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Deborah A. Meadows: California Poets Part 7, Five Poems

Deborah A. Meadows

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Deborah A. Meadows

Five Poems



It picks up a reflective

surface, pain there, reliable

desert horizon, its double—

weird, long portrait, how solitude

is laid down in singular stripes.


Radii made of lumber, house staff

vacuum halls twelve stories up,

lost pants beside koi fish pond,

historic feminists in Valencia,

miniature model of utopia

harbored thin people, Tarzana

Pho shop, aerospace, and fashion,

then on 395 toward Lone Pine:

a tiny house on wheels—

nomadic when hassled,

re-purposed, elegant, free …


Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest


Our globe, our lucky horseshoe:

it speaks for itself, so

ignore all prior verbiage,

scale of shipping containers,

grit and grain forgotten or redressed,

palm trees and helicopters.


Read variations on an oxygen-isotope

theme, early coins first to designate

numerical face value follow, and

windswept time in the Great Basin



Right where dendrochronologists date

growth, preserve likelihood, we read

how Methuselah gets hyped, could have

had a Matriarch Grove. At altitude:

alternate tunings, a ranger station.


Soaked the area, tested well,

core samples show fifty centuries

in a living specimen, botanic strata,

its singular scar, accident, afflicted

ring, crooked life


takeout boxes cast here

as nodal moments, with crane arms

held out: dancers swept clear

of vortices’ turbulence, not


some sort of flashy apex or

dyadic glance to bridge theory

and wet chemistry



underbrush nuance, that is.


Dear Henry,


pulse of the tree’s sap, per minute

wilderness reduced to labeled perfumery


took down sails at bridges, slunk by

with favorable currents—

ducks depart in parallax view,

season departs lengthwise


low fare, frostwork, windowed

opening lines, retrieve escaped farm

animal with rope and barrow,

wait for summer again


new skin, ore war, running after

attributes different from the soul,

shadow and tail, anguish over lost

friend, rock cap fern, who will they

be who find our fossil remains?


how many hundreds make one

complete being? hasty minded

slacked, word for a thing will tell us

lifeways, creel, stanza to spring,



what is happening now, as he sat

in his boat: frogs, bullfrogs, terrenity


light prevails over shadow, variations 

by lily pads,


after the dancers departed …

What’s the word for something hypothetical

and preposterous? Speculative, I suppose.


andropogons: rain dance, split beard, broom edge


anguish over lost friend, compatible as a distant

ideal, falling short other than snapping turtle


each station on a walk is storied

ice bears a record of wind

a nation also


John Brown, his fate overshadows

beauty in the world


to find sympathy with another exceeds

beauty, intelligence


how ice patterns vary:

feather, fibrous flame

underfoot as mackerel sky


on winter ice, we walk the sky



how this lifts us, prove a new species

dentation, new thought, new friend


clause in will: no statue made of me


to live in the forest

why things have their names

how grieving a death makes

bird song



ripeness must serve a transcendent

use, highest use a poet can pluck


life begins with a spirit level

Parable of the Mavericks


bark, stapled, more and more quilted

re-purposed fabric, collective high

lights, tree glamour, an inferior sort

of truth, light against side of face

light on skin bared by muscle shirt


wharf scene over by then, a Chevy

sled monstrosity slides by,

preceded earbuds, their private sound


beating heart of celery: we were unable

to work, ill, we lost the habit.

Where was the outside force that made us

show up? made to look like this?


We were living like this for a long time.

Old habits created a “crisis mode.”

Patterns then spread abroad, spread thin.




We are born afflicted. Against cure, responsible

agents, zoned for fast living, taxing effort.

We cultivated small differences in style.

Spacey, we forgot to call.


We wrote under international influences:

fumeroles, hot springs, mud vents.

With awakening came the realization

we are creatures.


Distant bombing hit us hard. Defenseless

creatures, we said, mixed up in a political



We got off the teeter-totter of if-then logic,

expansive refusal opened other logics.

Different kinds of Air


Hunch that dark matter is another

kind of gravity


dark matter a construct another Priestly

might send the way of phlogiston


clay wine cup of the moment

conservation of matter unto dust


life in the Western Asset Plaza


gravitons on the doubling side

collaborator on motion


who lives here? a divided mirror, sheepfold

stop out means of printing, purveyed

ink wash-drawn circle,


earlier generations of Cambridge

botanists and botanical travelers,

how classificatory method grew

from moral charge, creation,


localized violence over unequal

distribution when numbers

in settlements were small


deformed, windswept shine

terrestrial petri dish


in it or part of surface pattern

read for pure complexity:

that contradiction, word cover

absolved of grief


to parade for tourist throngs

in native dress, to escape

a school’s claim,

move to outer edge,

liminal, possible


temblor as composer, earth

soundings engage our bodies

imitation slip-fault



Suppose Earth-tilt not up to arrogated language, vacant stage for humans, self-enhancement, landscape, movie set beach vanishing view, camera iris screw-down.


On the impulse to imagine old things, stressed or torn connective language, a word or phrase here or there, and we’re implicated.


Not that time here folds back on itself, a worked-against force, something windy days can exemplify except when they can’t.


Crow, crows’ monstrance plan underway, face into wind of history, Mojave, thick thighs show hideouts are hideous parody of present time.


Shortcoming of shifting cloud shapes as two sides’ struggle for civic time.


No soil samples here. Stones in the gullet of premiere singers, their charges.


Now they were shooting with the sun high, a lull in wind created a false sense of perpetual stillness for several frames.


Crows are movement. Animal sounds. Customary costume for herders.


A customary move to show by withholding, to separate commentary as a taint on truth, that old-time objectivity. Yet loveliness, fascination as another branch of Eros rooted in particulars.


Wide belt, bright orange over dark tunic. Motorcycle beside yurt. Knots hold tarp cover in a system.


Tied by neighborly bonds that could be made tighter as filial bonds, a strategy that 19th ideologies sought to imprint with neologisms, a social way to change herds and herders.


My camp is near the cooperative. Handsome workhorses. Calves communicate with cows. Milk, milk. Child labor, all labor.


Each with a personality that somehow makes generational knowledge ambivalent, or maybe to say daily round shadowed here.


There are some but not many like them, attentive to their animals, each other, with an evenness of temper, thorough calling.


Big open land, low sun, shadowed hills. Shamaness Baldshir. Camel in foreground. Séance at midnight. Ritual robe warmed by fire jangles iron.


Dense with preparation and wardrobe assistants, she might need us seated here enclosing arc, firelight on our permitted faces, camera active, cradled with repetition.


Is possible to conjure our dead? She spins and chants over and over near collapse, then faint with the effort, our intermediary succumbs to the iron weight of garb.


“The wooden earth is my cradle,” she chants. Animated outfit. “My all-powerful horse is my intermediary.”


Outside theatre of ritual enactment, we long for home each time, for each seasonal place as if it will drink our memory without us.


Riding from becomes riding toward so entrance to another plain exits geographic inner expanse, interior continents and lost cameras of thought.


From metal jangle-cloak to blue satin. Long panorama: wedding party arrives on horseback. Couple walks clockwise round yurt.


With time, all becomes nourishing, grasslands become milk after passage through taiga land, herds’ circuitous intestines, so bless and knot old technique.


Make milk offerings, then enter. Drink from common cup. Father gives ties for yurt, Buddhist lucky knot.


Those in camera range ostensibly extended nod to record-making activities that will be shown, will be lost again in the press of image-time.


Mother gives mortar and pestle. Food is blessed; couple is blessed. Bride makes her first milk tea for all.


A shy sweetness stimulates old-timers to reach for snuff bottles in convivial cover for the strength of emotions provoked by ritual of life’s passage.


Poet is called upon, recites for newlyweds. Old-timers sing sentimental song. “Overtone song, please.” Throat-singer performs. Toast newlyweds: happiness, large herds.


It’s still rich as chamber music interpreted in the old way; all pass summer seasons’ fluorescing final shimmer.


They are adept in other settings, other cook situations refine feel for material, those that transform with no charities’ purview here or there—only fire to help.


A thought about flow with and without sense: how things jump a track, lessen sum of parts, theorize measurable terms.


Singer and blacksmith. Carved figures, animals. Sacred Tree. Fairy tale of naked boy and fox.


Subtractive activities foreground sound, ribbons express wind, strips are hair, product of hands made to carry away by fortunate.


By flesh we’re known as soft potential, by garb a stable truth to live by communicating sometimes your mother, sometimes your son, the tack and saddle for yaks.


Festival of Mutton Breastbone. Slaughter by reaching into knifed-open animal. Wrestlers and praise-singers. Men show flesh in struggle.


What turn form took is taken away, reshaped comestible, skinned nearly alive, many quick work hands, remainder seeps into ground, little to glean.


Whether rehearsal or real thing blurs with repetition, or each wrestler gently becomes the role before melting to thin air, standard clothing.


Cheer on men’s wrestling match. Winners are clear winners until next year’s match-up. Nomads leave for Winter camp, dismantle yurts, take down yurt crown.


Properties to bundle, dissatisfaction rides human life, or makes its expression possible as a driver for more, more movement, more return, more variation, invention.


As premature animals form a thin lining to this season’s, wait for their shadow to reach across the plain behind low hills, discarding permanent ownership in the hunt.


On the way to White Lake, hunters hunt. Back then, my mother lived with reindeer, milked them. Our reindeer became state property; we began to call it “reindeer cooperative.”


To have learned how they think, how they respond to sound, to be adjacent, bare, unlicensed long-learning still transmitted now with little waste.


Filmed subjects in a world without homegrown camera operators surely will produce versioned lives robust in other technique. 


Suppose entropy a process to film, linguistic transference water, an element we swim through, divert to channels flickering between danger and valued resource, transparency.


Young people no longer know our ways, no longer live independently. Back then, everyone spoke several languages.


Cycles, then interrupted cycles telling by exception, dims cautionary counter here on river banks and flats with elders in decline.


Bear hunting in the old days. Up river, reindeer-nomads of taiga. Some reindeer for riding, all others as herd.


Others are coming, we are coming, altogether a union of people and herds, salutations, and warm gripped hands, weight of bodies, resonant, spare.


Reindeer nomads meet this time of year. Trade goods, complaints and wishes for chief. Prepare deer whistle for stag hunt.


How government-issue uniforms assault the eye, so when examples arrive, are they recognized as outsiders or of this ethnicity come back to peer into the trade fair?


Airplane lands with Christian delegation. Pilot and copilot, uniforms. More wrestling, then reindeer race.


The camera held steady, and held many in what appeared to be a history painting, but then again not: various scenes are united in one’s mind.


Antique picnic games dispersed to our county parks, flow, circulate as phantom signifiers here on the title page of a tall stack of drafts in other languages, their tug of war.


Know manageable units of distance via strength of pack animals, exchange of essential goods, authentic out here, not staged but created.


Now we leave for Autumn camp, five days away. Shamaness animates shamaness clothes. Magpie, fainting: “protect me.”


A calling answered by summoning unseen world right behind this one, making manifest with chant, smoke, clothes, entrance to whorl using her as vessel.


Just outside this circle, winter will express itself against our inner visual lives where streams shimmer come spring and ultimately convince with force and duration.


Hardly a conclusion: that slip to roadside attraction, vast time of nomadic practice slipped past governing design now slip-knotted in net of preservation, docent instruction, film.


Big city attractions for children. Culture reduced to simulated yurt with elderly docent, to merry-go-round of fiberglass reindeer.


From what is imagined lost, imagined saved, that baby must be twenty-nine or thirty by now passing into it all again with difference, a lull in wind, stillness with crows.




“Taiga” (Neo-bedrooms, Shearsman Books, 2021) is in response to Ulrike Ottinger’s 1992 eight-hour ethnographic film, Taiga that follows nomadic yak and reindeer herders to their various seasonal camps.

Author Bio:

Deborah Meadows grew up in Buffalo, NY. After graduating from SUNY, Buffalo in Philosophy and English, she moved to California where she taught for many years. She is an Emerita faculty member at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, lives with her husband in Los Angeles’ Arts District/Little Tokyo, and has published over a dozen books of poetry most recently Neo-bedrooms (Shearsman), Lecture Notes, a duration poem in twelve parts (BlazeVOX [books]), and The Demotion of Pluto: Poems and Plays (BlazeVOX [books]). Her book titled Bumblebees will be published by Roof Books, the first portion of Bumblebees is an e-chap published by BlazeVox, Spring 2022, with illustrations by Geoffrey Gatza.


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