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Part 4 Contributors

 

Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro


Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 3 Contributors

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis


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Click to enlarge picture Christopher Buckley
Christopher Buckley
Californian Poets Part 4: Four Poems
by
Christopher Buckley


 

 



Promise

How many doorways
                               have I looked into
                                                          with no one waiting
for me to pass
                      the time of day . . . discuss rain that hasn’t fallen
on roses, sea-dull acacias,
                                       the sun-scraped lawns?
Dirt scurries this way
                               then that in the street—
                                                                   and in the study,
my school photo has a grey cobweb
                                                    in the background,
and that has nothing
                                to do with the soul . . .
                                                                  the sky looks tired
of everything.
                     Yet, any bird can read the map of the air—
but that gets me exactly where?
                                               The only reply to my letters
expressing interest in the position
                                                  is dust rising from my cuffs
to settle each evening in the west—
                                                    street sweeper, sidewalk inspector,
bookkeeper of fallen leaves—
                                           the road ends in the sea.

Still, someone needs to make sense
                                                    of philosophy—
                                                                           and if not,
herd sheep, take in a stray cat.
                                              Throw your hands up
in the face of the past
                                 and little more than
                                                               a fine powder rises
on the path
                  leading to a bench outside that bar
                                                                     where no one
notices the hopeless rucksack
                                           slung over your shoulder,
the one you set off with
                                   half a life ago, thinking
there might be something left
                                           in the grab bag of the blue.
Your reward
                  is a glass of rough red wine served up
by the seawall,
                      salt air, some fog hanging offshore.
                                                                          Breathe in
the usual uncertainty
                               grey as the sinking pearl of the sun . . .
and realize you’re lucky
                                    to be here with the empty light
like the promise of a life
                                    to come,
                                                 a life just drifting off. . . .



Inventory

I’ve been considering
the untold stars
whose dust will never
spell out our names.
We have our bodies
from stars, second-hand . . .
lagging behind
the soul according
to most accounts,
beggars pulling a cart. . . .

I’ve counted out
a dozen encrypted clouds,
floated transcendental
alternatives that have,
so far, added up
to little more than
the last one or two
sinking into the sea
before the stars
come out again
and my thoughts
freeze along with
the lemon blossoms.

Each dawn I examine
the backdrop of the sky . . .
empty space
confirming the earth
is just a rock,
where we came from—
some billions of molecules
rewired. Against the odds
I’ve made it this far
with sand in my shoes,
silt in my veins. . .
banking on the invisible
ledger of air.



Salinas Agonistes

Blind among enemies, O worse than chains, /dungeon, or beggery, or decrepit age!
                                                                                      —Milton
                              Luis Omar Salinas 1937-2008


All the guardian angels
                                  took the Greyhound to Mazatlan,
except that old one
                            sleeping in his pick-up
                                                             in back of the Rexall drug
in Robstown—
                      Jorge Negrete with No Te Rajes
                                                                    on the radio
circulating forever in my Aztec blood.
                                                      I could not escape
the poverty
                 of my shoes
                                   and made up songs to every Mary
and Martha, to the sorrowful mysteries
                                                         of their necks.
A romantic at midnight,
                                   I climbed bougainvillea to balconies,
a pack of KOOLS, beer in a sack,
                                                the articles of faith
as I knew them then. . . .
                                      I drove with one hand over an eye
of my double-vision youth, tipped my hat
                                                             and the ashes of moonlight
tumbled out.
                    Beneath the flowering apricot
                                                                I praised the schism
of blossoms,
                   my soul on all fours floating
                                                            like a sandwich wrapper
in wind
           over to Roeding park where I spent my days learning
from the larks
                     all I could about hope.
                                                      Through the ‘80s I couldn’t tell
one neorealistic misery from the next—
                                                         Visconti’s from De Sica’s,
the emotional sprockets and chain links . . .
                                                               I knew an hour was missing
in the U.S. release of Bertolucci’s 1900,
                                                         and years before,
I’d hit the road, making soup with Tony Quinn in black & white
along the north-east coast of Italy.
                                                   I returned to the sea—my reservoir
of dreams—
                  unfurled a white sail before the existential waves
with nothing to lose, but my heart
                                                  capsized in moonlight.
Nevertheless, I was an original
                                             in Byron’s sequined shirt,
tip-toeing for years on the precipice of the sky,
                                                                     in the blue
undertow of afternoon . . . .
                                         Adios amigos—
                                                                no melodies left
to extract from the waves, and the stars
                                                           always did their best
to keep me off course—
                                    the horizon remains beyond eloquence.
If it takes a fool to be a poet,
                                           I’ve deceived no one as I went
in search of roses, not philosophy,
                                                  which I had freely from sparrows
in the yard.
                  I left the sport coat of fame in the display window,
no inheritance but the gritos of the gulls.
                                                            Somewhere, there are
silver trumpets and mariachis singing
                                                       El Rancho Grande,
but I can’t hear them from here.
                                                I bequeath my manuscripts,
illuminated or otherwise,
                                     to the thrift shop of the wind,
and I will hitch-hike to the stars.
                                                My parents took the package tour
to paradise
                  and put in a word for me, but God, I think, is not
sentimental. You wouldn’t think so,
                                                    but I loved him well enough
in my own way—
                          what other choices were available
                                                                            to desgraciados
still standing in the street?



10th Year, Drought

Each day now, leaving for my walk,
                                                    I put on my straw hat
to hold in the hope I have left
                                            as I walk past dehydrated trees
where I can’t help but think
                                        of Goya’s El tres de mayo,
how, with their arms surrendered
                                                 to a black sky,
                                                                       those soldiers
look just like the trees, slumped
                                               hopelessly into each other,
waiting to be shot. . . .

                                  There’s a bougainvillea on the cliff
making a heart-red run
                                  through the prickly pear,
                                                                      humming birds
at the purple blossoms of Mexican sage—
                                                            that’s all it takes
to have me praising what’s left
                                             before the heat arrives
to toss another worthless prayer past the islands,
the crags of Santa Cruz,
                                   the far reaches of San Miguel,
as I look for any trace of cloud
                                            slipping in from 40 years ago. . . .
But daydreaming is so much dust
                                                 in the rain barrel
at the corner of the house
                                       where I watched B westerns,
filmed just 90 miles south,
                                       that we tuned-in Saturday mornings
in black & white
                        while it rained, while clouds
                                                                 of dust were rising
from the posse in pursuit. . . .
                                            What chance now
                                                                       the sky’s
going to open up
                         and return us to those days?
                                                                   Above the bay
each evening, there’s just that cloud of dust,
                                                                 starlight blurring,
burning down. . . .