of
An inauguration speech
Oh, is that what it was?
Four years of this?
Blah, blah, blah
If his unartful political being
Has to eat humble pie
He will top it with liberal scoops
Of his favorite ice cream
Just one voice in a larger-than-life
Choir of self gratification
Good job! You’re the best!
Relax, you’ve earned it!
While he is busy
Knocking down sand castles and
Stripping beach babes naked
All for the fun of it
We can be hard at work
Rebuilding our dreams
Awakening the force
The orphan boat of my heart
Crosses the unsteady, undulant
Ocean of Time.
—Ping Hsin (trans. by Kenneth Rexroth and Ling Chung)
Our thanks to today’s fine contributors! Taylor Graham sends us her haiku sonnet (“This Morning”), an intriguing combination of forms which she found on Robert Lee Brewer’s blog, Poetic Asides, which he does for Writer’s Digest; see www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides, which includes every-Wednesday prompts. Note that she and Katy Brown will be holding the Wakamatsu workshop this Sunday in Placerville—the one that was postponed earlier this month due to weather.
Area poetry events begin tonight with Marcelo Hernandez Castillo and Rose Martinez (plus open mic) at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm. Also tonight, the monthly Poetry in Motion read-around takes place in Placerville, 6-7pm. Then on Friday at 7:30pm, Carlena Wike and Susan Kelly-DeWitt will read at The Other Voice in Davis, plus open mic. Then another of Placerville’s read-arounds, this one called Poetic License, will meet at the Placerville Sr. Center from 2-4pm on Saturday, and on Sunday, the American River Conservancy in Placerville will host “Capturing Wakamatsu: A Poetry Workshop” from 10am-12noon with Taylor Graham and Katy Brown. (This event was moved from January 8 due to weather.) 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.
And speaking of Trump (were we?), check out www.steinershow.org/podcasts/e-ethelbert-miller-art-in-the-time-of-trump and see what you think.
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