Monday, December 19, 2016

Various Realities

Dave Boles reading at Sacramento Voices Dec. 17
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

—Taylor Graham

A surprise for the stuffed wolverine
on that Tuesday, snatched from his high perch
above the beers, cigarette dangling
from the side of his teeth. An icon of the old
Gold Rush hotel & bar, a sort of
spirit guide. Illegal to own a protected species,
the officer said, dead or alive,
as he brought down the mounted beast
and carried it away. A fault-line
between tradition and government.
A hole in my heart, the bartender said.
Does a dead wolverine care?
would he rather remain on the Divide, high
in the Georgetown bar, grinning down
on drinkers, or be a treasure of the Smithsonian,
two bucks by bus from the other Georgetown?


—Taylor Graham

Look for it way past the outskirts of town,
up mountain switchbacks to the old 
grade, farther through corridors of forest

unraveling, weaving themselves tight again;
down a logging road that’s been asleep
since they hauled the last load away; down

to the river fork where they found a healer
dead in absolution taking everything
he remembered promising to never forget.

But that was so long ago. You won’t
have to go that far to discover
the clear creek where yew trees cling

to morning light with their quiet messages
different from cedar and pine,
so many realities there among the trees.

And the trivia of an abandoned frying pan
that draws wilderness to it
wondering then moving rooted beyond.


—Taylor Graham
           for Vera

So you’ve inherited a couch-potato
inlaw. And now you feel like you’ve got
the whole world on your shoulders.
Well, let me tell you, I’ve been holding up
the heavens ever since the Greeks
gave me the job. It ain’t easy but you
get used to it. Forget what they all say like
it was written in stone: the task ain’t
What You Thought. It’s in the spaces in-
between, it’s Yes You Can. Your
mind goes flying out ahead, scouting some
way you never knew of, and that guy
on your couch being towed along behind.
Somewhere in that load is paradise.
Maybe it’s hidden inside a rock,
his slowly wakening eye; maybe in your
self, or in the heavens.
Paradise is surprise misunderstood.
Look around. Enjoy the view.

 Barbara West reading at Sacramento Voices Dec. 17
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

                A fairly new hand-drawn picture hangs on a second-floor wall of the Sacramento U.C. Davis Mind Institute
                The whole place is covered with art everywhere throughout the building, so it almost goes unnoticed  
                This one features a picture of an “old” woman by a 3rd-grader named Margoux Grimmer
                The girl wrote on it, “When I’m 100 years old, I will bowl every Tuesday”
                 Oh it is such a sweet sentiment
                 but, Margoux, so many will probably think that even when you millennialists reach that age
                 they’ll assume that you've already lived too long and don’t have anything to offer anymore
                 and in the future you may still have to work even if you get a pension or any kind of social security
                 I recall my grandmother had a centenarian friend who’d write to her from Wisconsin
                 She wrote something like, “I've got bills to pay and a mortgage due, I think I've gotten too old…”

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA

 Aisha Jones reading at Sacramento Voices Dec. 17
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

—Tom Goff, Carmichael, CA

The bird that died on the window ledge unreached
died over a year ago; her little body
remains there, thinned to a streak, yet not fully breached
by all-invasive decay, purveyor of shoddy,
wind-whistling-through, oblivion-singing, bleached
release into empty. Still this little bird, the last bawdy
digit can’t touch: regardless of her beached,
beached as is maybe a whale or smelt, appearance:
She is the truth of death, the polar foe of the gaudy;
if maintenance or custodial ladder misses
removing her, she’s clear—and was, above all clearance.
The sentiment in me that sometimes kisses
pets wants theatrics: Rest, rest, perturbéd spirit.
My bird’s death’s unperturbed by rain, or even strong sun
            to sear at it.


—Tom Goff

Half-wild, with you I could live wilder still.
But wild enough means feasting on the Animal,
which signifies the Soul and yet the Thrill
of being the beast in winter, summer carnival.
This restless impulse to be bad for good,
this leaflike, leafblower chain of twin impulses
propels me through the asphalt neighborhood.
My sawtooth life enchants or it revulses.

But you have calmed me rendering me more wild,
tugging me wrist, arm, elbow, where wet islets
amid hoarse-rushing river have defiled
by separate rivulets, displacing egrets,
in miniature torrents that grind boulders,
embankments: riverine slope itself unshoulders.

In raptor hands of yours, impulsive-suave
of caress, I soften. Sky glows, red-gold-mauve. 

 D.R. Wagner reading at Sacramento Voices Dec. 17
—Photo by Michelle Kunert

Today’s Yule-Nip:

—Walt Kelly (1913-1973)
(Y’all remember Pogo, right?)

Deck us all with Boston Charlie,
Walla Walla, Wash., an' Kalamazoo!
Nora's freezin' on the trolley,
Swaller dollar cauliflower alley-garoo!

Don't we know archaic barrel
Lullaby Lilla Boy, Louisville Lou?
Trolley Molly don't love Harold,
Boola boola Pensacoola hullabaloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Polly wolly cracker 'n' too-da-loo!
Donkey Bonny brays a carol,
Antelope Cantaloupe, 'lope with you!

Hunky Dory's pop is lolly gaggin' on the wagon,
Willy, folly go through!
Chollie's collie barks at Barrow,
Harum scarum five alarm bung-a-loo!

Dunk us all in bowls of barley,
Hinky dinky dink an' polly voo!
Chilly Filly's name is Chollie,
Chollie Filly's jolly chilly view halloo!

Bark us all bow-wows of folly,
Double-bubble, toyland trouble! Woof, woof, woof!
Tizzy seas on melon collie!
Dibble-dabble, scribble-scrabble! Goof, goof, goof!


Our thanks to today’s fine contributors, and to D.R. Wagner for reminding us of the lyrics to this Pogo song, sung to the tune of “Deck the Halls”. Walt Kelly's comic strip,
Pogo, appeared in many newspapers until his death in 1973. He was a great player-with-words, and fractured Christmas carols were a regular feature of his holiday strips. Churchy LaFemme once came up with a version of "Good King Wenceslas" that went: "Good King Sauerkraut, look out! On your feets uneven..." For more about Walt Kelly, see To hear a lively rendition of “Boston Charlie”, go to

Poetry in our area begins tonight with A Night of Translations at Sac. Poetry Center, featuring William O’Daly and Tim Kahl plus open mic, 7:30pm. On Thursday, Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe has featured readers and open mic, 8pm. And on Saturday, Poetic License read-around meets at Placerville Sr. Center in Placerville, 2-4pm. 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.


 Celebrate poetry—those who play with words!

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