Monday, February 06, 2017

History and the Law of Secrets

—Anonymous Photos

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

He took a taper and
Stomped the bottom
With his heel real hard
Like one does with a
Whistling Pete

Then he lit the taper
And cuffed his hands
Over his ears, bursting with
Pride, hope, and promise
For that big finish

He sits there still in the
Oval Office waiting to be acclaimed
For a spectacular event
While the taper sheds
Little fingers of waxen tears


For a few hundred years
We have counted the inches of mercury
In a barometer
To measure the pressure
Exerted by the weight of air

Damn the complications of science!

Now along comes the sales pitch
From the congressional used car lot
On Capitol Hill
Seeking to build a massive metaphor
To vent all the hot air

Problem solved!

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Under a brilliant sky—perfect, desiccating
light—summer burned the hair off the bones,
the grass off the soil. I was sheep-supplier
of blackberry fronds. A simple concept.
I’d stop my car along some winding two-lane
and, with my loppers, truncate a growth
of bramble. Not a comfortable job,
packing those spiked runners into the trunk.
My sheep would gorge on fresh-cut green,
pulling their lips back from the thorns.
Blackberry sweet to a sheep as honey.
Never did they thank me. After an hour’s
meditation, they’d be rioting again for green
pastures beside still running waters of legend.
I’d drive the side roads scanning for berry
bramble, counting like beads the weeks till rain.


—Taylor Graham

My dog leads me through a labyrinth
of chainlink segments and yellow barrier tape,
remnants of civic remodeling

like streets I’ve known for years and
suddenly can’t find my way.
My dog navigates on scent, as if drawn

by a magnetic center: our quarry.
We pass under the POW flag like a bat caught
by two corners of its black wing, flapping.

Storm wind’s up, shuffling scents.
Past workers carrying fragments of fence,
pushing wheelbarrows, loading up

their truck. My dog sniffs, quick-wags.
Another turn of labyrinth. Faster as he nears
our target, our hide-&-seek friend.

—Taylor Graham
It almost feels like camping
after storm knocked the power out.
Candles from the pantry—
old friends’ gifts scented with blessings.
Candlesticks packed away some-
where. You struck a match, melted
a dab of wax, dripped it on the newly-
opened lid of pinto beans;
affixed a candle on the silver disk.
Cast-iron pot on wood-burning stove:
brown onion and garlic, add chipotle.
Stir it up and let it simmer.
Serve up chili beans in heavy bowls.
What’s a home-cooked meal
without candlelight?


—Taylor Graham

Inward, downward by candlelight
a jagged tunnel illuminated
by the quest for gold—but that’s beyond
the frame. The photo shows a dozen
men who could have been our in-laws,
dressed only slightly out-of-style,
thrift-store chic of a few decades ago.
Back in Gold Rush days,
it wasn’t fashionable to smile for photos, 
and why should they? Where
are their picks? their candles? Soon
they’ll be out of daylight, moving
farther inward, downward
but never reaching the heart of earth.

—Michael Ceraolo, S. Euclid, OH

A song from the 1960s with that title
almost boasted of not knowing much
about a great many subjects
in the next century,
that too many had taken the song to heart,
the powers-that-be introduced
a modest proposal for the new millennium:
make education illegal,
to make it cool by forbidding it
It didn't work,
history was among the subjects
where general knowledge decreased


—Michael Ceraolo

In the late second millennium
there was an idea known as
American Exceptionalism
The idea was used to explain
America's apparent,
                              though not actual,
exemption from the laws and forces of history,
thus its difference from the other nations of the world
(The rightness or wrongness of this idea
is a subject for a different poem)
But in the early third millennium
there emerged another idea,
                                          a second kind
of American Exceptionalism
that was used by those all along the political spectrum
to explain all its faults real imagined
as the results of conspiracies
                        here alone
                                        in all the worlds
had managed to remain secret in defiance of the law of secrets

—Michael Ceraolo

Near the end of the second millennium
a pseudo-savant boldly spoke
of the end of history,
he didn't have the faintest idea
of what history consisted
Better luck next time


Today’s LittleNip:

—Michael Ceraolo

The superstitious admonition
to not speak ill of the dead
was never observed entirely,
nor should it have been
In almost all instances
the fact of a person's death
didn't change what the person
had been in life
the admonition remained,


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors for their hard work and poetic insights! Lots of fireworks, today, huh?

Check out a Jan. 30 interview with Sacramento’s new Poet Laureate, Indigo Moor, by CPR’s Beth Ruyak at

Area poetry begins tonight with JoAnn Anglin and Sean King reading at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm.
Then, later this week, there are two Placerville poetry events: Tues. night will be the El Dorado County finals for Poetry Out Loud, the national high school recitation contest; on Weds. night, Poetry Off-the-Shelves (poetry read-around) takes place at the El Dorado County Library, 5-7pm. And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe is always happening on Thursdays, 8pm. 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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