A Single Night in the City of Gold by Debora Greger


A Single Night in the City of Gold
by Debora Greger

In the lost city of gold that was Oroville,
the golden age had come and gone.
I was the only person in the vast movie house.
What was showing that winter night
thirty years ago? The Gold Rush, of course,
as if it had arrived in 1925 and never left.

Gilt dripped from the ceiling.
Stains mapped their worthless claims.
And there I was, still in that cheap coat
the color of slush. Who was beside me?
Not you, Love; you were on the other side
of the country, so it was the cold

that threw an icy arm around my shoulders.
A heater coughed, not meaning to intrude.
The projector rattled to life and, down a mineshaft
of dusty light, a blizzard swirled
toward the blank screen of my past.
O silent film of my life, unwind!

It wasn’t the wind but the silence that howled,
ecstatic in the emptiness at the heart of the West.
But Chaplin had a mystic’s hunger
for the finer things: he boiled his boot.
He wound a shoelace on a fork.
He tasted shame for me, and found it sweet.

IMAGE: Theatrical poster for The Gold Rush, a 1925 film starring Charlie Chaplin. 

Helsinki Window by Robert Creeley

finland licensed rsfotography

Helsinki Window
by Robert Creeley
     for Anselm Hollo

Go out into brightened
space out there the fainter
yellowish place it
makes for eye to enter out
to greyed penumbra all the
way to thoughtful searching
sight of all beyond that
solid red both brick and seeming
metal roof or higher black
beyond the genial slope I
look at daily house top on
my own way up to heaven.
Same roof, light’s gone
down back of it, behind
the crying end of day, “I
need something to do,” it’s
been again those other
things, what’s out there,
sodden edge of sea’s
bay, city’s graveyard, park
deserted, flattened aspect,
leaves gone colored fall
to sidewalk, street, the end
of all these days but
still this regal light.
Trees stripped, rather shed
of leaves, the black solid trunks up
to fibrous mesh of smaller
branches, it is weather’s window,
weather’s particular echo, here
as if this place had been once,
now vacant, a door that had had
hinges swung in air’s peculiar
emptiness, greyed, slumped elsewhere,
asphalt blank of sidewalks, line of
linearly absolute black metal fence.
Old sky freshened with cloud bulk
slides over frame of window the
shadings of softened greys a light
of air up out of this dense high
structured enclosure of buildings
top or pushed up flat of bricked roof
frame I love I love the safety of
small world this door frame back
of me the panes of simple glass yet
airy up sweep of birch trees sit in
flat below all designation declaration
here as clouds move so simply away.
Windows now lit close out the
upper dark the night’s a face
three eyes far fainter than
the day all faced with light
inside the room makes eye re-
flective see the common world
as one again no outside coming
in no more than walls and post-
card pictures place faces across
that cautious dark the tree no
longer seen more than black edge
close branches somehow still between.
He was at the edge of this
reflective echo the words blown
back in air a bubble of suddenly
apparent person who walked to
sit down by the familiar brook and
thought about his fading life
all “fading life” in tremulous airy
perspect saw it hover in the surface
of that moving darkness at the edge
of sun’s passing water’s sudden depth
his own hands’ knotted surface the
sounding in himself of some other.
One forty five afternoon red
car parked left hand side
of street no distinguishing
feature still wet day a bicycle
across the way a green door-
way with arched upper window
a backyard edge of back wall
to enclosed alley low down small
windows and two other cars green
and blue parked too and miles
and more miles still to go.
This early still sunless morning when a chair’s
creak translates to cat’s cry a blackness still
out the window might be apparent night when the
house still sleeping behind me seems a bag of
immense empty silence and I feel the children
still breathing still shifting their dreams an
enigma will soon arrive here and the loved one
centers all in her heavy sleeping arm out the
leg pushed down bedclothes this body unseen un-
known placed out there in night I can feel all
about me still sitting in this small spare pool of
light watching the letters the words try to speak.
Classic emptiness it
sits out there edge of
hierarchic roof top it
marks with acid fine edge
of apparent difference it
is there here here that
sky so up and out and where
it wants to be no birds no
other thing can for a
moment distract it be
beyond its simple space.

PHOTO: Helsinki, Finland, cityscape with Baltic Sea in background by Rsfotography, used by permission.

Blue Is Greece by Aliki Barnstone

licensed freesurf69

Blue Is Greece
by Aliki Barnstone

Blue is Greece
where fishermen tame their boats
and islands stand
like white monastery birds
on the Greek flag
of spinning blue,
where the sky has few airplanes
floating like gods,
and if one comes
an angel drops a far banner.

PHOTO: Patmos, Greece, by freesurf69, used by permission. 

Greece by David Ray

by David Ray

Approaching that fatalistic
space behind all men and women
(still holding their stone robes)
you see that there is only one
relationship; two figures in the
foreground, one range of mountains
in the immense distance, with
nothing in between.
Are you sure you can face it?
Here we could learn to imagine pain—
and candles, and a dark sea,
and what is growing blank upon us.

PHOTO: Oia Village, Santorini Island, Greece, by Michelle Maria, used by permission.

On the Eiffel Tower by Christopher Buckley


On The Eiffel Tower
by Christopher Buckley

The wrought iron
was strung up purely
in the substanceless
abstraction of thought,
set somehow against all
the trips and balances
of nothing, the engineering
of the air. Above
the pylons he arched
the shrinking heavens
with girders resembling
an aviary or pergola,
then figured out
the twelve thousand pre-
fabricated parts, the 2½
million (more or less)
rivets in a bare
and steely sequence,
and so turned aerodynamics
around on a curve
of quadrilateral legs,
cross-braced so precisely
that the bending
and shearing predilections
of wind were steadily
transformed to forces
of compression
so even in the hypothetical
troughs of a hurricane
there would be less
than nine inches sway.

Knowing how
an effect diminishes
uniformly from a point
this master of bridges
out-wondered the changing,
free-fall rivers of the sky.
Against gravity, and with
the foregone and unbending
resistance of the cognoscenti,
he elevated the function of iron
in the world, and clearly saw
how it would accommodate this
impending and audacious grace.
Even a modest office emerged—
a nest on the final terrace
for the uncluttered atmosphere
of work, complete with a wireless,
telegraph, and a glass lantern on top
to clock the advances in weather;
and also with chairs, a table,
fine glasses and Veuve Clicquot
chilling for the two times Edison
would share this rare altitude,
this bright fabric of the mind—
this, the first sound place where
you could stand back somewhat and
gain a degree of perspective, a place
from which you could almost objectively
praise the handiwork of the earth.

PHOTO: Eiffel Tower, Paris, France. Photo by Stijn te Strake on Unsplash

A Drama in the Luxembourg Gardens by Jacques Réda

paris detom1 licensed

A Drama in the Luxembourg Gardens
by Jacques Réda

   Between the chestnut trees with nothing else to do
But ponder their chestnuts (how smooth they are, how round)
And the great pond where the rain, too, makes its rounds,
   A child has abandoned his toy to pursue

   An old, swaggering pigeon. Such a humid day,
So easy to catch a cold — where’s his mother?
Ah, there she is, just leaving her chair to gather
   The doubtlessly expensive toy (a freight

   Car with an electric motor); she cleans it, lays
It carefully into a bag, then looks at the sky
(Whose capacity of liquid is still quite high)
   As it opens in its grayness a little bay

   Of phosphorescent blue. So despite the scattered
Showers, she’s sure of the clouds and returns to her seat
As her child, running in shirtsleeves, sneezes.
   Every man for himself seems to be her adage.

   For her part, she is wearing a long, plushy
Raincoat with matching hairdo of frosty brown
(Not hot like the chestnuts that will soon roll around).
   The child suddenly falls and, yapping like a mussel,

   Without a shell, remains on the ground. And the lady?
She does nothing but blow her nose with one hand and fly
Around in the air with the other as if at a fly.
   When the child gets to his feet, a little bloody

   On his left knee, he looks at his mother, who
Looks at him Far off, woodpigeons take flight
Up Saint Sulpice’s towers and two quiet palms, while I,
   Witness to this ephemeral drama, don’t move.

   What will the two actors remember of this? God knows.
Nothing, maybe. They’ve disappeared. I’m almost inclined
   To believe it all just unfolded in my mind.
And while a sunbeam wavers in the random sky,

A lost drop bursts in the middle of my brow.

PHOTO: A pigeon in the Luxembourg Gardens (Paris, France) by Detom1, used by permission.

Corn Maze by David Barber

washington licensed d c anstett

Corn Maze
by David Barber

Here is where
You can get nowhere
Faster than ever
As you go under
Deeper and deeper

In the fertile smother
Of another acre
Like any other
You can’t peer over
And then another

And everywhere
You veer or hare
There you are
Farther and farther
Afield than before

But on you blunder
In the verdant meander
As if   the answer
To looking for cover
Were to bewilder

Your inner minotaur
And near and far were
Neither here nor there
And where you are
Is where you were

PHOTO: Entrance to a corn maze on family farm in Skagit Valley, Washington, by D.C. Anstett, used by permission.

Danvers, Illinois by Richard Spilman

illinois licensed jason p ross

Danvers, Illinois
by Richard Spilman

There were words
Straight as corn,

Simple to the tongue as corn,
Sentences seried like a field

In neat geometrics;
And there were moments

When the wind stopped
And the corn stood silent

And heat etched whorls
Like rolled glass above the road,

When we lifted our heads
And listened.

PHOTO: Illinois cornfield by Jason P. Ross, used by permission.

Along Lake Michigan by Brad Leithauser


Along Lake Michigan
by Brad Leithauser

The road abruptly changed to dirt,
Thinned until grasses brushed
The car on both sides, and then
Ended in a loop before the marsh.
We hiked along an arm of land held
Firm by cedars, the lake breaking
Like an ocean on one side,
The rippling, flooded wetlands wide
As a lake on the other.
You found a broad white feather
That could perhaps have been
Converted into a serviceable pen;
We searched for precious stones.
Ahead, brown and white shorebirds,
Probably sandpipers, fled from us
Calling with small chipped voices;
So quick, their matchstick legs
Blurred, like hummingbird wings;
And when they finally stopped,
Their low bodies faded wholly
Into the brown and white rocks.
Later, where the cedars clung
Tight against the lake and crowded out
Our path, we turned toward the marsh,
And some rummaging ducks
Scooted raucously away from us,
Wings striking water repeatedly—
Like a stone sent skipping across—
Before they broke with sudden grace
Into the air. We could hear
Waves falling as we wandered
Through woods that held no breeze,
To a small, harsh clearing where
Three or four fallen trees
Crossed in a tangle. We paused there,
In the sun, and something scary slid
As if across the surface of my eye:
Snakes! Among the logs, we began
To pick them out: fat overlapping coils
Lolling in the light, skin
The color of sticks; they were hard
To detect, except when in movement.

Along the lake, where a path had slowly
Collapsed the few feet down
To the shore, up-ending little trees until
Their branches tilted into the water,
We found the body of a doe.
The place was quiet, a pond-sized cove
Where the low waves broke slowly,
Lapping up against the body.
Sand had slipped around the legs,
Blanketing the hard hooves,
But trunk and face lay bare, soft,
The tongue limp and gray beneath
Tiny crooked teeth. A wet eyelash, left
Over an eye picked clean to the bone,
Seemed a tawdry, artificial touch.
I looked for bullets, but found no holes,
Blood, nothing. The massive body lay
Fetid and undisturbed, like a mariner’s
Daydream beached up in a storm:
A strange tawny sea-creature . . .
I fanned away the flies that speckled
The blond flank, and we saw them hover,
Land, and then resume their tracking.
We held hands, kneeling beside the body
As if we could impart a gift
Of movement: possible here, on a day
When we’d seen sticks slither
And stones take flight, for this
Animal to rise at our whispering and shake
Sleep from its sandy coat. We watched
The clear waves curl, then break
Against the chest like a heartbeat.

PHOTO: Lake Michigan shore, Michigan, by David Hamilton, used by permission.