Jeff Ewing is a writer from Northern California. His essays, poems, and stories have appeared in Utne Reader, the San Francisco Chronicle Magazine, ZYZZYVA, Crazyhorse, Arroyo Literary Review, and Southwest Review, among others. He lives in Sacramento with his wife and daughter.

Picnic Day

Jeff Ewing

On Picnic Day, horsey girls stand among

bunting and balloons outside the vet school,

         dust softening the high lines of their cheeks.


When I was a kid, there was a cow tethered

inside with a sheet of smudged plexiglass

         fastened over a two-foot hole in her side;


as she obliviously munched, we watched

the hay work its way through her stomachs,

         cascading in green rills from one to the next.


The clockworks exposed, was the apparent idea:

See how simple the machinery? How transparent

         and understandable our primitive mechanics?


Before you moved to Stinson, then Bolinas,
and finally a shaded grave in Olema, you carved

         your initials on the underside of a lab bench.


Others have taken your place since—
their hair smelling of alfalfa and Blu-Kote,

         their bitten nails mooned with paddock dirt,


their eyes rimmed red from crying—
but when the tour moves on, I find your M and T

         still gouged inexpertly into the knee-rubbed wood.


You were in a hurry; people were watching,

smiling at the comical way your tongue

         bobbed in concentration between your teeth,


filing this image away to recall in comfort
years later when you’re safely settled somewhere

         and all this madness is behind you.

Skin Tags

Jeff Ewing


I tape a piece of cotton soaked
in vinegar to my chin, another to my neck

where my shirt collar rubs.

Around the time the first crows
begin to return to the pines across the street,

the little knots dry and fall away.

Black feathers accumulate slowly
in the dust and dead needles under the trees.

At sunset the crows caw and caw

and settle reluctantly onto the branches.

Impatient for something, they note the hawks’

grace and compose in their shrill voices

a song in which they are the envied.
At a certain hour of the night, it begins to sound

like laughter. More skin tags bloom

where a mantle of fur once draped me.
Nature, I console myself in hard-won aloofness,

has made her fair share of mistakes.


Low Tide, Pigeon Point

Jeff Ewing


I lower one foot

then the other,

tentatively testing

the calloused rock

unveiling careless

and deliberate

as the cliffs behind

must have once.

Past eel ladders,

scuttling things

hurrying off ahead,

the sun cupped

in each passed pool

thrusting out a

trembling mirror.

I can see the

bend of the earth,

sky peeling from

the sea’s shoulder

in rime and mist.

Why did we ever

leave? you ask.


For this: to look

back from feet

toughened on

moonbent shells,

to cheer and mourn

the half-spent day,

the going out

and always away.