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Eileen Eccles

Crossing the Great Meadow

Starting at the Farm we hike across the Great Meadow
toward the university, the ultra-liberal City on a Hill. 
Santa Cruz sweeps out below us—the mission church,
the upper windows in buildings flaring back sun,
the wooden roller-coaster rattling on the edge of the sea,
the engineered violation of the outward thrusting wharf,
the black freeway ribbon edging the arch of the bay.

We walk single-file as the meadow gradually rises
through the wheat-blond grasses of mid-summer. 
Insects music is all around—the buzzing of flies,
the click and whirl of grasshopper, the rasping of crickets.
The air has such obscene clarity, as we sweat upward,
I think how wonderful it would be to lie unclothed
on the hill and be licked by the blue tongue of the sky.

And through it all, you are telling me how both sides
of the abortion issue have a point, and how difficult it is
to resolve the intransigence of narrowed-minded factions.
Tell me about it, I think.  Do I need to hear this today? 
I’ve washed enough windows to understand the ambiguities
of seeing too clearly both sides of some streaked issue. 
I understand the intransigence of smudges and water spots. 
Let’s not talk today.  Later, I promise we will settle everything.

Notice the blue-bellied lizards that scurry off the trail
are miniaturized fading echoes of flightless pterodactyls.
The rocks that push up from the field are splotched
with lichen in burnt orange, moss green, goldenrod and gray
as if small paint-pots had been hurled against them in anger.

And through it all, you are telling me how tedious it is
stooping to pick field crops all day at a piece-work wage.
How children labor in sweatshops to keep costs low.
How most people on earth sleep in hunger each night.
Tell me about it, I think.   I’ve done laundry for decades.
I make beds daily.  I’ve stood in checkout lines for half
of my life, so tell me about tedium and piece-work wages. 
I’m never hungry, so I feel guilty enough, if that satisfies. 
Can’t we not say it just now?  Later, I promise I’ll atone.

Notice there’s a drowsy hawk drifting above this meadow 
that time has softened to the contours of a woman’s body. 
In the heat, this stretching oak we pass under smells of wine vats.
On some branches, the leaf-moths leave nothing but lacy veins.
Oak-balls litter the ground waiting for a child’s discovery.
That beetle on the trunk is exactly the size and color of a date.

And through it all, you tell me about the social cost of leisure,
and how the earth is stained by man—the stink of his factories,
the smear of his oil spills, the bareness of his clear-cuts,
the scars of his roads, the sterility of his asphalt parking lots.
That’s too much, I think.  You're telling me about myopia?
You’re telling me about lost opportunity, and unexamined values
when I’ve been married to you twelve years?  Shut up for once.

The air is silk; the sky is light-blasted.  Take my hand in yours.
I’ve brought fingers and thighs; you’ve brought lips and tongue. 
If you’d pay some attention, hold me in your eyes and kiss me,

I’d be over the top in moments, and you might learn something.
Diner at Zelda's

Zelda’s is wrapped in late afternoon stillness as we sit
         watching the fog crawl over the naked back of the bay.
Pelicans slide effortlessly with wing tips inches off a lifting wave.
A silent ripple moves down the line as each flaps once in turn.
My heart resonates to that fluid rhythm no one else seems to hear.
Across the deck, nearly abandoned in the clinging chill,
         a waiter sets down glass mugs at the table between lovers.
Cappuccino steam writhes enticingly between them
         in eddies of immodestly coupling swirls. 
She blushes, I imagine, as my mind melts out of focus
         and slipstreams away
                     like a line of pelicans sliding silently into fog.
I feel some tuneless hum from her cling to the evening air
         like a breathless message lingering in a phone line
         for moments after his long-awaited call has come.
But she turns and reaches
          to an empty table only to take a clean spoon,
         as I begin to realize the resonating hum I sense
                     lifts from somewhere long-still within me,
                                 from something recently come-alive.
This time, it’s not some other in-love she across the patio
         that breathlessly swirls out of the gathering fog
         to slip above the swells with effortless beauty.
This time, incredibly, I’m certain it’s me on motionless wingtip.
I glide on the memory of your touch that reforms itself once again,
         into the single heartbeat moving though pelicans,
         into the intimate twisting of the cappuccino steam.
We wrap so near one another in bed,
         we speak longing invitations in telephone whispers,
         as the touch of your lips on my naked back
                     moves like a wave-swell down a spine of pelicans.
Now your fingers brush mine on the table,
         and reawaken me to the evening chill at Zelda’s.
You reawaken me to our dawn love that still lingers
                     like a breathless message between us,
         clinging to the air that resonates between our bodies
                     like the tuneless hum of a long-awaited call
                     that at last has come to me in my turn,
         lifting my body to effortless flight,
         loosening my mind to slipstream
                     through the evening’s fog-soft memories.


At Gayle's

Amid the crush at Gayle’s and waiting
   for the number pulled to be called out,
waiting with the other civilized consumers
       of sticky buns and carrot cake—
waiting among those who smell of product
      who shine with product,
      who take pride in wearing product
         with labels and logos exposed,
      who wonder how it feels to be as blond
         as she who buys the sesame-seed twist
         as she whose body is as perfect
            as the love I hunger for,
            but whose lips are as black-glossed
               as one of Lugosi’s brides—
waiting among those
      who wonder what it might be like
         to take such a radical left turn
            away from normal shades
            without second thoughts,
waiting among those
      who guess at normal each day
      who try for normal,
         and who somehow fail—
waiting among those
      who’d like some sustenance to hold
      but settle for a loaf of sourdough
         when their number is called out

Eileen Eccles

Eileen Eccles was born and schooled in Santa Cruz. A few of her poems have been published in local journals. She's written poems as a pastime since high school where she discovered that fitting words together in a poem was most often more entertaining than struggling with a crossword.  These poems are from a group, which share Santa Cruz locales as settings.


Spring 2012

John Chandler
Alta Ifland

Shiloh Hellman
Thad Nodine
Patrice Vecchione
Stephen Woodhams

Dane Cervine
Eileen Eccles
Peggy Heinrich

Lauren Crux

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