Tom Goff is an instructional assistant in the Reading and
Writing Center at Folsom Lake College. He is the author of two
previous poetry chapbooks, and of poetry book reviews and other
articles in such periodicals as Rattlesnake Review,
Poetry Now, and Jacket Magazine. A professional
trumpet player, Tom is married to poet and artist Nora Laila
Tom Goff Poems
Changing the Seismograph
B.F. Loomis Ranger Station, Lassen Volcanic National Park
Lore, shouted by ranger-hatted Dave Ashcraft
through window panes in a basalt seismograph booth:
a micro-Washington Monument stands in for Earth,
one quiverable yet obelisk-stolid shaft.
This vibrates a stiff inertial cylinder drum,
fixed to an armature of small needles sketching
gramophone-fashion along a bigger drum-etching
of what the beneath world mutters as it rumbles.
State-of-the-art in nineteen-twenty-nine.
A scroll of seismic paper, sheer glassine,
gets changed each twenty-eight hours. Just a gear-spin
rotisserie-style clicks a fresh drum down in
or lifts the last-used one up and out for study.
[Dave, confiding:] “Where applied science is pure research,
good in itself; and to me, a thing of wonder.”
Odd, how the glassine flimsy endures as if sturdy
its paperclipped trial-by-smoking, by kerosene fire
—so many Turin Shrouds, so much subsurface thunder.
Fanny Brawne Responds
I gazed in stealth at my fond lover’s book
and saw your image in it, O bright star.
But as I read, the singeing heat it took
from you shot off the page, and, with not far
to pounce, leaped into my abashed red cheek.
He writes that one who comprehends your light
must translate your steadfastness into meek
and uncomplaining watchfulness: all right.
But I must draw the line at his intent
to “pillow”—that’s what he calls suffocate—
meaning his genius-heavy head has bent
my chest as brick stacks bend a pewter plate.
It’s one thing to extol my grace, my fair ways;
another thing when love’s heft blocks my airways.