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Michael J. Vaughn



Long before I intellectualized
everything into a
windstorm of rods and cones
I recall

standing in the rain
watching a slick of oil as it
snakes down the gutter like a
long, liquid cypress tree.

Framing the surface to a
lunchbox-size lake,
I spot a single pockmark landing and
reverse the telescope

winding it back on a
kitestring path to the clouds
where it balances in the vapor like an
English riding champion
waiting for gravity to deliver its
unassailable marching orders

Around the corner my gutterstream
breaks loose, a centrifugal fan
fingering the asphalt for flaws and seams
tracking south to an unseen ocean

I picture myself on a beach
six months later.
I spy my single drop on a
sea lion’s nose and exclaim,
“Friend! How are you?
You’re looking well.”

At what height did I stop
watching the rain?
Five-two? Four-foot-eight?

Short enough only today, only now
to set aside my junk mail
see a thing for a thing and
inventory the small dramas at my feet.




Salieri tut-tutting Mozart at the
volleyball match and
the apartments so regally named

Duxbury, Cambridge, Wilsonion

Armed with a ballcap
scouring the treetops for
bald eagles make this special make this
deeper than a looped-over cowpath to the
library the coffeehouse the
bookstore the café the
biblioteque the roasting company like a
volleyball match like a

bald eagle at a piano
pecking out Figaro
string over string in a chickenwire weave
mixing up the streets to
cheat the demon backtrack

Tacoma Yakima Ruston McCarver the

boxcar line the salmon fry the
raccoon wood and the
bald eagles hanging in the air like

I roost at the Windsor regally named and
scour the mailbox for bald eagles

Salieri was no slouch.




God bless the Japanese
the elderly ceramicist
Steve the mechanic

who have conspired to
give me a car that's
old enough to drink

spry enough to graze
the left side of America.

God bless the winemakers of
Sonoma County who have
felled the autumn trees of Pittsburgh

lain them in orange yellow
stripes over the green of
California's first rain

This my national flag
this my windsock antenna I
fly north, seeking sovereignty

your cool spiderwebbed song
a narrow whisper in the
creep of radio static


Michael J. Vaughn is the West Coast correspondent for theoperacritic.com, and author of the opera novel Gabriella's Voice (deadendstreet.com). He is a regular contributor to Writer's Digest.
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