My fascination with plants goes back to days
when I wondered where we all came from.
When I watered fruit trees and rose bushes
I made no distinction between their existence
yours or mine, deeming all objects measures
of sublimity, subordination or death on arrival.
And I mused about this magnetism people had
for life on a sphere spinning toward oblivion.
In those days I lacked sufficient force
as if I needed a bullhorn to be heard
above the big crowds of protestors
vilifying war and social injustice.
And then I disintegrated in a bitty microwave
slightly above gravity’s undertow
where trolls multiply amid snow drifts
and werewolves howl to an azure moon
I could do much better
___would save the guts for when glory
___reveals itself in the buff
___until then call any bluffs resist
___bellicose demands of the bourgeoisie.
I would add more light to the room
push darkness aside collect metaphors
extol equanimity uncompromised.
______________And now serene yet cruel
______________winter you swindler
______________blissful but you plunder
___and everyone pays the price
so we must get busy
stack wood in our sheds
rub babies with protective ointments.
Industrialists swear deliverance lies ahead
if we stay on track devoted
to the empire’s schadenfreude.
Cascading toward spring the river quickens
propelled by runoff it passes through
the delta then bay unto Pacific currents.
Distance ourselves from distain I say
lighten up seek closure
on animus and pain.
__________Inside monkey glucose
__________the elephantine recluse
__________in a vacant cosmos
__________wanting not to be
__________obfuscated by reality.
Every dead rose petal lets out a scent
utopian myopic capricious
winged phantasm trailing light.
“Mea culpa!” I cried. “Guilty!” I pled
when the Grim Reaper arrived
on a silver sled his bald head gleamed
teeth shiny bright he promised to lessen
my load that very night.
His halcyon words encouraged me to rest
free of perdition feckless prepared
for the best time I’ve ever had.
At such a time in life when you bid farewell
take your last swill of nectar final gulp of air
flowers withered nuclear winter come and gone
shallow waters surround owls extinct
few herons left you anticipate aftermath.
________________Fish but faintly lit on ocean’s
________________horizon and an amber sunset
________________suggests you’re at equilibrium
________________experience tells you otherwise
________________and not likely to be forgotten
________________you cede the talisman worn
________________steadfastly around your neck
________________but they say that doesn’t float
________________because you continue to think
________________a thought is a thing and a thing
________________inexcusable blasphemy in fact
________________an idea that went up in flames
________________when Constantine declared gods
________________void then in their place installed
________________truth and light one Jesus Christ.
At Locke again beside the thrashing river I’m hushed.
Not a sound that rudimentary Chinese encampment
built after racists burned them out of Walnut Grove.
Once a thriving gambling haven welcome retreat
for the indigent the dispossessed those reprobates
bet their daily bread not to be denied universal rights.
Pink azaleas in bloom for this is winter red camellias
voluminous I walk the long block decrepit shanties
could become but shambles should an earthquake hit.
If you haven’t visited Xanadu lately the Parthenon
Machu Picchu Sistine Chapel try Locke’s mysterious
little Dai Loy museum recently profiled exposed
on the Discovery Channel. Equipped with the latest
high tech monitoring devices ghost voice detector
light meter motion sensor the doughty explorers
set out to contact spirits of murdered Chinese
who once lingered there. It’s risky and yet I enter
the creepy museum this may prove a blunder since
the floor’s so warped I lose balance and almost topple.
Adumbrations compound my wanderlust
sparked by claims that God is good
and God is evil both impossibly irrational.
______________At vintage Sutter Creek
______________mid Gold Country
______________bikers park beside
______________a bridge seem high
______________debate the best route
______________mountain water roils
______________splashes on its way
______________to an insightful sea.
___Pressure as to elicit international concern
ratchets tightens brain bolts
____while hidden from view our planetary retreat
________looms afar the future transfixed
_____________hordes neutron stars black holes
and quasars gestating poised
_______________for the instant it will birth
_______a new universe.
Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, including Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Literature Today, Poetry Salzburg, and South African Literary Journal. He has published three books of poetry, Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, and Mercurial World.