When a call goes out for poems from a wide area, one can expect variety. This years entries did not disappoint. Many contributors wrote in rhyme, some were caught in memory, while others reveled in the natural beauty of our county. From a red bow tie to the run of grunion, from a post-traumatic peach to a chain-link shelter, I hope you will feel the presence of a singular voice in each poem.
The late 19th-century poet Gerard Manley Hopkins honored the sound of each word. He advised those who read poetry to do so slowly, strongly, marking the rhythms and fetching out the syllables.
We invite you to meet these poets in their poems, written from soul to paper, and cheer them on with your reading.
Bonnie Young, San Luis Obispo poet laureate
Holly Martone, Paso Robles
Your silence haunts me.
In my deepest dream
no words can express
your essential truth.
Only sounds and feelings
speak from a language
of the soul.
You are so quiet
and full of power.
I stop to listen
only breathe in
Post Traumatic Peach
Anne R. Allen, Los Osos
I found a bruised, forgotten peach
beneath fall apples in a bowl.
Craving one last summer-taste,
I bit between its wounds
into flesh so succulent I bit again,
and twice again
juice running down my chin
until my teeth sank into hidden rot
that ringed its stony heart.
I washed juice from my face, hands, breast
sickened by my own peach-lust.
But oh, my unforgotten love,
Ive never tasted fruit so sweet!
Jane Brechler, Morro Bay
A curl of red fur tucks into the poppies
Heart to heart with the ground.
Radar ears turn toward my footsteps.
I see you, Julio.
Do you listen to the gopher drums beating in the tunnels?
Do they know you wait patiently, feigning sleep, at their door?
Do they know you just sharpened your claws on the fence post?
I think not.
Soon, another gopher will be missing in action.
And thanks to you, another bulb will go uneaten.
Another daffodil will bloom.
A quiet cat will frolic with a toy that requires no batteries.
And gopher patrol will put on gloves and clean up the carnage.
Chris Schulz, Atascadero
I awoke from my slumber
At the light of dawn
The air chilly and inviting
And my eyes, drawn to the glow of the moonlight morning
Where I discovered wonder in the cloudless silver sky
I peered through the bare and gnarled branches of the old oak tree
To witness the full moon surrendering gracefully
To the lavender shadows of the Santa Lucia Range
Its color, an opalescent
And its glimmer, like a flame
I cupped my hands, and held them to her light
And there she was, now a pearl in my hands
And I knew in that instant
That this was like a recitation of the litany
As if I had kneeled on bended knees to pray
Silence in the Dunes
M.L. Byrd, Arroyo Grande
Thick air shrouds the endless, weather-sculpted drifts.
Bird broods sing joyous songs of freedom.
Bees hum their monotonous tunes of industry.
Lilliputian crabs creep along on mysterious missions.
Lupine dance in the breeze and reach for the secreted sun.
Cat track byways intersect then vanish over divergent knolls.
The unsociable lizard stops and starts, seeking elusive warmth.
A man and a boy once caroused among these denizens of the dunes.
The man returns now alone.
His eyes spy not their old companions.
His ears hear not their once familiar greetings.
His heart is as dark and cold and lifeless as the settling fog;
His spirit as barren as the expanse before him.
Seconds of a Face
Anthony Tripi, Cambria
This is all they want you to see of the dead,
pictures on a screen, seconds of a face,
some nights four, some nights six, tonight eleven,
this moment of a photo
all they will ever have,
all we will ever see.
We dont see mouths of dirt, eyes stunned
death could have anything to do with them,
dare touch their skin, nothing
of sounds chunked out of throats,
nothing of whats left, shrapnel gouged,
someone forced his hands under, lifted,
not cargoes of coffins assemblylined at Dover,
shipped from a war they dont want you to know
where death gets camouflaged as life
and our blindness gives life to death.
Bruce Henderson, Grover Beach
Clambering among smooth stones
we lean over to look down
into little welts of wonder
where anemones shrink
from our probing fingers
snails glow like iridescent pearls
tiny crabs lurch drunkenly along
an orange starfish sprawls in a sunbeam
and welded barnacles bunch on the rock.
These small creatures spend their whole lives
in their ocean microcosms;
the more adventurous, risking everything
migrate to the neighboring tidepool
emigrating to what must seem a new world
and we are like giants or gods
gazing down from airy heavens above
sometimes reaching down to rearrange their lives
not knowing whether their existence
is due in part to an accident of the tides
or is part of some master plan
any more than we know this about ourselves
as we swim through our arbitrary time
Francesca Nemko, San Luis Obispo
Four pubs a day shut down in the U.K.
And thats a lot of beer
Down the drain.
Could it be the economy?
Or are the Brits getting righteous?
Turning away from
The pub every day
Learning to pray
For a higher high
Just one more try
To stay high and dry.
Oh, no, never
Theyre British, God Save the Queen
And the beer
And the ale and the stout.
Dont put the lights out
On this grand and illustrious
God Save the Pubs
The Harmonizing Hum of Wind
Abby Milligan, Arroyo Grande
The harmonizing hum of wind
Pushes the flowers into a hug
And awakens the unconscious mind
To a world full of unseen beauty
Wandering underneath the lonely skies
The kiss of each flower upon my leg
Puts me into a humble daze
The birds whistle their knowledge to one another
And playfully dance with the breeze
Looking onto the hill dressed in green
It wears a willow tree as its hat
I sit upon the sturdy roots
Listening to what it teaches
The clouds above mimic my thoughts
And disappear with a blink
A Courtier Carries the Moon on His Wand
Lani Steele, Los Osos
Long have I traveled this realm
Of moonlight and hidden magic
Naught is wrought in daytimes bright,
Sunlight summons all to play
Moonlights when I work my way:
The moon my scimitar scepter,
The moon my moody mistress,
Queen of this Kingdom of Night
Where I am forever sorcerer, and jester.
Donna Arozena, Los Osos
Black out of blackness,
Mountains take form,
Muted colors seep into
Egos dissolve into
The night like images of
Fury etched in flame.
As the shooting stars
Descend into their
A ball of fire leaps
Across the sky and
Deposits a day.
Donna Crocker, Cambria
Menstrual Moon splays surging surf
Silver slivers swirl to shore
She twirls her tail into the sand
He joins her for their pas de deux
Minstrel Moon sings Reveille
Rhythm ripples to the shore
Released by movement of the tide
A baby grunion finds the sea
This is the dance of life
A Red Bow Tie
Jeff Bringle, San Luis Obispo
She sits alone by her garden window, watching the raindrops dance on the daffodils
Closing her eyes, she takes another sip of tea
Theres a knock at the door and there he stands, holding two white roses in his hands
An old man in a Sunday Go-To-Meetin suit and a red bow tie
She dont know where shes seen him before,
but theres love in his eyes and comfort in his smile
He pulls up a chair and sits down by her side
After all these years shes all he lives for, every Sunday after church he comes to see her
And when he turns to leave, theres a tear in his eye as he kisses her goodbye
Morning comes, the sun shines brightly, but she couldnt sleep at all last night
Theres a knock at the door, the nurse walks in and takes her by the hand
Squeezing it softly, she looks in her eyes, Late last night the angels came
for the man in the Sunday Go-To-Meetin suit and a red bow tie.
quietly sobbing, she holds on tightly to the faded old picture in the weathered old frame
of a happy young couple on their wedding day
the girl in a gown holding two white roses,
the boy in a Sunday Go-To-Meetin suit and a red bow tie
Tribute to a Weed
Barbara MacDonough, Cambria
How tall and strong and green you are,
In my little garden plot.
Why is it that the things I want to grow
With diligent care, with spray and hoe
I press forward the attack.
But you thou great ungracious weed,
Your stubborn root and sturdy seed
My feeble efforts outweigh.
Perhaps Ill have my dainty blooms
Elizabeth Buckner, Templeton
Needing food for her famished chicks
wheeling, circling, searching
from her aerial view
the red-shouldered hawk
spotting prey is on her way
to the kill
chasing, diving, swooping
at the red racer
slithering and sidewinding
as fast as muscle, skin and scale can skim
across several yards of sand
twining itself into the shelter
of a chain link fence
laced with sweet scented
of honeysuckle vine
and with the flick of a tongue
the racer no longer prey
snatching a small sparrow
perching on the flowering fence
silencing sweet song in seven seconds
Bert Forbes, San Luis Obispo
Wild, searing color
Beauty saturates minds eye.
Life should not be dull.
Sunday Mass, The Pacific
E.J. Gore, Paso Robles
Shining the sea
Rushes forward to speak
In ruffled roar upon the sand
Its only litany.
As three dolphins arc
And offer up a prayer
Of shimmering spray
Then up from far below
A shape and spout explodes
With a great Amen
As deep as all eternity.
Will Jones, San Luis Obispo
Red ripe New Jersey tomatoes,
three pounds for half a dollar!
Sweet corn, sweet corn, ripe peaches and plums!
The huckster drove down the narrow alley
calling out his summer temptations,
his strong voice echoing and beckoning
in the red brick canyons like a Sirens song.
The women poured out the basement doors
in their aprons, their hands wet with dishes or wash,
carrying small snap purses with just enough change
to transform another predictable dinner
into a fresh and sumptuous summer feast.
The tanned huckster, flashing his white teeth
and practiced smile, the one the ladies liked,
his fast hands weighing on a hanging scale,
brown bagging in a magic flash, like a shell game carny.
As the women retreated, one by one,
back to their days work,
his voice drifted and faded
around the next corner, into the next canyon,
Red ripe New Jersey tomatoes,
Three pounds for half a dollar!
Sweet corn, sweet corn, ripe peaches and plums!