Two Poems

by Don Thompson


Game Tray



On this not unseemly secular paten, not gold

but tight-stitched bunchgrass smooth as glass

and graced with a skein

of abstract geese spiraling outward,


women only and almost frenetic

tossed pitch-filled walnut half shells—

eight dice inlaid with abalone pips

and polished slick by shaking

year after year in cupped, calloused hands.


A click-clack more like pig knuckles

on a Roman shield

than snake eyes against a brick wall

or mahjong racket—no less urgent,

but muffled and barely audible

above the shooter’s nonstop supplications.





The lake only ankle deep and cobblestoned

with clams, women

could wade almost out of sight,

scooping them up with their toes.


Hundreds of mollusks arrayed on edge,

cheek to cheek and rictus down

on a bed of dry reeds

with another layer spread above—


a pyre.  And as it burned,

water seeping out steamed them:

Better than Boston succulence,

savored with a pinch of saltgrass salt.

Don Thompson has been writing about the San Joaquin Valley for over fifty years, including a dozen or so books and chapbooks. Recently he has been concentrating on the Yokuts, the indigenous people of the region. For more info and links to publishers, visit his website at


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