—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA
Diverted from our plans for Folsom Lake,
we tread the dust and vestiges of dung
that dot the horsetrail-spiral overlook.
It must be this year’s high river keeps things young,
charged with raw snowmelt from where winter clung
so hard that January latched its hook
into late May, and chill has even stung
with rainspikes all the smallest inlet brooks.
This is not March, not April. First of June,
this month, this woman clothed in deep green spring.
Twilight must only open the monkeyflowers
(so many of them!); life relentless wrings
light from all butterflies under archaic moon.
As minute-hands crawl this chill dial of hours,
new-hatched velour-black caterpillars tread
imperially vulnerable and slow
the dust they must cross nimbly or have fed
on granite russet choking as they go.
Wherever you see a proto-butterfly
slow-shoulder a passage across the powdered trail
—plodding in softness open to the sly
sky-pounce—you fear for all the brave who fail:
one birdbeak snap to divide the poor worm-shape,
or ignorant human stumble that must crush
the insect under one near-silent scrape
or utter hush. You will this inch of plush
the chance to survive enclosed and crack the shroud,
dry fresh wet wings and venture the nectar cloud.
Foreseeing the wings, the tongue down in the flower,
lend every caterpillar an extra hour:
Because the fighter in you is twice the lover,
with random twigs you lifeflight the lost to cover.
SONG OF THE NIGHT
Szymanowski, Third Symphony
Ionosphere via E string, angular, suave,
Creation’s oracle, prior to human voice,
radiance transcending human joys:
we hear what should be visible, in mauve,
orange, blood-orange, amethyst on crushed white stars,
all nebular pattern distant as the song
of Rumi, sunset-rose persisting strong
when sun should fade as on dayskin old scars.
High-shimmering tenor, old and young at once,
allures far choral murmurs—poetry
dilates in voice and brass most violently;
the gong’s cyclonic supernova shunts
all gravity aside: pulverized jewels
configure song built solely on splintered rules…
Rumi ascends as Heaven separates
from Earth. Nocturnal ruin rains on all folk.
Cracked egg annihilates and consecrates
the End of Days in igneous gold yolk.
This night, turn ruin protoplasm.
Inspirit all corpses in one spasm.
Satire, warp every black regret.
[Sardonic E-flat clarinet.]
Yield up, Old Order, your ectoplasm.
Erect the summit in the chasm.
READING “THE DEVOTEE OF EVIL” (CAS)
At Sacramento Street, 153,
stands an old house in Auburn’s Chinatown
“reputed haunted.” Might one long-prolonged turn
of doorknob dissolve a mystery?
Whosoever dares penetrate
—one push of the fateway gate—
must deepen or dilute this history.
What leathern animal lurks within whose poison blazon
writhes red across this black changshan, what twisted wyvern
embellishes that jade confection’s wry turn?
What serpent sarabande, benign, malign, each maze on
maze a corridor-to-parlor dance of doom, a dragon-
slinking, seething, searing whitefire doom
implicit in every empty room
and room’s design?
Who would align
their desires with yours, Clark Ashton Smith,
break open the final stubborn seal
denying the dust-mote strew the sunbeam-steeped and real?
Who will decrypt each petroglyph,
audaciously shakingly touch the bandaged lich
by the stammer of your guttering torch,
in cellar or attic or porch,
Clark Ashton Smith?
Who ventures Sacramento Street, 153,
heart shuddering tugged by mystery?
What sleuth of the paranormal will break free
each last conjecture from its chafing chain,
loose every last dream leashed at aching strain
into the silent Eye, the sinister Ecstasy?
ROMANTIC FLAME, ARCHAIC CLAIM
Now nothing is the same, old visions move me.
—Nora May French
Life roars on as it sweeps us far apart.
Both distant as the star-bright planet up
its lofty overhead tonight, my heart,
your heart. Yet close, too close. I wish this cup
could work like potion in reverse. The dart
would come unstuck from skin with all its tip
dipped in that venom love, the charm restart,
unjolt the rhythmic instrument that sips
the red not to be shocked nor overheat.
In all my rhyme forever classical,
may you remain a distant ancient dream
of symmetry so perfect something sweet
of scent lifts from your marble form: that smile
the archaic Kore face bears as a stream
a leaf. As long as that leaf-drift has rolled,
a lamp in your young skin will light you old…
—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA
A role that goes straight
To the heart
Written by, for, and about
Me, handsome, dashing
Won’t need a director
I’ve got all the signals
Like a bus at the curb
With its lights flashing
Lucky for me
The jester does makeup
Helps keep the budget down
And I’ll still look smashing
A lady tried to steal my part
Bore animosity to my buddies
Even tried to make me look bad
Which sent me cutting, slashing
BERG CALLS BLUFF
Out on the open sea
A captain who could only see
Strict orders from the company
Concerned only with money, money, money
We cannot afford to waste any time
Time is money, money is prime
Sip the lemon, kiss the lime
Hear the toll of Big Ben’s chime
Stay the course with this unsinkable craft
A perfect vessel from fore to aft
“I’m calling your bluff!” the iceberg just laughed
The inflatable Molly Brown was the only life raft
The ship went down like a large piece of lead
More people died just looking for the dead
A hard lesson learned, after all was done and said
Except each new generation has new appetites unfed
Hello, Baby Boomer here!
Attended grammar school
Where they taught us rules
Such as the Awkward Punctuation
(AP) rule about commas
“At the dinner table, avoid any topic of politics, race, religion and fart bigtime.”
Now those snobby Oxford scholars
Erased any cloud of doubt and have us uttering
“At the dinner table, avoid any topic of politics, race, religion, and fart bigtime.”
Our thanks to today’s Monday morning voices for waking us up to the week to come, which begins, poetry-wise, with tonight’s Hot Poetry in the Park, Sac. Poetry Center’s first summer reading at Fremont Park, 1515 Q St., featuring American River Review alumnae plus open mic. If you’re interested on self-publishing, Bob Pimm, Esq. will provide a workshop on the legal angles on Wednesday from 11:30am-1pm. On Thursday, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe features readers and open mic, 8pm.
On Saturday, Writers on the Air meets at Sac. Poetry Center at 10am, featuring a live radio podcast with Katya Mills; then at 2pm, Poetic License meets at Placerville Sr. Center in Placerville. And Wendy Patrice Williams is offering a six-week writing workshop about “Re-Storying Your Life”, beginning Sunday, June 25, at 6:30pm. 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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