We have been steeping in these days
when ionic clouds assemble on the dark side of the San Gabriels
and the gathering storms of another hemisphere
push a hundred degree heat under the inversion of the valley.
When carpenter ants carry out slow deconstruction
fleas tick in the ivy and nest in the fur and cracking flesh
of my aging Tonkinese.
His tail twitches like a dying snake
as he wakes biting the brutal bite of bloodsucking.
After sunset a barn owl lands at the peak of a pine
dragging the charged air with his silent wings.
My lantern catches his eyes as he turrets this domain.
Later we find the pellet of chewed rodent on the crooked fence runner.
We are reminded of summer food:
peaches swelling on the sill, lime and Mexican beer,
that which can't be swallowed. In the bygone year
helicopters flew in formation between Mt. Washington and
They descended into the evacuated streets
sprayed the trees with malathion.
Now we reap the silent crop.
In the middle of sleep an old lover's brain turns to bone.
Dogs of dusk leap at our faces,
bleed yellow in limestone pools.
The spirits of Mallow's Park manacled to the cyclone fence.
Tungsten blades of the truss yard lay strangled in the gravel.
City hall's sons and daughters
eviscerated near the fountain.
The milkweed by the Southern Pacific tracks
macheted into silence.
I wake to sparks chasing my knees across the sheet's underside.
Without clothes I stay with the kiln of night,
the oven of stars chokes in reduction
coaxing glass from sand. Another world takes form.
A long green canoe with caned seats
pushes apart the reeds in a brackish pond.
Poems by John Waldman:
TEN: An Anthology of Northern California Poets