Monday, July 11, 2016

Stories to Tell

 Stilt-Walking Clowns, Cal. State Fair, 2016
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Caschwa (now retired), Sacramento, CA

Take a poem you’ve written
Any one at all
To your favorite poetry venue
And picture at the podium

Morgan Freeman
Reading your poem
To an appreciative audience
Demanding an encore

Sarah Palin
Reading your poem
In front of a large screen image
Of a man wringing a turkey’s neck

Bob Dylan
Reading your poem
Changing the punctuation and flow
To conform with his own

Mitt Romney
Uttering little segments of your poem
While mainly staring at a cell phone
Displaying the latest global stock market reports

The Aflac duck
Reading your poem
As a classic dilemma

Julius Caesar
Reading your poem
In Latin
In old Rome

Carl Schwartz
Reading your poem
Through the mouthpiece
Of his trombone



Somewhere near a
Cool mountain lake
A sweaty, hearty hiker
With Chronic Myeloid Leukemia

Struggles to determine
The exact coordinates
From which to plot a
Capital market line

Now dehydrated
She seeks a simple drink but
Is distracted by her lust for a
Chocolate mousse latte

“Come, my little…”
Hisses a voice in the bushes
Above the din of several
Calico mountain lions

This is proving to be not
As relaxing as promised
It is time to retreat
Calendar:  maybe later

 Modoc County Fair Exhibit, Cal. State Fair
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

I didn't finish Ron Chernow’s book, Hamilton, for Carmichael Library's history book club
    However it’s been made into a hip-hop musical by Lin-Manual Mirada
    who’s originally known for writing the broadway musical, In the Heights
    I would rather see the musical based on the book
    but the only way I think I’d be able to see this musical
    would be if somebody illegally recorded it (as with their phone) and posted it online like they did, The Book Of Mormon
     I of course object to illegal recordings if the copies of a performance can be purchased
     For instance, it made me mad to encounter people “stealing” performances of the Singing Christmas Tree
     I told them that, instead of recording this ministry on your phone, go buy it in the church lobby

—Michelle Kunert

Mural of Recycled Bottlecaps by Amy Dimas
Coastal Animal Show, Cal. State Fair 
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Kevin Jones, Elk Grove, CA

You’re well into
The Second Act
Before you realize—
There’s a Play
Going on here
In front
Of the sunset.


—Kevin Jones

Lake was beautiful, deep emerald,
Mile long, half that wide,
And surrounded, two sides,
By bluffs of craggy purple
Boulders, the last wash-out
Of the last ice age.

Sunset could bring
You to tears.  And just
Thinking about it
I could weep.  But no.
There are stories to tell.

My father came here
In the late 1960s to rehab,
To wait for his wooden leg
To be built, rebuilt,
And never gotten quite right.

Often took me along,
I liked to think, as his
Amanuensis, though
Mostly he just called me Boy.

We’d camp on the North
Shore of the lake, in the quiet
Oak forest.  Dank, shady,
Peaceful, and not too
Far from the showerhouse:
Twenty-five cents for three
Minutes of hot water.
Campers learned quickly.
You knew from the screams.

But mostly, we sat
In the leafy shade,
My father contemplating
Life, now with a wooden
Leg, me, looking into
The confused lens
Of the 1960s.

Rainy days, we’d drive
Into Wisconsin Dells.
If you’ve been there,
A sort of tawdry Disney
World, but with cheese.
Or on particularly stormy
Days, to the Circus World
Museum in Baraboo,
Where I’d realize
Once again, how badly
I’d missed my calling.

My father’s legs, prostheses,
Politely put, never worked
Out quite right, nor did
The staph infection
From the amputation
Ever quite go away.

Still, watching him smiling
In the firelight, helping
Him swim circles
In that impossibly
Beautiful, impossibly
Blue moraine lake,
None of that, now,
Seems to matter.

—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA

The aerial view shows blue crystal
set in silver granite.
It doesn’t show how hot, at altitude, in July.
No trees to shade; a trail of DG sand
that loses itself in boulders.
Small rock cairns mark the way.
But memory displaces things
like missing cairns. Was there columbine
in a secret turning of the trail?
By scent, my dog found the route,
then plunged into lovely cool—she swam
and swam. Was this the place
a bat flew out of exfoliating granite
at water’s edge, surprised
by our footsteps in blind daylight?
It fell into the lake’s blue eye;
flailed, then learned
to swim till it could fly.


—Taylor Graham

National treasure, this gray rock
native as Eagle or Bison,
Presidents chiseled stroke by stroke.
Is rock, like the Eagle, threatened?
We heap small pieces on a trek
to mark the way, call it a “duck,”
a cairn through pathless wilderness.
We walk granite on a weekend,
forgetting our footing, breathless
at views of distant sunglare specks.
Granite erodes in-fi-ni-tes-
i-mal-ly slower than we do.
In certain quirks of sky at rest,
it takes on rosy human hues,
then slips to a tired day’s end.
A setting for lakes jewel-blue
that tell chill secrets under moon.

 Soil-less Tower of Plants
Urban Garden Exhibit, Cal. State Fair
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Taylor Graham

You tried to describe the beautiful
but couldn’t. So you hauled me along for
the ride, as if there were a deadline on beauty,
as if miles of country road might emulate
the journey of sages. Instead of a map
you had the picture in your head, unique
as your imagination. None of the lovely vistas
would do, vineyards sloping up to dark
fringes of cedar at a crest of ridge. We passed
roses on roadside fences, four buckskins
in a dry field. You told me there would be
a mountain lake so cold, it would turn our feet
blue. At last, you took the wrong turn
that dwindled into one-lane dirt. No one
had traveled here for ages. Dropoff
on one side, but we could hardly see it
for the trees. You wanted to turn around.
But it was just so beautiful.


—Taylor Graham

We drove there to see the old barn, relic
of the canyon’s history—once a gold-strike
mining town, bustling, now a road to somewhere
else. What memories in the crevices?

Across the way stood a house behind a trellis,
so well-groomed and flowered, I hardly
recognized. But passing through the gate,
I saw the paint fall away from walls,

hedges from their lot-lines. The guest-house
became a shed with rusted tub for washing.
I found a discarded apron in my hands
to show my dog: “check Gracie!”

The road shook off its pavement,
beckoned up the hill
toward a wooded ridge where wind spoke
in its native language, Ghost.

 Old Barn
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA


Our thanks to today’s contributors for this morning’s fine mélange! The fun continues tonight with Monica Rose and Jason Shapiro at Sac. Poetry Center, 7:30pm, then Weds. in Placerville with Poetry Off-the-Shelves, 5-7pm. Thursday is Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café, 8pm. Then Saturday, Susan Kelly-DeWitt will read from her new book, Spider Season (Cold River Press) at SPC’s Sacramento Voices, 4:30pm. Scroll down to the blue box (under the green box at the right) for info about this and other upcoming readings in our area—and note that other readings may be added at the last minute.


Today’s LittleNip:

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

I place
a white rose
beside your red

 Celebrate Poetry!

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