Two Poems
The Hero's Journey

The day Bill Clinton sauntered
down the steps of Chez Panisse,
a crowd of one hundred
citizens from the tiny, breakaway
Republic of Berkeley
cheered him on
like he was the man
from Glad, spinning
into their country, a bellwether,
an Ozark tornado,
who has just received
his baptism in the holy waters
of Alice and could now
divine the sublime
difference between grits
and gratin, a man transformed,
who had seen
the delicate light
of arugula, whose
tongue still tingled
with tiramisu as
he looked west
towards his ancient
fate: the bustling
ghosts of Alcatraz,
the towers of the Golden
Gate were Circe
strode in stilettos
and a thong,
cracked her whip,
thrumming those thick
cables, humming
her come hither song.


14 fires
have burned up
and down our road
this hot summer. Arson. Of course
I think it's a conspiracy
to drive out the liberal
politician who lives
at the top of the hill
with his wife
and two children.

I've reason to think so,
after all,
the good people
of this town spray paint red hammer-
and-sickles on his campaign signs,
dump out buckets of nails
onto his driveway,
stop him in the Lucky's
parking lot waving
shotguns in his face.
In the shank of night,
they ring the politician out
of his sleep, threaten
to violate his wife, promise
to dismember his children.
The newspaper,
pledging allegiance
to big money from down south,
regards these incidents
as mere breaches,
of etiquette, refuses
to comment.
Our small town,
nestled in the pines,
dotted with churches,
filled with God-fearing
folk, is exemplary
at looking the other way.

As it turns out
I am wrong.
It's the neighbor woman-
empty eyed Oma
with the bird's nest of hair-
who's been setting the fires,
caught in the act
In a quarrel of manzanita,
on forest service videotape:
gas can and Bic lighter in hand,
as if she were gathering nuts in May.
The fool on our hill, Queen Mab
of our mountain,
I've seen her often-
careening in her dented
Continental, rumbling
down highway 193,
as if she hadn't a brain in the world.
Which is, I guess, the problem after all-
The newspaper says
she was kicked
in the head
by a horse.
That explains it.

Now, I can forgive a woman
who was unfortunate enough
to have her head
caved in by a horse.
But do you suppose
that the others-
the graffiti painters,
nail droppers,
gun brandishers,
the crank callers
and newspaper editors,
the good people
of our town,
do you suppose
that somewhere along the way
they've all happened across
that same horse?

Moira Magneson