Monday, February 13, 2017

Teaching Love to Sing

—Anonymous Photo

—Donal Mahoney, St. Louis, MO

Millie calls the hotel at midnight
to tell Willie he didn’t do anything wrong.
It’s the way he didn’t do anything wrong

that’s the problem because a man doesn't
send a girl yellow roses on Valentine’s Day.
Willie is half asleep but awake enough

to know if he didn’t do anything wrong
why is Millie calling him at midnight.
He’s out of town on the company’s buck

and has a big meeting tomorrow with
a big presentation to give to the board.
He listens for 20 minutes and as soon

as Millie's voice cracks he knows
a hurricane of tears has begun so he says
he didn’t order any yellow roses.

He ordered three-dozen long-stems
with a jungle of the usual greenery
in a beautiful vase with baby’s breath.

He figured they'd send red roses because
he paid enough to buy a botanical garden.
Millie says tomorrow she’s calling the florist

and giving him Hades but Willie says please don’t.
He and the guy who took the order are from Mars.
Willie will pick up red roses on his way back to Venus.

—Photo by Taylor Graham, Placerville, CA 

—Cynthia Linville, Sacramento, CA




him too?

 Bounty of the Rain
—Photo by Taylor Graham

—Claire J. Baker, Pinole, CA

What shall we do
with this great white flower?

Finger the petals,
make sure they are real?
Bow before the miracle
in gratitude?
Press the beauty in a book,
read possibilities like a chapter?

Paint the rapture, frame it
for over our bed?
Knowing how fragile, extract
and nurture fertile seeds?
Place love in morning sun
to gather more light?

Give love speech lessons
that it become more vocal?
Teach love to sing,
to leap in joyful arabesque?
Turn up the volume
of our amazement?

What shall we do
with this great white flower?

(this poem won a First Prize, Dancing Poetry
Festival, 2006)


—Claire J. Baker

At local P.O. I request
two books of Forever.

Familiar clerk:
"Didn't you get
Forever last week?

"Yep," I quip,
but Forever didn't last."

She, playing along:
"Debit or credit?"


—Claire J. Baker

What a shock!
I start to email
another "Mary"
and your name pops up,
my poet of a lifetime—
not yet deleted
(if ever)
from contact list.

—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham
A leaf turns in a book—on one page
history, on its reverse—ink bleeds through—
legend. Paper thin as mind, memory.

Last chief of the native tribe, so brave
he killed the Grizzly with his arrows,
wrapped himself in bear hide, survived.

Was it to save his friends,
or had he no escape?
No comment from the pagan wind.

Peacemaker, leading in battle against
slave traders—clank/jingle of metal-age
arms, twilight horses over rocks—

he inculcated his people in peace,
inoculated against the pox. His people
lived long until they passed.

No cemetery but forever reverence,
no burial a bear might plunder.
Long cry, burning to release the spirit.

Legend says he became the Grizzly.
Whose skin held what spark?
The voiceless rock cracks no answer.

A permeable membrane between
history and myth. What we can’t read
breeds question, story, poem

 Bounty, 2
—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham

After all the days and weeks of rain,
the sky cleared for a veiled full moon. Grass
pushed through ponds of sparkle that in other
springs was pasture. Springs gushed from
the hill. Walking the above-ground dark,
I wondered if the gophers all were drowned.
A steady pulse, a murmur brighter than
muddy creek-wash down—what was it? Frogs.
Must be millions in the moon’s perspective,
eyes wide open to the night, throats wide
in song. I listened for a certain voice—a small
masked frog I tried in drought to save
with wet rag-mop and bucket, with cake pans
full of water on the deck. How could I
in my peculiar human blindness recognize
a single frog in such universal psalm? A sweep
of wind. A leafless oak, staunch as saints,
lifts bare arms to catch the song.


—Taylor Graham

Weed-eating season. She remembers her
mother’s favorite word: gumption, spoken
instead of words like love. Word passed down
by DNA crossing a continent on creaky
wheels, breakdowns in the middle of nowhere—
waking to stupendous dawn. Grandmother
a TB widow. Running headlong down to patch
the broken after a neighbor kid crashed his jitney
of a wheelbarrow on the rocks, little sister
part of the load. The time that swifts came down
the chimney, zigzagged through the house
leaving sooty wingprints everywhere. Nothing
to report to city-hall, nothing a mortal could
oppose. Just part of the material world
bequeathed along with breath. Gumption.
It sings in each stroke of the blade she’s
swinging. Spring loves thistle grown taller
than her head, a haze of thistledown
as she whacks the tough stalks, fells thorny
crowns. What kind of dreams we keep.
Lovely purple thistle crowns. 

—Photo by Taylor Graham 

—Taylor Graham

She shows me how to work a pan of sand
and gravel from the river’s bed, swirl it
like an incantation of hands. Here’s time

borrowed from chores and schedules,
a healing in the river’s constant, changing,
undammed flow. We’re looking for

the color of what’s heaviest, what remains
when everything else washes away:
gold. A gift from God, she says. Of gold

she makes a wedding gift for friends,
rings to link for life together, soft,
malleable and strong as river, as love.


—Taylor Graham

In the Museum, a Maidu cooking basket—
When when it was made? Remember
the Indian Wars of Gold Rush times. This
basket’s woven of willow and redbud.
And love. It must have taken love to craft
such a beauty. The curves of bowl,
darker pattern, a rising arch with contour
lines like clouds or ripple-rings. Long
work of fingers weaving the earth’s
wild hair, at peace with the land. Peace
of a family circled for a meal. How
could this basket hold a thought of war?

 Winter Rabbit
—Photo by Katy Brown, Davis, CA

—Ann Privateer, Davis, CA

I sleep in great grandma's bed
Its carved headboard
challenges the ceiling
taller than the space
where short people slept.
We sweep past eras
at the art museum
scheme away the day
until stars fan out
over walls and ceiling
above the bed in the room
for guests who come and stay.


—Ann Privateer

I spend alone
In a foreign land
Waking and sleeping
Wondering what shall I eat
Afraid to love or care
Avoiding the pain
Of leaving once more.


—Ann Privateer

Some people live on farms
Some people live in cities

The same moon shines down
To make us all giddy.

 Pink Sky
—Photo by Ann Privateer

For Valentine’s Day when I was in grade school
     the kids would count up how many valentine cards and candy they collected from other students
     There were of course students who wouldn’t get hardly any
     as well the most “popular” students who would brag they got the most cards and candy
     (Strangely it was boys as well as girls passing valentines and candy to each other)
     I felt bad for those who got few or no cards or candy
     and I’d pitch in to give that person something
     I hope schools make sure now that students in a class at least pass out enough valentines to other fellow classmates
     No student should continue to feel left out of Valentine’s Day traditions at school  

—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento, CA


The KVIE studio in Sacramento is holding its “Nerd Night” party again on Feb 24
     It features a costume contest—
     If I go, no, I don’t want to wear something that looks like Downton Abby
     But I don’t want to wear a 19th-century women’s costume either (i.e. Civil War dramas like Mercy Street or Victoria)  
     I’ve had it already with wearing women's costuming, once participating in Gold Rush Days in Sacramento
     (Too hot for the weather as well as the horridly ground-sweeping dress and constricting corset!)
     I sure don’t want to drive to the party in a Renaissance-era costume (as in the Secrets of the Six Wives of Henry the 8th)
     Hmm… could I look like some musician who’s appeared on Austin City Limits—
     but would that even count as a “costume”?  
     Dang—I need some ideas here,
     Unless I could stick with my mom’s favorite KVIE-aired show, Call the Midwife
      (early 1960’s bluish nurse-dresses with red sweaters and beanies may be do-able)
      If I could buy or rent any such thing from someplace like Evangeline’s Costume Mansion…
—Michelle Kunert

 Framed Light
—Photo by Katy Brown

—Caschwa, Sacramento, CA

The late show is over, time to go to bed
Looks like we have lots of clear rails ahead

Pillows ruffled, sweet sleep and dreams
Next stop is the station, or so everything seems

The still of the night, before the light of morn’
    People are sleeping, so ease off the horn

Overcome by REM, deep and away
    Just a routine crossing near the end of a day

Warmly snuggled with the dog by your side
    Was that something moving, trying to hide?

Intrusive loud horns!!!  Sirens, breaking news
    Another fatality, same set of clues



(Inspired by the poetry of Michael Ceraolo)

If only we could borrow the
Forever Stamp idea
From the postal service
And apply it to all the ideals
We fear will perish


Today’s LittleNip:

One thing about Valentine’s Day where I work:
    Some guy there likely will come with something like a teddy bear
    Say to some gal “Will you please take this?
    My ‘ex’ didn’t want it.”
    I saw some gals this past year actually have that happen
    They took it, even though they didn’t care about the guy
    But I’ve resolved to never drag around someone’s rejected Valentine’s Day bear.

—Michelle Kunert


Our thanks to our many contributors today; being on the cusp of spring seems to have invigorated everyone's artistic muscles! Lots of love talk, too, of course (good advice about the teddy bear, Michelle).

Sac. Poetry Center will celebrate Black History Month with a reading tonight at 7:30pm, featuring Angela James and Takeitha Buford plus open mic. For a collection of Black History Month poems, see To explore the National Museum of African American History and Culture which opened 9/24/16, go to

Get your tickets now for the Squaw Valley Community of Writers benefit reading this coming Wednesday (2/15), 7pm, featuring Jade Chang, Michael Lavigne, Jordan Fisher Smith, Frances Stroh, Naomi Williams, at the Sierra 2 Center for the Arts & Community in Sacramento (Tickets at

Thursday will bring Third Thursdays at the Central Library (801 I Sts., Sac.), then at 8pm Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento will present Tom Goff celebrating the life of Iris Rinehart, who passed away recently. On Friday, The Other Voice in Davis will present Barbara West and Jennifer O’Neill Pickering, 7:30pm.

Sunday afternoon will bring two choices: Mosaic of Voices at Avid Reader at Tower in Sac. will feature Traci Gourdine and Patrick Grizzell, 2pm; and Poetry at the Mine at Love Birds Coffee and Tea Co., on Smith Flat Rd. in Placerville will feature Patricia Wentzel and Stanley Zumbiel, 1pm. By the way, apparently Avid Reader is moving down the street on Broadway to a new location in late February: #1925, where the auto parts store used to be. Readings will be on the same schedule.

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 love—and poetry!

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