What We Could Do by Taylor Graham

Coyote_at_Sonora_Desert_Museum_Tucson_Arizona

An old coyote hunts the field released
to daylight by the death of trees –
tall pines that edged the pond, victims
of bark beetle. We couldn’t save the trees,
but reconstructed the old village
in image of where tribes would meet
by woods and meadow, cedar-bark tepees
and lean-to, a circle for sitting, dancing,
drumming. Hear the beat in your pulse,
your footstep, or is that the wind?
The people lived until they passed.
There was a burning to release spirit,
a long cry. No burial a bear can plunder,
as miners plundered rock till it bled.
Once you touched a broken stone
still standing, and it fell away in your
hand. A chasm or a healing.
Grizzly is gone from the land, Raven
stays to tell the stories. An old Coyote
hunts the margins we’ve left him,
a leaf fallen between pages
of history and myth, unwritten spaces
for releasing the question,
the lament, a poem, a story in song.

 

 

Taylor Graham has been a volunteer search-and-rescue dog handler for
many years, and served as El Dorado County’s inaugural poet laureate
(2016-2018). Married to a forester/wildlife biologist (Hatch, retired
now), she helped with his bird conservation projects and was a
volunteer wilderness ranger, with her search dog, for two summers on
the Mokelumne. She lives with Hatch, dog Loki and cat Latches on five
acres on the outskirts of Rescue. She’s included in the anthologies
Villanelles (Everyman’s Library) and California Poetry: From the Gold
Rush to the Present (Santa Clara University/Heyday Books). Her latest
book is Windows of Time and Place: poems of El Dorado (Cold River
Press, 2019).

 

Original photograph by Btcgeek.

Herman, The Sturgeon by Tricia Knoll

FunWithFish_HermanSturgeon

My palms press against the thick glass wall
between me and Herman. I nudge in
next to three young girls with ponytails.
Herman glides, a profile of fossils.

The sign to my left:

Species: acipenser transmontanus (Pacific Sturgeon) –
the largest freshwater fish in North America
Age: 70 plus years, born during World War II
Eyes: Steel gray
Length: Ten feet
Weight: 450 pounds
Genealogy: Species to 175 million years ago
Residence: Bonneville Fish Hatchery on the Columbia River –– since 1998 captive in a man-made pool fed by Tanner Creek and groundwater.
One Herman or another has circled this pool for over sixty years.

The blonde mother distracts her kids with goldfish crackers.
I’ve got the window.

Does Herman see my hands splayed on the glass?
Am I as irrelevant to him as barnacles
crusted on the container ships on the Columbia
heading through Bonneville’s locks to Lewiston?
Does his brain sense how near his river is?
How high the wall to the upper Columbia?

I lean in as if to weigh the theft
of his wild identity, this land-locked fish.
Does he always swim clockwise?
Ignoring cycles of spawning?
His eyes give away nothing.
Bottom dweller. Four barbell sensors,
armored scutes. Yet – a brain that integrates.

My blessing to this fish
through my hands, through the glass.
Bless his terrible beauty.
Does he feel how my laying-on pulses the water?

 

First published in Song of Eretz.

 

 

Tricia Knoll moved from Oregon to Vermont in 2018 – two places that underscore the importance of eco-poetry holding up beautiful places in transition due to climate crisis. Website: triciaknoll.com

#Mountains: The Path by Stella Pierides

dd

At the top of the stairway snaking up the hill, a white-washed chapel and an olive tree. Blinding sunlight. Some way to go yet. The stony stairs are narrow, a couple of hands-width before the cliff falls steeply into the sea.

Slow down, there’s no hurry. Take a deep breath. Feel the rough warmth of the rock. The wind beating against it raises the fragrance of sage, of thyme and marjoram to the skies, erases the silence.

marble wings—
in the distance
windmill ruins

Feel the salt on your lips, the urgent wind tussling your hair.
This history book under your arm, so well-thumbed, leave it here, against that rock, someone coming after you might linger, take a look.

pillars of salt—
propping her foot
on a stone

And the pebble from Amorgos you kept in your pocket all those years, add it to the cairn over there, where the path widens. Let it go. The trail is moments like this, following the light, teetering on the edge of your desires, of your sorrows.
That bench at the top, see it now, under the olive tree? This is your goal. You can rest there. Wise, gentle Persephone will hold your hand.

embalming my tongue
I rest in the shadow
of the silver-leaved olive

 

 

Stella Pierides is a poet and writer born in Athens, Greece, now living in Neusaess, Germany and London, UK. She is the author of three poetry books: Of This World (Red Moon Press, 2017) and In the Garden of Absence (Fruit Dove Press, 2012), both of which received a Haiku Society of America merit award; Feeding the Doves (Fruit Dove Press, 2013). Her work has also appeared in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. Currently she manages the Per Diem: Daily Haiku feature for the Haiku Foundation.

 

Painting by Jenn Zed.

Thistle-Down By E. Pauline Johnson

Thistledown

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.

 

#CampFire: Particulate Matter by Molly Fisk

800px-Woman,_Smoke_(Imagicity_717)

Untitled 11

 

First published in Rattle, Poets Respond

Molly Fisk: “So many of us live near enough to Paradise, CA to have been under the pall of smoke its burning created. I’m in Nevada City, a Sierra foothills town equally likely to burn, equally hard to evacuate. Like many others in CA, we were wearing N95 masks and staying indoors, and talking to each other about what was in this particulate matter. A phrase we didn’t think of much ten years ago, and now everyone knows.”

 

 

Molly Fisk is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Nevada County, CA. She’s been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the California Arts Council, and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and is widely published. Her poetry collections are The More Difficult Beauty and Listening to Winter. She’s also a radio commentator for KVMR in Nevada City and NPR, and works as a radical life coach. Reach her at mollyfisk.com

 

Photograph by Graham Crumb.