—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA
this green hilltop
and I watching as sun
pulls undried raindrops back into
TO A WILD KITTEN
—Claire J. Baker
All orange and fluffy
you crouch and gaze.
Our eyes meet, blue eyes to green,
for a moment bonded before
your explosive run and hide.
Will you ever let my hand
stroke your fur?
Will you ever curl on my lap
My old cat is failing,
lethargic, yet full of love.
Little wild one,
you might take his place.
I know love is not perfect.
But it tries.
BEAST OF HER BLOOD
—Claire J. Baker
Spirited by DNA
an inherited weakness spots her.
Snarling at edge of a jungle,
it leaps, lands on her back,
anchors claws into bone.
She feared the arrival.
When she turns her head to
face it squarely, the creature
is gone. But she feels the
weight, and waits…
BLACK SEED BY BLACK SEED
—Donal Mahoney, Belleville, IL
Every day the same people
at the same table
at the rear of the cafeteria.
The maiden, 35 at least,
is gray at the temples,
sour at the mouth.
The widow, 55, waves
a cigarette like a wand.
Girdled and dyed,
she needs no one now;
She ministers to a dog
and has a new apartment.
The accountant, 65, wants to retire,
his years of intemperance
tempered by a stroke,
his anger at everything
suddenly gone. The janitor, 60,
explains over and over
how over the weekend
he snipped from his garden
husks of dead sunflowers
and drove them out of the city
and into the forest
and there in a clearing
spread the black cakes
for chipmunks to strip,
black seed by black seed.
I, a young editor,
“with your whole life
in front of you,” they insist,
sit through it all,
Monday through Friday,
spooning broth, buttering slices
of rye, and praying that after
pudding again for dessert,
the phone on my desk
will explode too late
with a call I’ll take anyway,
and that after that call, I’ll rise
and take from my sport coat
a speech I wrote years ago,
a speech I’ll discard for two lines
off the cuff: “Here’s two weeks’ notice.
I have found a new job.”
Watch that balance grow
On the home computer screen
It is within parentheses
So it is a growing deficit
Little gains here and there
Sometimes a win
Usually for the house
But I can outlast the losses
And wait for the gains
Quantified in dollars
Unlike Alzheimer’s, where
Trickles of memory always get
Swept away with waves of deficit
I can play again and again
And I know I will win
Once in a while
A sunflower rose majestic
Clothed in hungry bees
Attracted to the sweetness
An aromatic microcosm
Of families, cities, states, nations
Bonding to the extreme
Forces of nature
Which quickly become
Contract exclusions, voiding
Lengthy written agreements
Handshakes, blood buddies
Tradition, accepted practice
All now count for nothing
Once drained of the natural
Ingredients of sunlight
I’ve got a neighbor who stuck a dirty cushioned chair in his driveway with a “free” sign on it
He’s got to be kidding,
who’s going to take this once-white-cushioned chair that’s now covered with coffee-brown stains?
Goodwill probably wouldn’t even take this chair that his dog and cat likely pissed on, even if he donated it to them
Why did he even get this chair in the first place if he’s got pets?
It will probably stay in front of his house for weeks
I wonder if those who recycle bed mattresses will now be willing to take dirty, unwanted upholstered chairs
because dirty chairs and sofas dumped in trash landfills are also a waste
Today they could probably fashion even better pieces of furniture from worn-out and dumped remains…
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA
a way of mixing things up, spreading
surprise across illusion. In what we call our
pebble-deck garden, this chilly April
morning I find a volunteer wild-plum already
sapling among periwinkle—fiore di
morte—gone feral with hyssop. St. John’s
Wort is an island unto itself, much too
densely populous for anything else
to land and take root. Except for an old
cottage-cheese tub, beloved of my dog who
dances it into unexpected still-life.
Out back, the first rain-tattered rosebud is
opening, by rosemary we never planted but it
attracts elves. That’s morning.
Family Movie Night. Outside it’s storming
wind and lightning, thunder unexpected
as everything. Through rooms of endless shelves
the Librarian walks, a tiger slung over
one shoulder, a lion over the other. No hot
breath, no pulse or pant, no crouch,
no roar. Don’t say they’re stuffed. It’s your
imagination. She’ll fling them
on the communal floor raising wind in a room
not meant for anything so bright as wind.
Getting brighter as the lights dim.
Lions and tigers for children to romp
and climb upon, and snuggle, not far from
their blindly seated parents, and maybe
fall asleep before the movie’s done. Oh, sleep
is not a circus. Jungles and savannas
where kids can vanish, running wild in gulfs
of wind and light.
AGINCOURT AT THE OPEN MIC
It’s the speech you memorized
in high school and, seventy years after, still recite
but richer for all you’ve learned of slogging
through mud and history, trying to shake
the clogging earth from your boots, your horse’s
hooves, winter coming in the mountains;
having spoken your confessions
into the magazine of so many starred nights—
King Henry you are not; but fortify
yourself with his words from Shakespeare’s pen,
that fletcher of such language-arrows
our English had never used to such advantage.
It was the longbow more than the knights;
battle-buffs maintain it was luck of terrain and
weather, the weariness of armies.
Henry’s words keep you going. Now
it’s your turn at open-mic. Let the words
once more twine themselves a band of brothers.
Address each listener to his face. Strip
your sleeve to show the wounds to come.
You’re a king no longer young.
—Sculpture by Jean Marais
—Photo by Ann Privateer
THE MAN IN THE WALL
—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA
Montmartre, he tries
to be freed like us
half in, half out, pulled
lurching toward our way
stuck in cement
mixed with shame and guilt
keep trying says I.
Many thanks to today’s fine contributors on this Easter Monday! Poetry in our area begins tonight with MK Chavez and Cassandra Dallett at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm.
On Thursday at noon, there will be a read-around at the Sac. Central Library, 828 I St. (watch for the theme of the month). Then, that night at 8pm, you’ll have to choose between Danté Pélayo at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento or Barbara West and Phillip Larrea reading at the John Natsoulas Gallery in Davis, 521 1st St.
Also in Davis, this time on Friday at 7:30pm, The Other Voice will present Hannah Stein and Joshua McKinney at the Unitarian Universalist Church library, 27074 Patwin Road, Davis. On Saturday morning, beginning at 10am, Writers on the Air live podcast/broadcast features Amy Rogers at Sac. Poetry Center. Also on Saturday (Earth Day), beginning at 9am: the Arts in Nature Festival will take place in Georgetown, featuring all sorts of art, music, poetry, dance, and other things arty. Then on Sunday, Poetry on Main Street in Placerville will present an open mic for poets and musicians at The Wine Smith, 346 Main St., Placerville.
Don’t forget to register for the Sac. Poetry Center Writers’ Conference 2017, which will take place on Saturday, April 29. For info/reg., call 916-714-5401. And remember to bring cans of food to Sac. Poetry Center events throughout the month of April to help support River City Food Bank.
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.
—Photo by Taylor Graham
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