Poetry by Thomas Piekarski

Stowed Away

Catholics at Carmel Mission church
kneel or rise at the priest’s command.
His sermon revolves around
the aged Zechariah visited
by angel Gabriel arrived with word
that God would be giving him
a son soon. Zechariah wilts, doubtful,
as his wife is too old to bear child.
So God takes away his speech until
a son John the Baptist is born.

And then the priest conducts
an adoring congregation
in electrifying harmonies
drawn from various Psalms.

Along Highway One, a few miles
north of Big Sur, river water
flowing into the oncoming ocean
is completely submerged.
A mind-bogglingly tall rickety old
iron bridge spans a wide gap
in the mountains where that river
merges. From the side of the road
the seacliff drops a sheer 1300 feet
down onto whitewashed waves.

A mile or so above
Half Moon Bay where
freezing ocean water
laps against boats
at Princeton Harbor,
a hamlet called Moss Beach
is a horticultural bonanza,
private, isolated alcove
where during Prohibition
the bootleggers
would unload their bounty
of rotgut moonshine to supply
thriving speakeasies
along the Central Coast.

They stowed the booze
at Frank’s Place.
Frank the fink who paid off
cops and was never arrested.

Pescadero Beach is abundantly
covered with piles of driftwood,
enough to have a huge bonfire.
I speculate the Japanese tsunami
responsible for landing it here.
Beachgoers build little driftwood
fortresses for a lark, knowing well
how ephemeral such structures.

Black and white period photos
show Carmel Mission in almost
utter ruin, reduced to one
building, the small basilica,
at that time in great decay.
Thus the present structures
may be considered fake.
The church in which
the faithful pray
but a lovely reproduction,
retro Alta Californiana.

The hiker at Big Sur River bridge,
excited, approached me and asked
if I’d seen the daredevil who ran
to the middle of the span
and jumped, parachuting down
hundreds of feet to disappear.

He had caught this chilling act
on his cell phone camera, but lost
track as the parachute vanished
into the womb of the deep canyon.
He was eager to know
had the parachutist landed safely?
Did anyone come to retrieve him?
How could he possibly get back?

Bootlegger Frank’s bar in Moss Beach
has survived for decades, constant
renovations rendering it an in spot
for dining and entertainment, renamed
The Distillery. A ghost they call
the Blue Lady haunts it to this day.
She prowls the lounge, restaurant
and oceanfront grounds, at times
seen frolicking in the gentle surf
that roils and breaks upon the beach
at Shark Reef Cove some 200 feet
below. Unsinkable Shark Reef Cove
where the waves splash and fan out,
dazzle then fizzle like fireworks.

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About Thomas Piekarski

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His theater and restaurant reviews have been published in various newspapers, with poetry and interviews appearing in numerous national journals, among them Portland Review, Main Street Rag, Kestrel, Scarlet Literary Magazine, Cream City Review, Nimrod, Penny Ante Feud, New Plains Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Muse-an International Journal of Poetry, and Clockhouse Review. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices In Northern California, and Time Lines, a book of poems. He lives in Marina, California.