(Photo of Sterling Warner)
SCOTTS VALLEY SIREN
softly called for help
behind manzanita bushes
along well-worn deer paths on the Boulder Creek hillside
my sixteen-year-old hand kindly
met her shaking palm
we walked side by side
enamored under the moonlight,
her nakedness more beautiful under LunaÕs rays,
she slipped on cut-offs revealing
pubic hair, said sheÕd
then climbed up
the friendly mountain
after sunset, crying out for
a warm blanket, thinking only about getting home;
ÒIÕll hitchhike from here,Ó she explained,
pulling my t-shirt
oÕre round breasts;
Oxfords—everybody wore or wanted
them when I grew into grammar school.
My elder sister scored the first pair—
bone white with a light brown saddle—
in our penny-pinching household.
She wore them a year and a half before
each foot grew in length and girth, I
started kindergarten, and abruptly required
something substantial—a hard leather sole—to
replace supple doe-skin, beaded moccasins.
Whatever possessed my mother to
feminize my feet by coercing me to reluctantly
wear my senior sisterÕs timeworn shoes?
Knowing too well that trendy male Oxfords
sported a milk chocolate colored exterior with
a dark brown saddle, Mom smothered the
bone white toe box, vamp, and heal with
liquid burnt sienna shoe polish that
stubbornly resisted solid pigmentation, left
random brown streaks atop mustard colored wingtips
Scuffing the leather with rocks and dirt,
walking through gutters, keeping only ankles visible,
scraping the sides against aggregate rockways,
intentionally splashing through mud puddles,
praying for a pedestrian oil slick to submerge them,
masking the putrid hue of hopelessly disguised shoes,
I wore sisterÕs poorly dyed Oxfords like army boots
fortified to weather vicious verbal assaults, stamp-
raunchy, mean-spirited whispers—piercing, visual accusations—
an onslaught of peers perniciously insulting my footwear.
Along country roads, highways, or city streets
bad drivers cut each other off, each acting
like thoroughfares had been constructed for their
personal use, considering others congestionÕs visitors
as unwelcome as unannounced holiday guests;
they talk on cell phones, drive over pets,
honk at bicyclists, hawk luggies out winders
onto parked BMWs only they deserve to own.
Exceeding speeding limits, ignoring stop signs
they remind the police officers of relatives
in high places, judges whose displeasure will come
to revisit them like the ghost of Christmas past—
unless let off with wagging fingers or verbal warnings;
bad drivers like the villains in commedia dell' arte, twirl
imaginary mustaches, grunt and grin like untouchables
wrap vehicles and themselves around telephone poles.
Waiting for nightfall when IÕd gather
With virtual friends like a murder of crows
Each with age old stories to retell—sagas
Heard a thousand times and may hear
Again until I drop from old age or a lack of imagination.
Patience rides with each horse of the apocalypse,
portending kaleidoscope arcs around every corner,
in the middle of damp gutters hanging from eaves
on steep slate rooftops, LondonÕs gables,
Where our cameras keep focused on the horizon.
Expecting winds to shift, brollies to open
And Mary Poppins to fly in and fulfill
Childhood fantasies, reminding all present
Her practically perfect disposition should
Serve as a beacon for impatient people who
Live to fly kites, watch gardens grow,
Twirl roulette wheels, dream of true love,
Believe the global pandemic throatholdÕs temporary,
Anticipate normalcyÕs improbable return,
Gather in querulous mobs all Waiting for Godot.
sunrays as they sought
to blast though my bedroom skylight:
colorful, pictorial panels, twisting byzantine
labyrinths, ornamental gothic roundels—bold, yet austere medieval aesthetics.
Smoky ambers, moss greens, bloody magentas, tangerine yellows, dusty violets
diffuse SolÕs blazing beams in kaleidoscope spectrums
refracting, distorting opaque incandescence
delight eyes gazing up, I trace
wrapped, soldered casements:
© Sterling Warner
Bio: A Washington-based author, poet, educator, and Push Cart Nominee, Sterling WarnerÕs works have appeared in dozens of literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as In the Grove, The Flatbush Review, Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape, The Fib Review, the Atherton Review, and Metamorphoses. WarnerÕs has written five volumes of poetry: Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Edges, and Memento Mori: A Chapbook Redux. His first collection of fiction, Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories, debuted in August 202. In 2021, WarnerÕs sixth book of verse, SerpentÕs Tooth: Poems, is scheduled for publication midwinter in 2021.