JUST UP THE ROAD, APPLE HILL
Berries and grapes in season, pumpkins
for October and of course the place is named
for Apples. Every apple taste and color
soft-green through streaked cerise to deepest
dunkin’-red. You like to drive the long way,
leaning into curves of a foothill road,
sudden vistas changing by moment of sun and
distance-haze; the chill of winding down
dark and narrow so you wonder if this road
gets lost in river. Your destination is the view,
you never come to buy. All summer,
you pick your own: wild plums along a seasonal
creek; August blackberries on backwoods trails,
shins and arms scratched raw from reaching
through bramble. Doesn’t hot, dusty foraging
give fruit its savor? But here you are,
among cardboard diamonds full of Eve’s
temptation. Should you bring a bag of crisp
sweet sunshine home, and the thrill
of winter coming on?
This morning, tidings bring the crows
to mock a nighttime’s distillate
of dark. Black feathers juxtapose
with amber leaves that radiate
light’s autumn glory. Just you wait.
This morning, tidings bring the crows
who hunger for what bounty Fate
and farmer will provide, like those
golden apples. Their nectar flows
to waiting beaks, sweetness to sate
this morning. Tidings bring the crows
in numbers, tribes to conjugate
a corvid world, a winged estate
where blinding sun on shadow grows.
No need that I interrogate
this morning. Tidings bring the crows.
Sweep of headlights around the curve. Cars
on the way to somewhere. Who sleeps
to occasional woosh of tread on chip-seal?
Metal changes the air’s equilibrium; rush-
dynamics, and then it’s gone; the hill sighs
briefly before another grind of gears, a truck
on the grade. Brakes; somebody glanced at
his gas gauge, turned to blinking neon 24/7
gas & snacks for cash or credit—used to
be weedy field before pavement, where you
could walk the backside, a moon casting
shadow off-synch with go-to-work time.
Past neon, songbirds sleep, their hearts
so silently in motion, you take it on faith.
For all-seeing/knowing, no creature
on his perch atop the highest pine.
Nothing surpasses Loki
my puppy for high energy obsession—
not fox hunting, but
searching for the man who walked
from parking lot to
who knows where in this labyrinth
of forest trails.
Yesterday’s footprints etched
with crystal frost.
Bear print embossed in frozen mud.
Our exercise is only practice
edged with ice.
Loki leads the way. I must
Raven is patient
without a word of advice.
Who names a hill for onions? or remarks on
wild onion among columbine and delphinium?
But it’s essential to the recipe, its depth and savor
for a dish in almost any language on the globe.
What would my New Year’s Eve pozole be
without onion, or Alsatian choucroute garnie?
How many colors of onion in my pantry. Rose-
pink onion flowers in a mountain meadow.
My mother kept her memory filed on onion-
skin, emblem of rebirth, brittling to be sluffed.
Slice, chop, and dice. Onion, you teach
a girl the cuts that make a kitchen come alive.
You teach her to cherish long simmering
in a stew-pot. At times you bring her to tears.
ONLY IN HER IMAGINATION
Sturdy as a silo in the Valley she was,
once, till the worries. At sixty she could out-
hike, out-work guys many years
her junior. Then she toppled. Found that
rat with neck broken in the trap meant
for kitchen mice. Listened to the news, her
best friend’s diagnosis. Another friend’s
daughter’s sudden death. Every
intake of breath became a struggle
like she’d fallen into a bin of grain dust.
She’d lie awake ticking off every
flaw in the fabric, things likely to go haywire,
tangle her in mouse-tails, catch her
in money traps. She dreamed fire, flood,
bank collapse, earthquake.
Then the real thing happened—
wildfire over the ridge on a north wind,
she could hear the neighbor’s blue
dog barking—neighbor at work in the city.
She moved fast. Her own dog already
loaded in the pickup, she climbed
over the fence—couldn’t remember
the neighbor’s gate code—heaved
blue dog over her shoulder; fence, pickup,
away. That night in shelter, she
dreamed a blue heeler in a rowboat
drifting through the moonlight’s gate
to sail an easy sea.
Long the summer without water
on this ridge above the river.
Homestead apple’s still surviving,
roots its trust in changing weather,
offers fruit though hard and spotty,
sweetened for the birds to plunder.
Crabby apples tempt for picking.
Falling apples, ever apples.
Many thanks to Taylor Graham for these tasty treats in the Kitchen today! This is a busy day for NorCal poets, with four events on the calendar: Third Thursdays at the Central Library in Sac. at noon; Indigo Moor at Arden-Dimick Library in Sac. at 6:30pm; Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Cafe with Ivy Almond and Jacki Howard (plus open mic) in Sac. at 8pm; and Denise Lichtig and Lisa Abraham (plus open mic) in Davis at 8pm at John Natsoulas Gallery. Be there!—well, be at one of them, at least… 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.
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