fiction, poetry & more


by Thomas Piekarski

Paused upon a concrete walkway
this energized April morning
the scent of grapes tantalizes
as I gaze across an old stone bridge
and down at a gently roiling
Napa River tributary.

Pretty shallow, its water clear enough
to see rounded rocks at the bottom.
No fish are visible,
not even so much as a minnow.

My mind shifts to marketing,
then our cumbersome oligarchy.
Later I look up from the riverfront
at elegant Italianate architecture
along a proud promenade:
superb natural stone fronts
of shops, on top of them stacked
two stories, slick office suites
and plush condominiums.

The Wine Train careening down
tracks parallel to Soscal Avenue
toots three times in succession.

Noon approaches, it’s warming up,
sun now in full blossom.

Calamari at Napa Joe’s
popular sports bar and bistro
is only average, portion plentiful
yet it’s almost all batter,
the squid content minimal,
imported frozen from China,
thawed and deep fried, crunchy
but lacks any detectable seasoning,
and if not for delicious dipping sauce
would taste rather oily and bland.

I peruse the hills surrounding
a perpetually productive valley,
those hills green as any found
in Ireland this time of year.

What would to the layman appear
an eternally lush landscape
in a few months will revert
to the crispy brown tinderbox
it was when not long ago hundreds
of acres burned out of control
and peaceful neighborhoods
were completely incinerated.

A family of mallards frolicking
in water near the shore shudder,
dive and peck, wiggle, paddling
toward an inlet where eventually
they’ll dry off, lounge a while
then hop back onto their aquatic
dream carousel, whirl round,
round and round and round
again and again and again.


Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry and interviews have appeared in publications internationally, including Florida English Journal, Poetry Salzburg, Mandala Journal, Poetry Quarterly, Pennsylvania Literary Journal, and Boston Poetry Magazine. He has published a travel guide, Best Choices In Northern California. His most recent poetry books are Ballad of Billy the Kid, and Monterey Bay Adventures.

December 2019