Keep Portland Beered

By Alan Weltzien


So why not pedicabs for hire

east of the River, circuit of up to

nine stops in a town boasting

dozens of craft microbreweries?

 

Two cabs, two young beer experts

quick with local history and opinion

pedal five of us from one brew pub

to the next as my desire races ahead

 

of my belly. After our first table

I switch from halfs to flights

and I fly over ranks of brews,

my eyes glaze hundreds of bottles,

 

my tongue discovers farmhouse ales,

Belgian style, I sigh and smack lips

as I lose track of names, gradations of

hues and hops. My mouth clenches

 

against sour beers, too much for sour me

and I watch thin patrons, regulars

who, Melinda says, bike everywhere

rain or shine and whose waists,

 

therefore, don’t spread despite their loyalty.

By the fifth station I droop,

my palate dulled and body sodden

with suds. All those beers beyond reach,

 

those releases awaiting my mouth

and enthusiastic reviews. If there were

world enough and time. . .I swim out

of the ocean and we repair to an Ethiopian

 

restaurant to float food atop liquid middle earth.

Temple Grove

By Alan Weltzien


In the Girard Grove fat larches,

frost-tipped and black-skirted,

flaunt cold nights and past fires.

Eyes trace dead tapering points,

 

lightning rods thrust skyward

above dusky clutches of branches.

Sun fires the white sheen up high,

mute stark canopy offset by

 

ridged, scorched trunks, sign

of flaming heat over centuries past.

I stumble, neck tilted, transfixed

by a spangled tier

 

I have never seen. Suddenly, warming

air relaxes frost’s hold, a larch

releases a bright spray, fleeting November

hatch, a flutter of crystals that curve

 

and sparkle below robin’s egg blue

sky, a host that trails into vapor.

From another tree, a pulse of sprites

Like a firework near the year’s

 

short end as it droops and slides

beyond sight seconds after it bursts.

Western larches puff a benediction

on this still Sunday morning as I stroll after my friend.

 

A solitary woodpecker, cream-breasted,

taps a tree drum, irregular rhythm,

pauses as it walks up and around the trunk

then resumes, the rat-a-tat resonates

 

over kinnikinick my boots brush,

across the community of barked columns.

As my fingers chill inside my gloves

I hold my breath before the accompaniment.

Lunchtime

By Alan Weltzien


In the wide passageway at the assisted living

residents gather well before lunchtime,

drawn by tendrils of fried ham and baked

puddling that swirl past their nostrils,

 

a dampened clatter of pots and pans, of forks

and knives coming to rest aside white plates.

Wheechairs roll, others push their walkers

as noses and heads lift

 

in anticipation of high noon, each reaches

their assigned seat with assigned neighbors,

mostly women large or shrunk. Anything new?

Any new blouses or skirts or pants?

 

Likely not. Instead, familiar patterns and small bowls

of mounded compote, conversation nearly yesterday’s

or last week’s. Each salts or peppers

sparingly, makes some allowance for foibles.

 

After the day’s highpoint, reverse migration

and diaspora to rooms, to TV or crafts or

naps until the final gather. My mother-in-law,

I’m told, arrives last and lingers longest.

 

–Magnolia Place,

Union City, TN

 

Picking Blackberries

By Alan Weltzien


Every August, long-sleeved, I cushion bowl

on driftwood or sand as I strain upwards

lean into sand bank festooned with green

 

tendrils that arc out and down, a clotted

mass of branches covered with blackberries

green russet and purple, tight-packed.

 

Beach cries recede while my arm

lifts and shifts, left or right hand cupped

to catch what thumb and fingers gently pull.

 

You know what to pick. As the berries

sugar their nodes swell, double in size

and the berry grows heavy, ready to drop.

 

I release it just before gravity, clump

several in hand before I turn and cast

into bowl. Salt air dissipates as my nose

 

brushes sun-warmed leaves, a spring world

inhaled in high summer. I think of berry

harvests centuries past when Kikialos or

 

coastal Salish paddled in, filled matted baskets

smacked their lips over sweet cornucopia.

Now few pick. More successful than Tantalus

 

I pick a gallon in an hour or two as though

it’s all for me, the thorns only rarely

prick my flesh, remind me of the braided

 

story of pleasure and pain. I push off

the balls of my feet, extend my reach

and realize I am Tantulus, condemned

 

to miss most, my purple-stained fingers

fall short of waves of branches, legions

of plump berries untouched, left to rot or drop.

 

After arms or legs ache I gather bowl,

sand scrub at water’s edge as my tongue

tastes jam or fresh cobbler, a berry slurry

 

anchoring islands of sweet browned biscuit

on which a mound of vanilla settles,

cool white runoff puddles the hot blue-black.