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Other notable works by David Alpaugh and Lynne Knight.
TO FENCE WITH TIME
when the dialogues began
we were the children of the future
singing songs of thanksgiving
although the words were strange in our mouths
until memory bathed us
and light stretched one wing
and some alien blessing was on its way
a voice born in captivity
older than water a light rising from loss
extinguishing the dark
we built a roof with our hands
wove walls to stop the wind
each with its kingdom
and the doors
open to the sun
we wove a cage of wishes
arcing against time
the moon chalked its zeros
as we merged unencumbered
until the sun dusted the earth with gold
where every leaf was mute
the shell of oblivion tight
and the circle made perfect
In a world lit by summer
during day’s sweet drifting
the rain runs green
and all the buried springs
glow in the soil of sleep .
Even in this mild terrain
the air is burdened
with the taste of regret
the seduction of darkness
and a wilderness beginning to unravel.
We have a weather all our own
an inward circling sun
a river of stars that has no source
and a long history of rain.
No more our days deliciously surrender to the unknown.
No more the lying naked and inventing
new names for nakedness.
No more the singing echoes.
The golden girls are gone.
The bears are dead.
The spells, which kept our children close,
and the voice that sent us off into the world
becomes our own
as we tell the young
You’ll come once upon a time.
Before darkness rises like hot breath
and the lotus moon’s still blooming
in our arms there may be time enough
to choose an ending
that has not chosen us.
The continuous round of the steering wheel
and the trance of driving makes all roads
flow into the empty grave of the sky.
Luxurious in our isolation
we grow an appetite for distance
and release ourselves into what comes next.
Stroking the surface of the moment
tasting the thinnest slice of time
we follow the ritual of leaving
inhaling the odor of light
the sound of leafage in the wind
and the final deadbolt of night.
Ruth Daigon was founder and editor of POETS ON: for twenty years until it ceased publication. Her poems have been widely published in E mags, print mags, anthologies and collections… Daigon’s poetry awards include “The Ann Stanford Poetry Prize, 1997 (University of Southern California Anthology), 1997) and the Greensboro Poetry Award (Greensboro Arts Council, 2000). The latest of seven books is “Payday At The Triangle” (Small Poetry Press, Select Poets Series) based on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire in New York City,1911 was published in 2001 and one of her many readings was performed in The Lower East Side tenement Museum in Manhattan, the area where the fire occurred and “Handfuls of Time” (Small Poetry Press, Select Poets Series) 2002, Her poetry was published by the State department in their literary exchange with Thailand and their translation program has just issued the first book of Modern American poets in English and Thai in which she appears. Garrison Keillor featured her poetry on his morning poetry show.
On my way home from work this evening, pigeons,
nesting on top of an exit sign on 680 —
creatures that could fly halfway to paradise fast,
Point Reyes, Big Basin, High Sierra,
choosing to live amid the noise and miasma
of a relentless California freeway …
risking carcinogens & drive-by shootings
twenty-four hours a day.
And when I off-ramp into Pleasant Hill, sparrows,
raising a dysfunctional family
in the amber circlet of a traffic light
just a block away from BART.
And me and my wife and our children —
a little further down the line.
I met the old man again last night
sitting by the side of the road.
I see more and more of him now
since my father died.
He asked me for food again.
All I had were a few Smith Brothers cough drops —
the black ones with the star in the middle
and the two sinister rabbis on the box …
the licorice tasting ones I never liked …
the ones I used to hide behind the bed
when my mother turned on the vaporizer
and left me perspiring in the dark.
I gave him the cough drops.
It was no big deal.
Not what you’d call “a real test.”
Not like my Ph.D. orals
or having my colon resectioned.
He accepted them fastidiously
with dark, bony fingers,
his eyes shining with nervous-breakdown energy.
He had so much to impart to the chosen son!
Then he made a fist —
and they were his cough drops, not mine.
Once again he shared no magic.
Once again he gave no advice.
Once again he did not leave me beans.
Some nights I wake with a cry,
certain I am out of the running —
that I’ve lost everything for lack of a few choice words
or a liverwurst sandwich I forgot to put in my sack.
That the old man teaches 101.
That the castle keep is empty.
That the task I must perform
has yet to be imagined or assigned.
That I’m not simple enough for him yet.
That he cares only for youth.
That he waits around in rest rooms like Verlaine,
saving everything for an énfant terrible.
As I shake out the sheets each morning
I keep looking for a crumb
from the Gingerbread House,
some ashes from the tinderbox,
a slice of the white snake,
a tiny strand of Rapunzel’s hair …
something I can bring back to the lab
and put under a microscope …
something I can carry with me
to show nonbelievers where I’ve been.
LATE LUNCH WITH MARY JANE
When I die, I tell my wife,
Burn my body in the fireplace:
You may need a Duraflame log or two
to get me started till I flare up and crackle!
If it’s winter, I hope you’ll relax in our ratty nauga-
hyde armchair and sip some Muscat Alexandria
a dessert wine we once drank after making love
— light and fruity but never cloying —
while you enjoy the warmth of my body one more time;
then gather up my ashes with your Modigliani smile
and put them in a Campbell’s soup can
where I promise to be mmmm … mmmm … good.
I’d feel awfully stylized in one of those plastic Andy
Warhol’s (it seems to me forever deserves the real thing).
Not that I wouldn’t get a kick out of something gourmet
on the label: Cream-of-a-Sparrow’s-Ass or Consommé —
but we both know our croutons … how they crumble.
So if Safeway only has the Manhandler varieties in stock
or you have a chance to use one of those free coupons
(the ones the baggers give you at the checkout with a wink)
hey, babe, you know I’m with you every day
and something plain like Bean with Bacon’s fine.
All I ask is that you think twice before dumping old man Campbell
ust because Heinz and Progresso rise up with sexier ads.
But you know how I feel about brand loyalty.
Remember how I kept on loving Frost? Eliot? You?
Long after the Black Mountain Boys had triumphed?
David Alpaugh’s poetry, fiction, drama, and criticism have appeared in more than a hundred literary journals and anthologies. His first collection, Counterpoint, won the Nicholas Roerich Poetry Prize from Story Line Press, and his chapbooks have been published by Coracle Books and Pudding House Publications. His essay “The Professionalization of Poetry,” serialized by Poets & Writers Magazine, drew hundreds of emails and wide discussion on the Internet. He has taught at the University of California Berkeley Extension; publishes the Carquinez Poetry Review; and hosts a popular poetry reading series in the San Francisco Bay Area. His new book Heavy Lifting has just been published by Alehouse Press.
Prayer for the Hour of the Wolf
Give me my window my book my bed
the leafy shadows on the street
Give me the backyard garden heaped
with roses and sweet william
Give me my mother’s arms and hands
Give me the wind that shook the eaves
while moonlight spilled through the trees
Give me my window my book my bed
Give me the woods where the snow owl
called and called while I slid deeper under
the comforter that lay like warm snow
on me and my dread that something was going
to happen, something so terrible the woods
would go still as they do when trees die out
at the root or leaves shake hard as my brain
shakes now at the thought of not being
Give me my bed her arm her hand
Give me the door to the woods and deep roots
Give me the snow in the side-yard garden
that promised Spring would come with its shouts
Give me my body before it grew old
Give me my mother her mind still strong
Give me the days I’ve lived but forgotten
Give me my window my book my bed
The Beautiful Day
Even the dead feel no need
to return, to open the dreams
of the living like doors
and step in. Instead, they sleep,
bone or ash untroubled by
the moving sky,
the unseeable floor of the sea.
In the house where I live,
nothing trembles or weakens.
I sit in a long soft chair,
the pages of my book
drifting shut as I doze
in the sun’s old warmth.
Everyone I love knows
my love, and the secrets
that want to be told sleep
like the dead, in honor
of sky, slow wind, the birds
who would sing no matter
how beautiful the day.
*first published in Poetry East
The directions said to list those things
I was against. I wrote the usual fast:
against war and suffering, against lies,
against hatred, bigotry, violence, vice.
Against drivers on cellphones.
Against half-hearted desire.
I was slowing down, having to work
for ideas. I put down my pen. The man
in charge stood behind me. No, he said,
keep going. Against men who love women
no farther than the doors of the body.
Against greed. Against sharks and tycoons.
Against rococo art. Against kitsch of any sort:
against knickknacks and bric-a-brac,
memorial plates, embroidery samplers.
Against people who chew open-mouthed
or lick their fingers and smack their lips.
Against evil, the evil that lives in us all.
Against SUVs. Against labels stitched
into view. Against men who rape,
men who say, Well, women rape too.
The man moved behind me again, nodding.
We were told to put down our pens
but I had barely begun: Against terror
and thievery. Against bombs and disease.
Against loss. Against loss. Against death
that takes body and monument, memory,
time. Against keeners who won’t cease.
I looked up. The others had stopped,
were reading their lists aloud, one by one.
We were told to cross off like items.
By the time we had finished, there was no
war, no suffering, no loss. No hatred
or violence. No grief. No death.
Lynne Knight is the author of three full-length collections, Dissolving Borders, which won a Quarterly Review of Literature prize in 1996; The Book of Common Betrayals, which won the Dorothy Brunsman Award from Bear Star Press in 2002; and Night in the Shape of a Mirror, published by David Robert Books in 2006. She has also published three prize-winning chapbooks, Deer in Berkeley (Sow’s Ear Press), Life as Weather (Two Rivers Review), and Defying the Flat Surface (The Ledge Press). A cycle of poems on Impressionist winter paintings, Snow Effects, appeared from Small Poetry Press as part of its Select Poets Series and is being translated into French by Nicole Courtet. She lives in Berkeley, California. _______________________________________________________________________________________________________