BAREFOOT IN EL DORADO
for Caleb Peirce (1825-1903)
The reverend is up, walking the raw land
before dawn, just as sky turns to gray silk;
then the burst of light over ridge, pure gold.
His suitcase full of books, candles—not gold,
that blinds a man to living with the land.
Of scripture that breeze writes on water-silk,
Caleb would ask, who needs stockings of silk,
or latest fashion in cities of gold
when one walks simply barefoot on the land?
This land, a spider’s silk, the kinglet’s gold.
for Elihu Burritt (1810-1879)
A poor family, ten children to raise
for the Lord. How many potatoes and turnips
must a woman hoe and store in the cellar?
Your mother churned butter, plucked hens
when they quit laying; tended the white
mulberry in the dooryard,
feeding its leaves to silkworms.
She spun silk for your stockings;
loomed your homespun; worked tallow with ash
for soap; kneaded shirts and trousers
against the washboard; taught sons and daughters
the chores they could handle. Evenings
while she mended, she’d exhort you to holiness.
And still she found time for a flower garden,
petals fine as threads from a caterpillar’s
cocoon. You could listen to the tremolo of rain
on rose, soft as water-sounds of silkworms
on mulberry leaves, and fill yourself
with the scent of lilac. How morning-
glory’s purple blossoming feeds a child.
How rich you grew up, poor.
GOLD RUSH DAYS, THE DIVIDE
She peeled off her dress with its chain-
stitch embroidery the camisole & petticoats
bone stiff corset
she had to get out of this century this shackle
of fashion chemise & pantelettes
knit silk stockings under woven wool
the whole plaster cast
of clothes molding
how she was supposed to be
held together till she fainted dead away
as white as porcelain
she was going to slip
into mens trousers stolen off the line
blustering in a change-of-weather wind
a roomy shirt
that let the shoulders work
unbutton the collar
had to get out
in the open, run free before all the
gold the life the breath of it
ON THE WAY TO TRAINING
This morning on the same old road, I see
a cairn that wasn’t there just yesterday—
eleven stones balanced oh so carefully
to mark a spot or maybe point a way.
And then, on a low curving wall
thirty-six seed pods in a neat array
as if placed there, in my pathway, to call
my notice to design; a kind of key
to gateway shadow, daylight falling free.
Just inside the threshold
sits a Chinese chest—who knows
who bought it, when,
where? some journey long forgotten.
Carved teak, battered from many
migrations, a wild crane
on its lid. It holds a wealth of old boxes,
photos with names, dates, places
half legible, filling breaches of memory—
small-fry in diapers, ladies
in silk stockings, a history of seasons
falling to waste or thrift store
like so many leaves,
the stories forever incomplete,
the wild crane
never flying away.
COMPTCHE TO UKIAH
Squirmy road of twist and bend,
pavement’s got us penned.
When, wherever might it end?
Woods on every side of car.
The giants here are
trees as tall as any star,
a green that lulls to tire-song
as we roll along.
Let the forest voices throng.
We’ll get there or we won’t. No
shortcuts on this go.
We’ll arrive somewhere, I know.
My muse is a serious walker.
A friend wants to trade
her faulty foot for a robot.
I wouldn’t trust that kind of muse.
Our thanks to Taylor Graham, who will be celebrating her birthday this coming Saturday, July 28. Happy Birthday Saturday, TG! On her Facebook page, Western Slope El Dorado, she writes: If you live in or near Placerville and have a manual typewriter, consider joining us for Typewriter Improv Poetry on Main Street. We compose poems on request at art galleries; any donations go to Placerville Downtown Association in support of downtown events. Typewriter Improv is in conjunction with 3rd Saturday Placerville ArtWalk, 6-8 pm. If you’re interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org; please include a short sample poem.
For more about Caleb Peirce (yes, that’s E-I) go to www.styleedc.com/2015/11/30/94897/in-history-reverend-charles-caleb-peirce-of-el-dorado-county/.
Big doin’s tonight, with Art/Play/Say at the Crocker Art Museum from 6-9pm, in honor of the exhibition, "Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection." Open mic poetry (bring poems of your own or of your favorite French poetry), drinks, games, scavenger hunts, gallery activities. That’s at the Crocker, 216 O St., Sacramento. Info: www.crockerart.org/event/1722/2018-07-26/.
And of course Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe also meets on Thursdays in Sacramento, with open mic and featured readers, 8pm. 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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