Monday, December 28, 2015

Improvidence of Light

Dark of the Year, I
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

Morning fog’s settled in with rain.
Can’t tell where we’re going or where we’ve
come from.
Rain’s settled in to soil, muddying footprints
till earth can hold no more. The rain still raining
hustles down creek that’s been dry
since March.
A watershed knows directions, carrying
everything down, running away to sea.


—Taylor Graham

I wake to cold, dry wind, shiver
of bird-wings through the room, a dark
mistral—the master wind—
from another world. We’re improvident
of light this time of year, dawn late
and dim, gone too soon.
The old dog’s asleep in front of the dark
TV. Will he stir to the morning
report? Imported gifts for a passing season;
traffic and weather so far from
the trails of his life. All those years
he’d push nose-first into the wind
to catch its news on the fly.
Now he chases rabbits in his sleep.
Before she died, the mother-dog
floated through the house in my dream,
searching—for what?
The old dog rouses, the bright
of his brown gaze softened by years.
I stroke his furred crown,
wonder if he hears the master-wind
calling him weightless
as a homing bird to another land.

 Christmas Eve Hail
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham

Bread rises, and fat of the steer is rendering
to tallow on the wood-burning stove. Morning’s
assembled dim as winter dawn. Its song spills
on the floor. Must she mop it up? Outside
it’s snowing, the black colt’s broken loose
again. She leaves water making magic steam
in the kettle. No time for close-to-the-fire.
Black skirts whipping her out the door—she
leans into it. The wind’s a quirt. Hoof- and boot-
steps tangling lines in snow. Where are
the men? On mountain paths, stones symbolize
journey, each obstacle a bookmark. That colt
will be a good horse someday. So many
unforeseens. The best striding out to meet them.


—Taylor Graham
Midnight comes in the open door.
Its crows speak: The guts of mortality are
kept in place by membranes
shimmery as leaf-fat that wishes to become
candles burning into a new year.
Syllable by syllable, one beloved name
after another becomes loss
surrounded by silence; disappeared
into the mysterious beckoning of sky.
That baroque of wind and storm clouds
reveals loose scree underfoot,
chance of a broken ankle; earth opening
like clouds. A scalpel-shaft of sun
lets light pour down.
Can the hand that severs
also replace the lost, shiny new as
January, as a titanium joint?
In gown and goggles Midnight leans over,
explaining how good slips into bad
and back again. You’ll wake up
somehow mended. Count blessings,
not asking how they turn out in the end.

 Dark of the Year, II
—Photo by Taylor Graham

We Nod God

—Sharon Mahany, Roseville, CA

      After Gwendolyn Brooks’ "We Real Cool"

We hang lights.  We
See sights.  We

Bake cakes.  We
Wrap gifts.  We

Buy tree.  We
Hurry.  We

Sing tune.  We
Pray soon.

 Birds, I
—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

Flying feathers preened to go
no hairless look for this bird
nor color clashing reds
staying powerfully jolly
and alert to gaze out the window
at pink wafts of sky ribbons
at perfect circles on the earth below
and not know the origins
of ruler-straight lines.


—Ann Privateer
recently, free flying
recalling feathered friends
propelled by jaunty winds
at the window and me
who sleeps and gazes
there at erosion, at rivers
beyond the cliffs, at circles
on the coffee table, and wonders
if landings are more intense.

 Birds, II
—Photo by Ann Privateer

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

My grandfather would
Take us children
Out Christmas eve
Just before midnight
Just before the animals
Spoke.  Never heard
Them, but still.

He’d point out
The North Star, Orion’s
Belt, like we cared.
Though just before
We’d go inside, there’d
Be others: Skunk’s Tail,
Failed Mortarboard,
Napoleon’s Other Hand.

None exactly on the list,
But certainly vivid.  My
Grandfather looked
Resigned: he’d tried.

I looked
Between the hedges.
Annie, our neighbor,
The Stay-at-Home
Sister of the Cole Brothers’
Flying Circus, flashing
Up there, signs,
Myths, and constellations
That never were, but probably
Should have been.

I grinned at her, through
The bushes, as we often did.
She nodded, switched off
Her light and went inside.

I love astronomy, the things,
The potential, we can find
Up there.  It’s a beautiful starry
Night.  But the most beautiful—
What you see on your own.

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

The song “Let it Snow” plays on the radio where I work
    I live in Sacramento where the closest thing to snow is the frost that appears on lawns
    I hate snow and like it that way
    My parents grew up where they had to shovel snow
    and they don’t want to ever shovel it again either
    Their jobs as adults took them to L.A. where I was born
    and I do not ever want the chore of shoveling snow in my life
    I’m fine with just “visiting” snow in the mountains or other states
    My parents never got any “rewards" for shoveling snow
    People would sometimes offer them something for shoveling it
    but often passed up jobs doing it because people wouldn’t offer enough for the hard work
    People thought they could hire a kid to dig out their car
    and dig a path for it for only like a quarter
    With those my parents couldn’t negotiate with for better pay 
    they’d say something like, “Do it yourself, I’ll stay in where it’s warm…”
    They weren’t that desperate, even though there were probably kids who were
    Besides, a kid (in the ’50’s) could earn more either
    babysitting, housekeeping, delivering papers, mowing lawns, clerking in a
    store, or working on a farm   
    Picking crops at harvest time would get you more than shoveling snow in December and January
    You could get enough from other jobs the rest of the
    year, enough money in the bank to not have to settle for the lowly pay of snowing snow

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento


A couple of years ago at Christmastime
    My Dad had his home-filmed footage of his mom put on a DVD
    However, much apparently didn’t survive the transfer
    All my nephews saw that Christmas of Grandma Lydia Swandt Kunert
    whom they never saw live in person
    was footage of a rather eccentric elderly woman in her homemade housedress
    who lived with her six cats whom she talked to like people
    and of her carefully picking at a gift package so as to not rip the wrapping paper
    a habit she had gotten into with her reusing and saving
    There was no footage of the former music teacher playing the piano and singing
    Those recordings must have decayed from sitting around too long in a box somewhere
    or perhaps much of it got lost in our family's move from Los Angeles to Sacramento
    It would have been so precious to show Grandma's playing of Christmas songs to my brother’s sons
    and I wish that I could pull the memories out of my head of Grandma and put it on a television screen
—Michelle Kunert


They asked at work, “Are you ready for Santa Claus?”
    I answered “No I have to be ready for Jesus to return at any time, all year ‘round.
    But as much as I want Jesus to come back
    I guess that friends of mine who don’t believe in him will have to go to hell…”

—Michelle Kunert

 —Photo by Ann Privateer

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

A violin note
so long, so sweet
sounds like the
first ring of
a yearned-for
phone call.

(first pub. in Brevities, 2014)


—Claire J. Baker

Here's to all
personal, universal

that after they
peak and pass
live on as stardust.


—Claire J. Baker

In the changing skies
of circumstance
let us be
like flocks of birds
guiding each other
by touching wings.


Many thanks to today's contributors (including Roseville newcomer Sharon Mahany!) for today’s great diversity of poems  and photos! Some other notes:

•••The Bay Area’s Hip Pocket Press has a new issue of its fine journal, Canary, online at

•••There will be no Sac. Poetry Center reading tonight (12/28); instead, head on up to Placerville for the Poetry In Motion read-around at 6pm at the Placerville Sr. Ctr., 937 Spring St. (off Tunnel). Bring your own poems to share; read from your favorite poets; or just come to listen. Free; all ages welcome.

•••And also note that Sacramento will start the new year off with a new reading series, Poetry at Einstein, on the first Sunday of each month from 2-4pm at the Albert Einstein Residence Center, 1935 Wright St., Sac. (between Cottage and Wyda Way). Jan. 3 will feature JoAnn Anglin, Rhony Bhopla and Ellen Yamshon plus open mic. Watch Medusa's blue "board" (under the green section at the right of this column) for news of the many readings in our area.

—Robin Gale Odam, Sacramento

The geese flew over.
They were headed your way,
singing that song, Ah? Ah? Ah?
Did you hear them? It’s winter.
Tomorrow will be longer.

(first pub. in
Brevities, 2015)



 —Anonymous Photo