down the woods trail and past the ponds.
Let’s pry the lid off what we know.
Find a way to meadow in the midst of forest
blooming white and yellow.
How many kinds of April willow?
Step inside a house of bark,
watch the sun light every gap and crevice.
See the weave of honeysuckle vines
to bind the trees together.
Sit still, become a basket maker
of your mind.
Listen. What’s that tap-tap?
someone hammering with a tiny
hammer? sending Morse code
through the woods?
Let’s give every bird a name of its own.
Your head is room enough
to take this whole meadow with you
—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA
That girl has a foxtail
under her blanket cinched tight and tighter –
saddlebags full of math problems,
papers red-lined “incomplete.” Ridden all day
by teachers; the rest of the time
father’s “do it now!” A mother worries
is the girl just frustrated,
or is she lost? Not that headstrong, just
boggled, itched and stickered
by her life. Slaps the saddle down hard
after school, knees the girth near breathless;
leaps astride, clattering steel-shod,
hooves striking sparks on pavement;
into scrub-woods plunging to get away from
that thorn dug into her brain;
through brush, under low-hung branches.
Does she forget to duck?
A horse knows his own way back
to the barn. Can she find
a path through stunted gnarly oaks
and dry grass waiting for a match, tangles
of woods like fairytales
that used to scare her in the dark?
A daylight way home.
KINDNESS ON THE ROAD
Your trip was an inspiration—
even with stopover in that city where
the air quality was abominable—
and your lungs aren’t the sturdiest
nor are mine, I’ve got a cough as well,
it just hangs on, my “solstice cold.”
Your souvenir of Shanghai—but you’re
home-bound now, inside your
walls. We miss you at poetry—our life-
breath, we like to say, as healing as
mountain air in God’s country
(as we call it), foothill breeze with doe
so light along a roadside. As if
immortal verse could fill our failing
lungs, first stanza through the last—
those poets gone now. Your trip
still with you, suffocating. I’d invoke
an exultation of meadowlarks
to burst open your door.
NOT QUITE LOST
Frustrating, trying to find the old mine where they dug for gold. The map sketchy. No one wants to talk about it —damage it did to the land. Unsettling hillside, releasing toxins into creek. I’ve hiked a labyrinth of trails through meadow sog, berry bramble and I haven’t found it, nor totally lost my way. I keep my compass by sun and shadow; drawn to canyon bottom, its damp and dark. Ferns conceal the hole delving out of daylight.
what bird calls unseen
from green unweeping willow?
I’ll follow birdsong
FABLE FOR AN EARTH DAY WALK
Shall we adventure down the creek?
The new footbridges already are easing into
the landscape, taking on the color of leaves
fallen last year or some year before.
Every leaf on every tree finds its way down,
in time, like the creek. These simple
bridges shift their balance with the weight
of our footsteps and the way the banks stretch
and sigh in their sleep as the creek keeps
flowing even in dark like a dream.
But, you say, we came for daylight, and
nothing seems to be changing.
We’ve lived too long with humans and their
machines—geared faster and breaking down
quicker than the creek cuts rock.
The way nature blesses us with change.
How old is this canyon?
The sound of drums was lost
before it ever reached the meadow.
If drummers carried the chant beyond
their boxed performance,
they dispersed on different paths.
The meadow silent
but for the breathing of a few
listeners who’d come to hear the drums
speak to the soil and grasses
and the bones of a fox almost lost
in tall green. The drums
never arrived. But an insect—
perhaps a nymph with only the hint
of wings—landed on a sleeve,
moving as if searching for its form,
its place, its voice.
The listeners spoke in myth,
in verse very softly to not to disturb it
on the journey to its song.
CONVICTIONS OF THE BEST
—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
The best lack all conviction…
The paper greets us with atrocity.
A little Syrian girl with oxygen mask,
face cherry red as if from carbon monoxide;
worse still the toxin visited without pity
on her by her country’s president. A task
to be done, extinguish so many, genocide
to us…and what to do? What can we do
to flush this dictator monster out of Syria?
As these thoughts finish, back into the car
inside which classical music sprouts wisteria…
nothing here of tragic victims, angers:
Peter Maxwell Davies’ An Orkney Wedding,
stuffed with Scottish musical capers, bangers,
deliberate departures from true pitch,
rascally quarter-tones, bagpipe distortions:
all at the farthest madcap remove from sarin…
How can anyone reconcile the itch
for drunken amiable braggadocio
with a doe-eyed Khan Sheikhoun child’s contortions
toiling just to breathe one breath less desperate:
our jollity’s undersong, plague—as in Boccaccio?
What species of fleshy insect, what disparate
traits: joy on the one hand, fear on the other, held
one arm-span apart by perfect Vitruvian Man,
that equable creature managing not to meld
humor and cruelty…yet the more balanced his stance,
the more his meaty thorax emits indifference;
how far beyond self must our glance range for inference?
SKY OVER SYRIA
We look for gods to come, we watch for omens,
believe sky-images, bright signs, transparencies
must deliver swiftly what’s heralded. A woman
giant-strides the horizons; or strange errancies
tilt with the twilight, at point of sun’s lance;
“these late eclipses of the sun and moon”
cap every “squeak and gibber,” every trance
not even Shakespeare’s antennae can attune
to mechanisms of thought. Now we see cloud,
declare it amasses like a besieging force.
And so we perceive. It grays, it blackens air
as we think sarin, some such poison shroud,
should steep us in blisters, burn us past despair.
What darkens these crystal signs? Our own remorse?
ELFIN AND SOULLESS
A certain composer whom I need not name
penned into one of his eerie nature scores
the mood directive Elfin and soulless. Spores
of the dark mushrooms, ferns or birches claim
less than his Inhumans the label soulless.
Our whimsical musician-poet thinks
the Sidhe, the faery race, that untamed goalless
pack of necromantic drifters, links
fingers with every mortal hand who probes
June-shadowed forests riddled with dawnlight;
henceforth, each tricked poor human too must drift
bereft of compass, grasping for bright slight
seductions. You, though: immune, my guide, you sift
true from false paths, pierce thickets of oakleaf lobes,
all Latvian soul (deceivers far too slow
for you, bride sprung of quite different elves!) you glide:
we tread the leaf-plush depths where shadows glow,
you prodding the Sidhe like birds from where they hide…
Whatever I may suppress, feeling seeps out.
For lack of a decent, amenable word,
I hide sweet emotion, I cloak it in doubt.
My old coal-mine mouth, my canary-bright bird
under my tongue. As if meant to smother,
poor bird, poor word. I search for another.
Next time you come to me, nothing will shout
from my crimsoning face, not one thing absurd
will slither from under tongue, poke out from mouth.
So secretive will I be, I may seem blurred.
Blurry I mean to be, shapeless, or rather,
reduction of bird and sauce. Not one loose feather.
I found at a garage sale a 1945 book called Five Thousand Quotations for all Occasions by Lewis C. Henry
This book that I bought for just 50 cents has poets and authors I haven’t yet read
For instance a French-born predecessor of William Shakespeare named Francois Rabelais—
He was known for coining into English such phrases as “Strike the iron whilst it is hot”,
“never look a gift horse in the mouth”,
“of two evils, choose the least” and “robbing Peter to pay Paul”
Me, I had classes on Shakespeare that didn’t discuss Rabelais’ effect upon him at all
This book with a severely damaged dust jacket was probably going to be discarded otherwise if I didn’t buy it
No book like this, no matter how old, should be disregarded in the way this one probably was
Such a book can inspire people to read even “dead poets” out of current fashion
So it seemed to cry out to be “rescued”, being thrown in with a stack of outdated history texts
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA
IST AND TISM
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
Went to the library
To see what they had
Countless selves of
Cute and gory
Hard and soft covers
Hot and cold topics
No due dates
Take your time
Sit’n & Knit’n
Cleveland Haiku #426
the creek and several tributaries
officially have names
* * *
Cleveland Haiku #427
Small waves leap
over the concrete barriers
protecting the shore
* * *
Cleveland Haiku #428
A mans walks the streets
holding his guitar,
never stopping to play
* * *
Cleveland Haiku #429
birds shopping for food
on my lawn
* * *
Cleveland Haiku #430
birdsong from the bush
outside my bedroom window
—Michael Ceraolo, Willoughby Hills, OH
Our many thanks to today’s contributors, a fine, diverse beginning to a Monday morning! About her photos, Loch Henson writes: The Hornbill Bookshop is on the same soi (alley/street) as the guest house, and features many titles in English. Books literally disintegrate in the tropical climate...the humidity erodes the fibers...so it is brave to open a bookstore in this area. The owner bags most titles to keep out the moisture, but leaves a few open for browsing. She has an impeccable section of hardback poetry for sale (minus the two titles that I purchased while staying there!). The reference to Loch’s health in Taylor Graham’s poem refers to Loch’s breathing being badly compromised by Shanghai air, where she had a 13-hr. layover. She has been ill ever since. (Her "dessert" photo reflects all she could hold down at Easter.) Our thoughts are with you, Loch!
James Lee Jobe has some news about the Poetry in Davis Series; check it out at www.facebook.com/notes/james-lee-jobe/the-other-voice-poetry-series-update/10155124398367088/. James Lee also invites you to like his new Facebook page, One Dog Dharma, at www.facebook.com/OneDogDharma/?notif_t=fbpage_fan_invite¬if_id=1492993531982027/.
Poetry readings in our area begin tonight with April Ossmann and Camille Norton plus open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, 25th & R Sts., Sac., 7:30pm. On Thursday, check out Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, with features and open mic at 8pm.
Don’t forget that this Saturday, from 10am-4pm, will be Sac. Poetry Center’s Writers' Conference 2017, featuring Iris Dunkle, Kathleen Winter, Marsha de la O, Indigo Moor, Hugh Behn-Steinberg, and Paul Hoover. Reg: $40 (members $30). For info/reg., call 916-714-5401. 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 this just in:
HAUNTED LUNGS REVISITED....(a Snarkastic Haiku by Loch Henson)
Lungs full of China—
words fail me when the breath does.
Send inhaler, STAT, please!
—Photo by Loch Henson, who shares Medusa’s love
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