[Both the cow and the photographer are anonymous, that is...]
COW IN THE ROAD
The road shadowed by every
moving form that’s passed across it, cow
on the way to pasture and a four-in-hand team
gone like the last century, and automobiles
forever losing resale value.
Monkeyflower or chicory grow alongside
in season, or grasses fading in summer
sun. No wonder the pavement’s wrinkled
and cracked like an old woman’s hand turning
pages in a book of photos of people
imprinted like shadows in a road, the road
she’s traveled so many years, seems like east
then west again and back, the trees
along the way grown taller then falling in storm.
This road bypassed long ago still hugs
its earth holding every shadow passed over
as the old woman sets her book down.
Too many city streets, not enough horses,
and the one horse only after school or weekends—
riding bareback those dry creek mazes though
canyons gone now—gone to interchanges
and quick-stops, windswept fields
to condos, golf courses shopping malls.
Childhood’s landscape doesn’t exist
anymore. How progress works to bankrupt
a girl’s remembered youth.
When mother wasn’t looking, a stranger
never offered you candy, a free puppy.
Growing paranoia of waistline, the principle
of the thing. Save, withhold, protect.
Oh there was a hobbyhorse Pegasus
in grandmother’s attic, made of iron. But
there was no room in daddy’s car. What’s
the thrill of a winged horse rusting on rockers?
You might have gotten lost in a fairy-garden.
You had nothing to blame on elves.
Fancy was dress-up, had nothing to do
with loose clouds. It was just a frilly word.
IN THIS COUNTRY
A fractured kingdom—granite, serpentine,
peridotite, and slate, gold-bearing quartz—
a geologic map looks like internal organs
of a body, all involved in some massive
reorganization out of sight. Of course, we
humans have a hand in this—tunnels dug
into bedrock along Main Street for precious
yellow metal—look in the darker corners
of coffee shop and book-store, you can still
find shafts and adits. After the big storms,
sinkholes open in unexpected proximities
of town and country. Old rock walls hold
the hills up with an interweave of periwinkle
and ivy. Who can interpret a geology dashed
as a Dickinson poem, as deeply alluring?
Who can show us the ancient river buried
underneath us? Nothing vanishes.
for William Louis Stifle (1862-1949)
Sometimes it takes years to outgrow a youth
that leads a man to teach school and sell
real estate and work for a big city financier.
When at last he follows what was perking
in his gut, or heart, or fancy, he might head for
the hills, buy a burro, and stake a claim.
Pan for gold among greenstone. Emeralds rare
as April grass in dry Sierra; rare as a partner
to share the hard work of digging. Maybe not
emeralds but crystal vesuvianite. Rock under
the boot, butterweed in flower; a dream
of doing some good thing. This land he left us.
UNDER THE MOUNTAIN
After Mt. Fuji seen from Tagonoura, Evening by Hasui Kawase
It’s a long drudge of a road, pulling the freighted wagon, watching the ground just beyond her nose lest she trip and fall. A horse with a broken leg has no future. The man who keeps her moving lifts his eyes to the mountain, the impassive mountain with its forever tattered fringe of snow that never melts. Its majesty a gift unasked.
though rooted, pine trees
under sky are free to sway
with an evening breeze
KEY OF D
You’ve staged the old house—emptied
of everything you really lived with,
leaving nothing but a realtor’s props.
It sold. Time has packed your house up
and left. Weeks of work on your part,
all that packing, cleaning, and Time
gets the credit. Skeleton of your house,
your nest. You gave up the keys.
The rest—just stuff—went to friends,
to thrift-store, the dump. Where will you
live now? Wherever the dog’s supper-
bowl is welcome, that’s home.
Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and pix! Taylor’s cow poem was written in response to Katy Brown’s cow poem, which was written in response to the cow photo above, which originally appeared in the Kitchen on May 22. Taylor Graham, D.R. Wagner, and Katy Brown have been known to respond poetically to each other’s work, even calling themselves the three “Meduskateers” at one point. Some of today's poems were written in response to D.R.'s poems from last Saturday, in fact, in addition to our past Seed of the Week, "My Misspent Youth". Anyway, here is Katy’s cow poem, in case you didn’t see it the first time:
FOR THE COW IN THE ROAD
—Katy Brown, Davis, CA
Stop asking why the cow crossed the road.
Ask instead why it left the comfort of
the grazing herd, took only its shadow,
and clopped across the unforgiving asphalt.
Don’t forget that Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento will be offering featured readers and open mic tonight at 8pm. And this just in: Swan Scythe Press has a deadline of June 15 for its annual chapbook contest: see www.swanscythepress.com/contest.html/.
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