I always thought you would outlive me
Lifting heavy boxes past the age of seventy,
Carrying them fifty feet without rest
As if you were white water riding a crest
Of a wave digging talons into sand—
You were always the one I could count on to stand
As my corner man in the boxing ring
Or tell me a lie when I was asked to sing
At this function or that, knowing my throat
Was stale bread, textured oat.
Yet now I find you tied to machines
Calculating strokes of your heart on reams
Cascading past the nurse’s station in intensive care.
I left work early wondering if I dare
Peek in to see you beyond the open door.
You smile, plant heavy white stocking feet to the floor:
I’m OK, you tell me, my heart was racing,
And you move your finger to your chest as if tracing
A child’s picture shaded with red
An intricate design with a loose thread.
Michael H. Brownstein’s latest poetry volume, A Slipknot Into Somewhere Else: A Poet’s Journey To The Borderlands Of Dementia, was recently published by Cholla Needles Press (2018).
Art by Jenn Zed.
The rich men, they know about suffering
That comes from natural things, the fate that
Rich men say they can’t control, the swell of
The tides, the erosion of polar caps
And the eruption of a terrible
Greed among those who cease to be content
With what they lack when faced with wealth they are
Too ignorant to understand. Such wealth
Is the price of progress. The fishmonger
Sees the dread on the faces of the trout
And mackerel laid out at the market
Stall on quickly melting ice. In Pompeii
The lava flowed and buried the people
So poems such as this could be born.
First published in Poetry. Reprinted with the permission of the author from Recalculating (University of Chicago Press, 2013).
Photograph by Mrsramsey.
Northern California writers and readers:
Join Califragile founding editor Wren Tuatha and Poemcrazy author Susan Wooldridge, along with poets Bob Garner, Cory Himp Hunt, Patrick Napoco, Heather Rayann, Travis Rowdy and more for an evening of the messy!
Wren will read from her new collection, Thistle and Brilliant, interspersed with other poets’ offerings on relationships in motion! An open mic on the topic will follow, one poem per reader.
Blackbird Books and Cafe
1431 Park Ave., Chico CA 95928
Saturday, April 20, 2019, 6pm
**This will be Wren’s final public Chico appearance during T&B’s promotional period.**
Let me count the ways…you can order Thistle and Brilliant–
• Connect with us at Blackbird.
• Order via Finishing Line Press‘ website before April 26, 2019.
• Contact Wren via Facebook or Califragile.org before April 26, 2019
• Contact Wren to host a house party before April 26, 2019.
Men make them fires on the hearth
Each under his roof-tree,
And the Four Winds that rule the earth
They blow the smoke to me.
Across the high hills and the sea
And all the changeful skies,
The Four Winds blow the smoke to me
Till the tears are in my eyes.
Until the tears are in my eyes
And my heart is well nigh broke
For thinking on old memories
That gather in the smoke.
With every shift of every wind
The homesick memories come,
From every quarter of mankind
Where I have made me a home.
Four times a fire against the cold
And a roof against the rain,
Sorrow fourfold and joy fourfold
The Four Winds bring again!
How can I answer which is best
Of all the fires that burn?
I have been too often host or guest
At every fire in turn.
How can I turn from any fire,
On any man’s hearthstone?
I know the wonder and desire
That went to build my own!
How can I doubt man’s joy or woe
Where’er his house-fires shine.
Since all that man must undergo
Will visit me at mine?
Oh, you Four Winds that blow so strong
And know that his is true,
Stoop for a little and carry my song
To all the men I knew!
Where there are fires against the cold,
Or roofs against the rain,
With love fourfold and joy fourfold,
Take them my songs again!
Rudyard Kipling, 1865-1936.
Original photograph by Ivan Bandura.
He began all his dreams in those curled painted flowers
on the wall facing his bed
as the house quieted.
– then he was dreaming the flowers burning and
his cousin with flames on his face
under the window glowing and ticking with heat –
–then the black spider nets his bicycle spokes
the seat charred tower of bare springs
where he dreamed of riding no-handed
and it came true
–then the smoldering flowers were above
his pallet on the school floor beside
black axe-head, melted rake,
nested saws welded scattered
sins of screwdrivers with no
–then he got on his knees to look out
the window at the blackened
yard and remembered watching the one
black side of all those rescuing
pulsing with odd light as they yelled
throwing water and dirt
their red flat faces fastened
to huge shadows
bending and weaving
across the glass.
Terry Adams has poems in Poetry, Ironwood, The Sun, Witness, College English, Catamaran, The Painted Bride Quarterly, and elsewhere. He MCs a yearly poetry festival at the Beat Museum in San Francisco, and co-MCs, with Joe Cottonwood, the monthly “Lit Night” in La Honda. His collection, Adam’s Ribs, is available from Off The Grid Press. He lives in Ken Kesey’s infamous 1960’s cabin in La Honda, California, which he rescued from destruction in 1998.
Painting by Jenn Zed.
It begins with a dying fish,
tangled in faded lace.
Squirming, frantic, delicate.
A desperate daydream of swimming through the nearest window.
Almost bluish grey.
Like the opaque eyes of the slender ribbon snake readying to shed its skin
into golden light
and it ends with a flying fish
Cooperative poem from attendees of Califragile’s launch party. We love our Chico/Butte County community!
Photograph by Gillermo Mash.
Beyond a ridge of pine with russet tips
The west lifts to the sun her longing lips,
Her blushes stain with gold and garnet dye
The shore, the river and the wide far sky;
Like floods of wine the waters filter through
The reeds that brush our indolent canoe.
I beach the bow where sands in shadows lie;
You hold my hand a space, then speak good-bye.
Upwinds your pathway through the yellow plumes
Of goldenrod, profuse in August blooms,
And o’er its tossing sprays you toss a kiss;
A moment more, and I see only this –
The idle paddle you so lately held,
The empty bow your pliant wrist propelled,
Some thistles purpling into violet,
Their blossoms with a thousand thorns afret,
And like a cobweb, shadowy and grey,
Far floats their down – far drifts my dream away.
E. Pauline Johnson, 1861-1913.
Photograph by 3268auber.