Back in the day, it was a big country.
No fences along the steep, rutted one-lane,
past the white Shepherd who herded our truck
up the grade; a faded yellow Lab
who’d wander by in neighborly fashion.
No one bothered with leash laws.
A great big country without fences.
We’d hike our dogs to every view
over canyon and ridge beyond ridge toward
Baltic Peak, its abandoned fire lookout.
We’d scout new routes through manzanita,
come out at the great stone where
Miwok summered long before we came;
and bedrock mortars above the creek.
Did we drive the Miwok from
a great big country without fences?
Of course things must change.
New neighbors, security lights, black
community solar-powered gate
that made me feel like
a prisoner on my own land.
It was time to move on, look for
a great big country without fences.
After the search—if it was a good one, a live
find—we’d follow the deputy to some eatery,
whatever was open. We’d traipse in, dirty
with trail—ground-pounders and dog handlers,
jeepers and mounted. Our first time, first search
in this county, we filed in with the others
to Sportsman’s Hall, old Twelve-Mile House
on the Pony Express trail: hamburgers.
It had taken all morning to coax that lady
out of the canyon, hours to get her safe
back home. Cindy was there in cowboy boots
and jeans, an out-of-saddle way of walking;
beaming to meet us, welcome us to the team;
befriending us in our new place. Over years
we’d see her now and then—on searches,
in odd corners of the forest where she worked
and we happened to be training our dogs.
We took for granted. Cindy was always there,
to know where the key was; where that
trail went; saddled and ready in any weather
to look for the lost. But she was the real find.
Now she’s the one who’s missing.
I’m searching with nothing but words.
Blame the moonlight, that dangerous mirror
hanging as from a hook in heaven—
a birdcage of midnight mummers, a gem
the lapidary failed to cut to unflawed glory.
A treasure forgotten from one fullness
to the next. Moonlight is reflection
slipped from behind us—a globe pocked,
imperfect; ever a light for lovers,
the sleepless lonely, and fools for words.
at the elementary school
My dog sniffs a blue-purple something
crumpled in front of G8. Human
scent—it’s old, there’s no one there.
On the play-yard fence hang jackets
and scarves, a thrift-store of abandoned
wrappers. Bodiless effigies of loss.
The day warms up, the coat
becomes a burden. Kids forget, their
mothers remember what it cost.
My dog and I—so many searches
with bad finds. On the news, the latest
schoolyard massacre. I remember
Columbine. It takes me back to high-
country trails, snow-melt
knifing a way toward ice-blue lake,
columbine bending its graceful
crown red as blood.
The memory takes me back.
SEEKING EL DORADO
response to Caschwa’s “Dodger Stadium”
No map in the local tourist magazine.
My old friend George—historian of stars
and mountains and treasure buried
under our feet—was dead now, disappeared
down a rabbit hole of changes. The preface
to his last lecture cited a golden land
transmogrified to village. I clicked on the link.
Error message. Screen dead as George.
No map. A dragon in guise of wild goat
stood high on a gouged-out golden cliff,
the way guarded by remote-powered gate.
One might step in and never get out;
no rabbit hole escape. Fenced and gated.
Where was a map, the freedom to follow
how the land lies? Maybe the real treasure
was George, who knew these things.
Did he take the truth with him
on his flight down the dark hole to stars?
This stunning snow!
The power’s out, the phone as well.
This stunning snow—
darkened house, icicles aglow.
Each shovel-stroke a crystal bell
as earth’s transformed by winter’s spell,
by stunning snow.
Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her musings on “a rabbit hole of changes” on this, the winter solstice of 2017. To find out why this will be the worst day of 2017, go to www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-5191403/The-Winter-Solstice-2017-worst-day-year.html/.
Third Thursdays at the Central Library poetry read-around takes place at noon today in Sacramento at the downtown library, 828 I St., and Beth Suter will read at Poetry in Davis (plus open mic) at John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st St., Davis, at 7pm instead of the usual 8pm. And there’s always Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe, 1414 16th St., Sacramento, with features and open mic, 8pm.
The Winter 2017 issue of Sacramento’s Convergence is here, at www.convergence-journal.com/winter17/. And submissions deadline for the next issue (for Spring and Summer 2018 issues) is January 5. See www.convergence-journal.com/submit.html/.
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