The hearings are over on TV. My internet’s
down. At the library I can catch wifi—don’t call
it theft, I pay taxes. Just outside the entrance,
a small ancient lady sits propped against her cart,
reading. Wizened berry dark-bright as a traveler,
engrossed in her book, impervious to housed
people passing. I sit on the bench outside
and wait while my email loads. The lady shifts
now to shade of planted trees, blending with their
shadow almost invisible, reading. I’d take her
picture, the lady so dark-bright lost in words.
But there’s not enough light for my iPad
and she’s so other-worldly. I think of those
hearings, probing people’s lives for each secret.
settles into autumn leaves
before moving on
SICK OF HOME?
summer vacations 1950s
The Golden State held a forever-home where
parents could retire, maybe in the guide-
book that promised all but unanticipated things
that happen on road trips. This is why,
summer after summer, we drove coiled two-lanes,
checking the gas-gauge, each tick on the map
I kept unfurled in my hands: my newfound
obsession with cartography, x-mark a mystery,
a longed-for someplace ready to be discovered
around the next bend, or to hang its invisible
question, a spring not yet sprung.
We drove and drove into the unknown.
I kept my give-away maps in the backseat.
The only thing predictable
was a picnic table supper far from homes
of people already situated, of
residents settled from roaming the earth.
She remembers playing on that big, scrubby
piece of land just off the main road. Rutted dirt
tracks—hardpan and dust—dead-ending
in thickets of manzanita, chamise, coyote bush.
Furtive flowers in spring, her mother would
call weeds. Her dog with her, of course,
after school; no need of leash back then, dog
always with her exploring, showing her things
she’d miss. The better part of homesick
gone. She can’t go back. It isn’t anymore.
It’s supermarket and gas pumps, coffee drive-
thru. That part of her life leveled, paved over.
Not like old-time miners, for veins of ore,
or archeologist searching out secrets of the past;
not looking for the water line in case of leaks;
not like the neighbor who buries things
he doesn’t want to talk about.
But finding how roots lace a hillside beaded
with rock, tree-roots reaching, holding to each
other against excavation. Birdsong quits
when you come near with pickaxe and shovel.
The breeze holds its breath. Your boots
covered with soil that won’t stomp
off on the doormat. Your dog inspects every
gritty inch, learning layers of land
you’ll never know.
YOU WON’T GO BACK
lupine blooming a blue quilt in May.
So much has changed. The ponderosa
that stood sentinel is dead—bark beetles.
What is now is not what was.
You want the memory sheltered
on a ridgetop at the end of so many windings;
the road plunging down to dark of canyon;
river like a goad, its rush and pull;
its pulse; scattered lights of cabins, dark
familiar hills forever climbing higher.
At the end, burn of lamplight at a window
as evening stills around the house.
The home you built that isn’t yours now;
no great ponderosa standing guard;
everything shut tight. You never locked doors.
In dream you can visit, walking right inside.
REMEMBERING MAIN STREET
Is it still almost deserted at 8:22 on a Tuesday
morning? except of course for the barber
shop, skinny aisle opened up for customers
bibbed in their chairs, the whole space lit up
like Hollywood in red white blue fluorescence.
And the great brick edifice across the street—
does it still boast HOTEL in great white letters
against the green of forested hill that crowns
downtown? Do the ghosts still reside there,
or have they moved on too?
SPIDER BEETLE STARLING
A spider in the window web—
does it wish the iridescent beetle
caught in strings of silk?
Or will the starling
on its wedge-swept wings swoop
down to claim this prize?
In the great oak, a hawk—eye
impassive as red marble—how long
might it let the starling fly?
Many thanks to Taylor Graham for her fine poems and photos about our recent Seed of the Week, Homesick.
Khiry Malik reads at Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento tonight, plus open mic, 8pm. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.
Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.