—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento, CA
Cal Expo, walking along blistering cement,
our crusty, deep-fried onion in hand,
daughter, granddaughter and I rush
toward a small table in scarce shade.
We cannot resist fair food. I’ve just
finished a large order of fried zucchini.
Now, our onion has exploded into a sweet,
crunchy, greasy blossom. We dig in,
thinking one will not be enough
for three. Each slender piece
is swirled in the ranch dressing,
white as its Styrofoam cup. The first
few bites fulfill their promise,
but saturation catches up, we slow
down, leave half for the birds.
I remember the old fair grounds,
pregnant, sitting in filtered shade
on a worn cement curb, eating melon
in scorching 104 degrees, feet swollen,
shoulders sunburned, chocolates
melting. We all thought it was permanent:
brick buildings, one for each
—Swine, Equine, Poultry,
and the barns for sulky racing—
all uniform, white wood with green trim.
You could sit near the bandstand
under trees, leaves big as dinner plates,
spend the day lounging with lemonade
and local musicians. Or, wait till evening,
when Curly the clown would lasso
the bull riders and your son
was thrilled to get his autograph.
We traded candy apples and classic buildings
for progress, concrete and indigestion.
(prev. pub. in Art with Words)
Wanting to write about small things,
like violet lupines, tangled sweet peas,
wild rose and redbud, four stallions
interrupt me, roaring, barking
like old dragons at the sky, barn, pond—
anything that will listen.
They make me think of larger things:
green chaparral dotting scorched
flower falls and fire eroded canyons.
I’ve seen scant streams fed by thin springs,
a few spewing silent as a baby’s easy
regurgitation, leaky mountain milk
from a weak wet nurse. Those withering
breasts slump arid and dry as Black Butte,
the cinder cone around Mt. Shasta.
Born in a firebomb, this earth reveals
so many remnants of a molten birth,
now dull, fading like striped awnings
on old brick porches. I shade my eyes
from scalding arctic ice wedges, sinking,
leaving spongy depressions. Spotted rinds,
like over-ripe fruit, render the soil useless.
(prev. pub. in South Dakota Review)
My little friend,
Shares my computer corner,
Resting on his web
My cockatoo frowns at me
From inside its cage
Trying to understand
Have to do
With a spider!?
I envy my spider’s vision
Since only flies
Have more eyes.
We are at truce,
My spider and I,
While spinning, I,
A web of words
With which to
Trace the sky.
POETRY AND TATTOO OF LOVING TOUCH
—Joseph Nolan, Stockton, CA
The soul of poetry
Does not float
Above a page;
The ink of tattoo
Into your skin
You might rue
After you do.
Wanted to say,
May go away,
But ink will not.
An infant-child learns
By tones and sounds
Bounding from his
With loving rounds
Of milk-soaked breasts,
Holding and caressed,
Harmonies of lullabies
And you’ll know why
Poets are the
First to cry,
Branded by the ink
Of loving touch!
When the world comes apart,
First, the paint peels.
Next, the shingles on the roofs
Bend and buckle
From years and years
Of beating-hot sun.
Rain leaks in
And mold begins to grow.
Plaster bubbles up
And splays upon the floors
In white-lump rubble.
And no-one goes in there
Except for derelicts,
Homeless and ne’er-do-wells,
Who bide their time
In their self-immolation,
Until the roof or the walls
Fall down or in,
Or the whole thing goes up
From burned-out candles,
Calling and end
To the proceedings,
When crows fly off
For other fences’ sitting.
A CROW’S SEVEN STEPS OF REASONING
A crow is not kind.
He has something in mind,
With his seven steps of reasoning.
Does he think of forgiveness?
Can he put seven bundles
Of reason in a row?
How deep in thought
Can a crow go?
Does he think of seven-times-seven?
Does he plan on going to Heaven?
It doesn’t matter to her,
Why it is broken or how,
Knowing those answers
Allow her to fix it.
Knowing a hinge is broken
Won’t repair a door
That goes ajar,
It’s opened and closed,
As so many doors
Are wont to do
When they grow old
And rusty hinges break
And need replacement.
But children aren’t like doors
And cannot be so easily fixed
When they go ajar or astray,
That happens in so many ways
When they are broken.
But she doesn’t care that much, “Why?”
She only wants to know “How!”—
How to fix
Her broken children!
BESIDE HIS BED…
…lies a great, big book that may very well
foretell the future our nation faces:
“Rise and Fall of the Third Golf Ball”
The ball has been driven far up in the air.
Will it land nicely on the fairway, or plop
hopelessly deep into a hazard?
On-site onlookers stand by, sometimes
whispering their opinions, sometimes
shouting instructions like drunken bowlers
do, telling which pins to fall first.
The media audience at home watches
impatiently while certified experts shoot
down each other’s theories and spoon-
feed us logic that defies logic, analysis
that fails the smell test, etc.
Meanwhile, at the bottom of the largest
pond rests the unredacted Mueller Report,
while delegates assigned only to retrieve
stray golf balls make repeated futile attempts
to find something worth sharing.
IN MONEY WE TRUST
Some priests and cops
prey on nearby easy pickin’s
that put them on top
like a fox among chickens
big banks, too, are not
worthy of our trust,
kiss your money goodbye
the institution’s gone bust
our whole democratic experiment
is just a fish out of water
Lady Liberty can’t help us, since
another nation has bought her
but the life of a dollar
is impervious to abortion
as long as the top dogs
each get their due portion
Sensitivity for a belligerent incident,
training a government temperament that
kills evidence of a predicament, in
time to splash the media with an event
Just stepped out of a long, soothing
shower and there is an adult, female
with no more clothes on than I have
eyeing me intently
The element of accident is totally
She will continue to fix her gaze
until I go and refill her
water and kibble bowls
—Ian Copestick, Stoke on Trent, England
Next week it will be exactly a year
Since my first poem was published.
In the space of one year I have had
Nearly 150 poems and 6 short stories
Published online. I have also had my
First book released. For my first
Year I think that this is pretty cool.
To look at it another way though,
I have been writing poetry for 20 years.
Then it's not so impressive, but at
Least I've started getting somewhere
With it, at last, and that's still pretty cool.
Esther passed away and then
we needed to interest here we
go again to find arrest room to
spare tire iron ox, I’d never
leave you a loan me some
cashmere sweat urban the
bomb a deer squad run for
off issue made me love ewe.
Our thanks to today’s contributors for a lively Monday morning around the Kitchen table, including a paean to being published by Ian Copestick from Stoke on Trent over there in the UK, and these luscious, luscious (did I say luscious?) photos of Caschwa's garden from poet/photog Carl Schwartz.
The Red Foxes are coming! Tonight at Sac. Poetry Center, ten power-packed poets from Red Fox Underground Poets in the foothills will read, beginning at 7:30pm, plus open mic. This weekly workshop has been meeting for years-n-years, and listening to them is a real treat!
Sac. Poetry Center workshops this week include Tuesday Night Workshop for critiquing of poems at the Hart Center (27th and J Sts.) on Tuesday, 7:30-9pm (call Danyen Powell at 530-681-0026 for info); and MarieWriters Generative Writing Workshop at SPC for writing poems, 6-8pm on Wednesday, in the Women’s Wisdom Art room, facilitated this week by Linda Collins.
Third Thursdays in the Sacramento Room of the Sac. Central Library, 828 I St., meets at noon this week, hosted by Mary Zeppa and Lawrence Dinkins. (It’s a read-around; bring poems by someone other than yourself.) Then in the evening, Poetry in Davis will feature Sac. Poet Laureate Indigo Moor plus open mic, 8pm at the John Natsoulas Gallery on 1st St. in Davis.
Speaking of power-packed, a heady line-up of well-known poets will read in Grass Valley this coming Friday as a benefit for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, beginning at 7pm. On Saturday morning, Writers on the Air features Capital Story Tellers Sue Hobbs and Suzi Boyd plus Poet Mary Zeppa and open mic at Sac. Poetry Center, beginning at 9:30am. Then in the afternoon, ride up to Placerville for the monthly Poetic License in the Placerville Sr. Center lobby, starting at 2pm. 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.
And finally, check out yesterday’s Verse Daily (hwww.versedaily.org/2019/nightmare.shtml) for a poem by Sacramento Poet and Ekphrasis Co-Editor Carol Frith! Congratulations, Frannie-Alice!
—Medusa, celebrating the poetry of the garden
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.