Friday, January 18, 2019

by Roger Funston

Unfinished Business

Another boring, unproductive staff meeting
The boss sounding like a prosecutor
conducting cross-examination
A false and sloppy consensus
papers over underlying differences 

My mind wonders to winter time
upstate New York
A waterfall early morning
frozen in time
As the temperature rises
small droplets form
Slowly sliding down the icicles

Walking under the icicles
mud begins to coat my boots
Slipping and sliding

Roger Funston

3 poems by Roger Funston

Rough Country

I drive through a sea of sagebrush
Washboard road, kicking up dust
Past remote ranches
Bales of winter hay stacked high
Thrilled to see wild horses roaming

Reach the base of the Toquima Mountains
Road narrows, snow patches appear
Climbing, climbing, less sagebrush,
more pines, damp road, little dust
Moore's Creek Summit ahead

I slow down for snow and scenery
Park at the trailhead
Clip the leash on Charlie and we're off
Snow on the ground, full of animal tracks
Charlie can smell the recent presence of deer

The snow crunches under our feet
as we hike through a canyon
bounded by rocky cliffs and spires
Lunch al fresco
I feel alive when roaming

Nevada, one of America's best kept secrets
Wild places close to home
Central Nevada...So much more
than a blank spot on a map
Rough country blessed by what is not there

The Dry Side

Smoky Valley,. Central Nevada. August
Driving east on a public lands dirt road
Through an endless brown sea of sagebrush
Towards the Toquima range

Eventually the road enters a spartan forest
Climbs, twists, turns
Past junipers with gnarled branches
Past pinion pines with fire-scarred trunks

The rain shadow keeps Pete's Summit bone dry
Scattered, stunted deep-rooted trees
Extracting scarce moisture
Daily struggle to survive

Light-colored soil littered with rock fragments
Thousands of pine cones
Slowly drying out
Never to seed

I ascend a weathered rocky outcrop
Spectacular Western views of distant Austin Summit
Spectacular Eastern views of Monitor Valley
Valleys and mountains seem to go on forever

I munch on nuts and grapes
Mild summer weather
Watch puffy clouds
Slowly moving across the sky

Far from Las Vegas morning news
Traffic accidents, drownings, robberies, murders
Alone with silence and my thoughts
Immersed in this harsh, beautiful land

Right on 6 East

Fifty miles south of Lone Pine
A ridge of volcanic rock to the east
Sierras to the west
Saltbush desert littered with lava boulders
The first Mammoth Mountain billboard
followed by many others

A stream of cars with ski racks heads South
Filled with people in the latest ski fashions
LA to Mammoth on Friday
Mammoth to LA on Sunday
Local radio stations mention the Eastern Sierras
almost as a footnote after Mammoth

The snow-capped glacially-carved Sierras
rise behind the Alabama Hills
Glowing in the afternoon light
Looking like cut-outs against dark blue sky
Hidden alpine lakes and meadows
at the end of twisty mountain roads

Turn right onto 6 East in Bishop
Away from Mammoth, away from traffic
Volcanic tablelands to the west
White Mountains to the east
Scattered ranches, irrigated fields
Grey clouds spreading over snowy peaks

I hear the thunk of the cattle guard
As I cross into Nevada
Begin the climb to Montgomery Pass
No water to support homesteads
Sagebrush yields to Pinion and Juniper
nourished by winter snow

Drop into a basin on the edge of Central Nevada
Salt flats, sand dunes, sagebrush, vistas
Hills of sandy soil overlying volcanic tuff
stripped away by winds, flash floods, mining
Exposing a kaleidoscope of colors
Orange, dark brown, white rock layers

High desert valleys
nestled between towering peaks
Fog shrouds distant wilderness areas
A remote and rough land
Stark beauty, few cars
No cars with ski racks

Saturday, January 12, 2019

3 poems by Katy Brown

--An Olfactory Triptych--

by Katy Brown

The Scent of Holiday

We have just survived the season
of primal smells from the past:
gingerbread, pine boughs, cinnamon,
roasting meats and side dishes,

Yule fires, bayberry candles, and
rich scents of myrrh and frankincense
bring memories of childhood winter, with
peppermint, eggnog, and simmering cider.

Songs and poems recount the sounds —
bells and carols, laughter and greetings.
Photographers and painters
capture the lights.

But long after sight and hearing
all fade, it’s the taste of the past
and the smells, long forgotten,
that transport us back — back home.

— Katy Brown

The Scent of Cancer

No one prepared me for the change
—for that chemical scent that
permeated your clothes,
surrounded your body, carried
on your breath.
No one warned me how suddenly
that almost-turpentine scent
would cling to our sheets
and flavor your kisses.
No one said a word
about the scent of cancer.

—Katy Brown

The Smell of Tomato Soup

The old cannery is gone: the one
that hunkered down in the fields
that ringed north Davis.  
Gone are the tomato trucks
that downshifted into town,
spilling tomatoes across
intersections all the way
to the large concrete building.

I miss the splashed and spilled
ripe tomatoes that lined the streets.
I miss the growl of
slowing trucks.  But mostly
I miss the smell of tomatoes
that rose in clouds of steam
from the busy plant.

— Katy Brown

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

3 poems by Nick LeForce

House Call (1)

I don’t know where
it went wrong because
everything was so right
in the beginning.

You welcomed me
to all your empty spaces
eager to be filled.

I don’t know when
you grew weary from
the weight of things.
But we both felt it,
this loss of grace
and the slow fall
into a rhythm granted.

Now I know it wasn’t the number
that filled you with grief.
It was all the unloved
that I stuffed into you.

You never complained,
not once, staying true
even while I wandered
the world two-timing you
in fancy hotels and exotic resorts.

And each time I return,
you are always there for me.
You take me in without question.

Now, my eyes are open
and I see you again
as I once did.

So, I want to change
the equation. It’s no longer
just you for me.

Let me introduce myself
again, and welcome you to
all the empty spaces in me.

House Call (2)

After you gave me the keys to your heart,
you never understood why I changed the lock;
why I ran watchful eyes through the rooms
you opened up to me; why I would not share you
with friends and family; or why I screened
so much of my life in your presence. 

When I put my ear to your mouth,
the shades of silence I mistook
for acceptance were the color of sorrow;
not yet black, but the fading hues
were bleeding out hope.

I want to excuse myself, to tell you,
"I don’t know where I got the idea
that no one could really want all of me
until I realized it was the other way around.
I was born with my chest caved in,
with my heart pushed aside,
with stars in my eyes, and I chose
heaven before my feet ever
really found the ground.”

But none of that matters to you
because the only heaven you know
is right here and you simply say,
“It’s never too late to learn to love.”

House Call (3)

Clean. Uncluttered.  
I move with greater ease
as if we have cut through the bullshit
and can have an actual conversation.

I had to break the old mirror
to see the truth. I had to stop
pulling the trigger to see
the holes in my own argument.  

I admit that I treated you like a servant
without regard for your happiness.
I tell you that’s all changing now.

You tell me you believe me
because you have seen
my tears and know it is
the ice melting off my heart. 

You feel lighter, too,
remembering our first meeting
and how our togetherness
was sealed in an instant. 

Your voice, heart spoken,
whispers again, under my breath,
and, just like the first time, you say,
“enter me.”

I leave my weapons outside the door.
I might need them out there in the world.  
But in here, I am at home.

I suddenly realize this is what it feels like

to be forgiven.

-Nick LeForce

3 poems by Charles Halsted

-My New Neighborhood-

The Weird Guy Next Door

When we’d moved in two years ago, wives brought casseroles,
their husbands shouted greetings. Solid wooden fences
made for good neighbors.

My new study overlooked the front yard, where a red-berried
hedge blocked the driveway next door, except at its end
where the hood of a rusted-out pick-up blighted my view.

The guy from next door is out on the street as soon
as the mail truck rounds the corner. He wears a French
foreign legion hat with flaps over his ears to his neck.

Braving a Sahara sandstorm, he marches
up to the mailbox and back, taking care to avoid
all neighborly contact. When I walk out my door,

he crosses the street, avoids all chance to converse.
When I utter “good morning,” he grunts, walks on.
We take turns taking out mail, careful not to utter a sound.

Last October near Hallowe’en, a fake human skeleton
appeared in the driver’s seat of the rusted out truck, its bony
hands grasping the wheel in front of a full toothy grin.

I asked him firmly to remove the bones, lest my visiting
granddaughter be scared from her wits. Turning to me
first time, he grunted “O.K.” It was gone the next day. 

Last week, returning my question, he told me the cost
of the solar he’d just had put in. Though we are yet
to speak our names, maybe the ice has been cracked.

Sunday Trash Trundle

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times
--- Dickens, Tale of Two Cities

My open front window lets in a soft breeze
when Sunday afternoon silence gives way
to a low pitched ruckus across the street.

My cross-street neighbor, a nice enough guy,
is about to disrupt my grass-growing peace,
to silence my front yard’s bird-chanting peeps.

With a push of a button, his garage doors grind open.
Each car coughed to life, they’re moved to the street.
Now fully armed with a long push-broom,

he assures himself there’s no longer a trace
of dust on garage floor, on driveway, on walk.
A brief clacking time at the back and he’s ready

for Monday morning’s weekly event, trundles each
of three trashcans out to the street, creates
a perfect straight lineup, week after week. 

There’s still twenty hours before the trash truck
makes its rumbling rounds of all streets, cul de sacs.
Will the others get their trash out before dark,

or will they wait, like me, overnight till AM
when each of our trash cans are filled to the brim?

Monday Trash Rumble

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times
----Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

My bedroom window overlooks the street,
its lights and sounds far enough away
to rely each night on an undisturbed sleep.

except when my cross-street new neighbor displays
disdain for decorum each Monday morn
when he decides it’s become the best time of day

to roll out his full trashcans, ignoring my scorn,
from his garage down his rough pebbly drive.
Whether we sleep in or not, his new day is born.

He’s a nice enough guy, yet why must he strive
to keep us in suspense lest he make it on time
before the great claws of each trash truck arrives

to lift up his containers of glass, newspapers, grime,
mix it in with the same from each of our neighbors,
trundle all of it to the landfill, a five mile drive.

No point in bring up my concerns, my points to belabor 
since he has his way which will never be changed,
I’ll hide my head under my pillow, my last dreams to savor.                                  

    Charles Halsted          

4 poems by Taylor Graham

Old Lady in Front of the Library

After the locking of doors for the night 
I noticed her by the paved path barely lit. 
How shall I describe? dark berry of a woman 
never out of harsh weather. She brushes
aside the outstretched dollar; what is money? 
Her clothes must come from the richest thrift 
store. Can you fancy every color and texture 
set against its opposite, fit together as 
tapestry? Wordless saga, herself entirely.

Taylor Graham

Lacking Her Name I Call Her Yumi

This morning I’m bundled against wind 
and coming winter. Outside the library (not open
yet) the old lady tells me her version 
of America and beyond us, journeyings through
Greece and Asia Minor – musings 
that seem to warm her inside. Story as 
nourishment. Beside her, on a stack of books, 
are crackers and celery, plainest of food 
provided by whom? Carefully placed, not thrown 
as to a beggar. 
This morning she bids me sit down.

Taylor Graham

Yumi in Late October

She sat walled by volumes, 
mumbling – a mouthpiece reciting histories 
too soft for me to grasp, of her 
homeland, maybe; migrations of tribes 
burdened by laws and alphabets 
of dead languages still potent. 
She whispered or the wind blew her words 
away. Of all she said, I caught 
some of it. High moat of cosmos.
Protected by God. She scribed characters – 
could be NĂ¼shu or something else?
I couldn’t tell but she sang them 
soft soprano till I left her like any other.

Taylor Graham

Never a Last Chapter

November. When I reached the bench
on the library path, I found 
the old lady with her wind-vibrant 
mix-match garb was gone. Winter’s here. 
Has someone at last taken her in,
spoken to her frankly about her options?
How could she sleep in a shelter? 
Once again she’s switched 
reference points on the map, but in my 
mind she stays the same. If history 
is a series of gashes in the whole cloth 
woven of time and place, she still wears 
her tapestry of rags with grace 
as if to redeem ages of wanderings, 
repurposing trash left along traveled ways; 
transforming to tiny neat script and song.

by Roger Funston

Unfinished Business Another boring, unproductive staff meeting The boss sounding like a prosecutor conducting cross-examination A...