OLDEST OF A GHOST TOWN
A fuzzy-bearded man—I think I know
him by name. Maybe no older than I am, but
ancient in his way. Like that cabin leaning
by increments into the ground it grew from.
Tree limb pushes through the roof. Window
frames used to be green, setting off pink
of blooming thistle, platinum of tall wild oats;
weeds are like to step right inside the door
ajar. Oldest building in the town that used to
be. The past whispers through gaps of shingles.
Wood-burning stove (cold now) stands just
outside. The bearded man—what was
his name?—tells me, When that thing gets
goin’ full-blast you gotta open every door
and window, it’s so hot. They’re wise
to keep it outside. Without flint or
match, it might ignite the ruins and all
their secrets, their memories.
CLIMBING WILDWOOD HILL
A trek is an empty suitcase.
Vixen travels light, just off the highway.
She can either go whatever.
Tingle of sunrise over the ridge,
hum of commuter traffic on main road.
What’s engraved in native soil?
Rocks decomposing to lovely flowers,
purple vetch fastening the morning.
Just taste the miner’s lettuce!
Missy’s out hawkshawing lizards
among prick of thistle. Oh the suitcase—
Muff found it under Quartz Hill
while ground squirrels practice marathon
and traffic keeps going nowhere fast.
It’s muy de mañana. Slow down and hear
the earth spin worms turning soil.
A hill will go ascending, ladder to sky.
There’s no such thing as an empty suitcase:
this blooming calochortus of dawn.
Suitcase so full, it pops its leather seams.
Pony Express re-enactment
Red pinto-paint with man abroad
comes galloping down hardpan ranch-
road hind legs clouding dust
little horse gathers her drive
on approach perpendicular to pave-
ment, switches gears (did I see
the rider command or is this the true
centaur?) one hind leg momen-
tarily grounded, the other three al-
ready twisting the turn. Hooves—
what kind of shoes for a horse abrupt-
ly full-tilt—hooves almost but
not-quite skidding ranch-dirt onto
pavement galloping historic
one-&-half lane (bypassed now
by freeway) to deliver (by re-
enactment) this pressing
burden of the news
WAYSTATION ON THE PONY EXPRESS
Clarksville Day in 20 Projects
This town’s a museum of dust—
run your fingers over rough rock wall.
Scent of grass mashed by tourist feet.
Look out for that covered wagon!
Brother Whip drove the last stage to Folsom.
The town died, so we visit every year—
no ghosts, they’re gone like everybody else.
I’m the invisible lens, clicked out of the picture.
Buffalo Soldiers camp here, and Mormon
Battalion down the way. Fire in the hole!
he yells above the girl in bonnet, fiddling
away. But back to the Pony Express—
metal taste of hooves nacidos para luchar,
the turn-on-a-dime horse of lost history.
Slap the mochila on your partner’s saddle—
balloon-shooter’s pinto is a crackerjack.
Old schoolhouse rings its bell in the barn,
we’ve all come to be ghosts here.
At the end of Lincoln Hwy, you’re in 1960.
Roadrunner dodges carts on a dead highway.
Dust we’re made of, let’s raise some dust.
LOSING YOUR BALANCE
You parked your car, headed for open
land—the place you walk to clear
your head, let the worries lose themselves
in secretive green: in coyote-bush
blossoming in winter for bees; in queen
anne’s lace, star thistle, cottonwood
quivering in breeze. But
there’s a cable across the path: No
Trespass. All the vagrant litter’s gone.
And so is coyote-bush and all the native
scrub. Machines have started clearing,
leveling. You’ve lost the secrets this
your secrets as you walked, losing
yourself in green.
This land is owned by law of man, not
nature. Private property we’re allowed to enjoy
briefly, just today. What used to be a town,
now community of ghosts. That ruined house,
no one dares enter. But look how tall
grasses grow in the front yard, and those roses
blooming for every May, and the wind—
keeper and disperser of secrets—always free
to pass on through.
A ghostly committee
meeting adhoc—no, rooted
almost everywhere I look
in the corners of May woods
pale purses full of Spring secrets
moon globes of deceptive light
I follow, one leading on
to the next.
It must be fairy-spell magic.
Not a committee at all.
Our thanks to Taylor Graham for today’s fine poems and for her photos of Clarksville Day, which took place on Saturday, May 5, in El Dorado Hills. For more about what took place at the 8th Annual Clarksville Day, go to edhhistory.org/clarksville-days-2018.html/.
In Sacramento today at 12 noon, Sac. Poetry Center presents Third Thursdays at the Central Library read-around on I St. And tonight at 8pm, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe meets on 16th St. in Sacramento, 8pm, with featured readers and open mic. 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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