From soul to paper: Week 1 of The Tribune's 14th annual celebration of National Poetry Month

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneApril 7, 2014 

We received more than 300 poems this year for "From Soul to Paper," our annual ode to poetry. As in past years, we asked San Luis Obispo’s poet laureate to review all of the entries and select the best works for publication. We’ll publish these on Sundays throughout the month of April in Central Coast Living. Thank you to everyone who submitted a poem, with special gratitude to San Luis Obispo poet laureate Jerry Douglas Smith for reading them all. — Tribune staff

Choosing poems for this first Sunday was difficult because of their good quality.

Poets try to say the unsayable — try to describe feelings, an impossible task. But it benefits us all to express ourselves even when no one else ever sees our journals or writing.

Imagine the number of people in the world who are forbidden free speech, never express their feelings or, unfortunately, are never listened to. Imagine the frustration of those who can’t speak or write for various reasons. Freedom of conscience and expression are priceless.

— Jerry Douglas Smith, San Luis Obispo poet laureate


Jeanie Greensfelder, San Luis Obispo


Old enough to light wood matches,

Patti stuffs trash and newspapers into her family’s wire bin.

She invites me to watch —

she slides open the oblong box and unveils

magic sticks lined like soldiers in rows.

Patti picks one, strikes it several times

before it bursts blue orange. Her face glows a

s she ignites paper that curls as it burns.

Patti lights more soldiers because she can.

I’m jealous. My body stirs to the heat

of the blaze signaling coming of age

and smoky roads ahead.



Pam Stolpman, Nipomo


Those long days I’d be lured out

at dawn by olive mist that tasted

of possibilities. I came to crave

that quicksilver dart in hollows

of the tall grass, its delicious startle,

and its signs of secret paths to follow.

From sweet damp underpinnings

of the lawn, I’d cull jade snakes

into glaucous Mason jars they’d

struggle up. Their pale underbellies

in dysrhythmic hitch against the glazing

made the same sound as weeping

willows brushing the ground, an asking

to be held. And I would gather them

into my jacket pockets where they

laced my fingers like another’s hand,

crept from cuff to collar as I waited

for that first parting of my hair.



Linnaea Phillips, San Luis Obispo


I see you in my binocular rounds, power 8x.

You’re early to the hill, morning’s just begun.

You stand, a silhouette against the sky,

a wayang-stick puppet behind the mist.

Then, too quickly for my glasses,

you jump, scrabble, and thrash.

I lose you. Then you pose,

arms outstretched, legs stanced wide.

You move, calisthenics or absolutions?

Are you Leonardo da Vinci’s man,

Vitruvian Man, squared within his circle;

or are you man trapped in classic proportions?



Elise Grover, Arroyo Grande


He saw her today unexpectedly,

The woman he once loved passionately.

He recalled her natural charm and grace,

That a beauty mark adorned her face,

And the hue of the maple tree matched her tresses;

O, how he fancied her caresses.

But, after she played out her flirting game,

She pursued her dream of artistic fame.

She tossed him aside, no kind words were spoken;

Bereft of her love, his young heart was broken.

Now, Time had avenged him for what she did,

Though it veiled her in twilight, he saw what it hid.

A face that was wrinkled, and hardest to bear,

In place of the beauty mark was a mole sprouting hair.

He was emboldened, the tables had turned.

He wanted her to feel the sting of being spurned.

He approached her. Then abruptly, his triumph was denied.

A car pulled up beside her and she got inside.

A disquieting mood enveloped him as she vanished out of sight;

Sly Time gave him just her beauty to remember through the night.



Namasta Conner, Templeton


Daughters over grassy hills

Blow dandelions through their hair

Mothers suckle milklings ’til

The tulips burst and settle there

Turning of the fecund soil

Brings squashes round as earthen suns

Burning of the leaves of Fall

Brings quiet ash when season’s done

Looking back on loves I’ve known

Through antique windows waved by time

Like sugar peas up trestles climb

Are memories and gardens grown



Judith Bernstein, Arroyo Grande


They say cats answer to their names

because it means one thing: food.

I beg to differ.

When my cat Ulu hears his name,

he comes to me asking for affection:

a scratch alongside his ears,

a rub of the long black fur

on his arched back,

a soft touch on his tawny underside.

Then maybe food or water run in a bathtub

since he disdains bowls.

And next to be let outside to chew

on the greenery and explore the garden

and finally, a short snooze on his favorite chair.

Isn’t that what we all want

when a friend calls our name?

A pat on the back, a hug,

then maybe a shared meal

with fine wine to drink, a stroll

through a garden full of surprises,

and eventually, sleep in a comfortable bed.



Monique Donovan, Atascadero

Winter, spring, summer, fall

When I first knew you were in my tummy

My favorite season of all

A tiny seed about to grow Your beautiful blue eyes I did not know

Will you be my baby girl or boy?

Either way, what love what joy

Sharing dreams and endless laughs

Your Mommy and Daddy’s

Baby, this love will always last



Frederick Thom, San Luis Obispo


When January’s days went all awry

That winter came a day before the cold

A day before the dimming of the sky

A day before the families were told

Into the rock a baker’s dozen went

A blast collapse it sealed the methane in

The bolts they hammered ’til but one was spent

And with their rescue keening could begin

Rough hands have gripped the knowing of the cause

Have gripped the knowing of the men to blame

The fingers scratched the surface without pause

And found or made conspiracy of shame

Now that the hands have done their righteous chore

Prepare the August earth to take two more



Carolyn Harrison, San Miguel


Ah my dear, is there loneliness

More lonely than distrust?

And yet, the deed, it now is done

And deal with it we must.

I watched the strangest morning moon

Float gibbous in the sky

Imagined it might be portent —

Unread with jaded eye.

The young soothsay to start again

But love, we’ve little time

And our vows in truth did not include

a regularity of rhyme.

If kindness be all that’s left

Is that so bad a thing?

I do not long for solitude

nor for silence it might bring.

Joy whispers from within these walls —

Acceptance, a small quiet room.

Come my Love, Now is all

we have — and this moment Truth enough.



Bill Roberts, Atascadero


Blooms flower, birds soar,

Frogs jump, snowpacks are melting

Kings go off to war.



Josephine Redlin, Arroyo Grande


That day I had been playing Hide-and-Seek

with my toddler granddaughter, Joanna.

“There you are!” I exclaimed when

I found her. Her blue eyes danced

with excitement as we both squealed.

Then her friend, David, came to play.

Each time she found him, she shouted

with the breathless joy: “There he are!”

“No honey,” I corrected,

“Now we say, ‘there he is!’ ”

She shot back a puzzled look,

But continued with “There he are!”

Oh well, I sighed. Let them play,

grammar lessons can wait.

The next day after we watched

a British production video

of The Tale of Peter Rabbit,

I asked: “Did you enjoy Peter Rabbit?”

“Not Peder Rabbit, Grandma,

it’s Pee-tah Rabbit,” she said with an

imperious air, mimicking the crisp

staccato of the British pronunciation.



Anne Candelaria, Morro Bay


For the gift of sitting in the early sun,

I give you thanks, Lord.

Morning comes with her wagon of surprises:

banjo music spilling over the fence

from a new neighbor, a climbing old rose

bush hiding the player,

an ocean breeze arriving unimpeded

through a space across the way

once filled by two magnolias.

Why did they cut them down,

I ask myself, but myself, as usual,

has too many questions

and so few answers.

What I can do is notice the path

of beauty, opening up before me

each dawn.

I sit still.

Quiet as a nun.



Glenna Luschei, San Luis Obispo


I leave them for the last of my chores

and by the time I finally shake out

their flakes they are no longer hungry,

rising to the top only out of politeness.

“Can’t you come back tomorrow, but early?”

they would say. Is procrastination as bad

as pride, presuming we have all the time

in the world, and when we finally arrive

at midnight, knowing our nutrients flow

unheeded over the weir? Or seeing

our children near sleep, eyes half-hooded,

still waiting for their story?



Cynthia Linn Bates, Atascadero


the anchovies lay beside the road

just stinking like a dead old toad

not fit for eating they lay alone

without a pizza to call their own

I threw them there, I’ll take the blame

discarded them, yet feel no shame

my husband’s order on the side

he’ll never know about their ride

out the window, on my way home

left by the road to stink alone

I think no fish should be permitted

to sit with cheese or olives, pitted

with sausage or Canadian bacon

they’ll ruin the pizza that you’re making

you want anchovies left alone

then be the one to drive them home



Carol Pappas, San Luis Obispo


Caregiver 24/7 Helpline 800-272-3900

It’s a disease, not the person doing it.

Say it once, then repeat it differently.

Keep their path bright and lighted.

Want to be happy or right?

Eat lots of dark chocolate.

Keep instructions simple.

Stay social and physical.

“Thou shalt not argue.”

Give simple answers.

Use “tell me more.”

Join their journey.

Agree or distract.

Laugh a lot often.

Make it fun!



Nina Grossman, Los Osos


Morning breaks with molten lava colored clouds in the eastern horizon.

Streets void of motion; empty caravans, sleeping cars, dormant hopes for the new day.

Up the hill toward the scent of horses, the bray of coyote, shuffling branches.

Dripping moisture from the eucalyptus grove on the corner.

Here is another level of habitation, the world with a view of such breathtaking and iconic scenery that my spirit awakens, the gift of energy emerging.

Easy chores: throwing hay, mixing mash, setting buckets. A carrot for those noticing.

Another early morning of routine, not drudgery at all.

Purpose, space, quiet beauty and horses in my neighborhood.



Diane Johnson, Paso Robles


One day Martha Stewart will go entirely too far

By saying clutter’s not good for the soul.

Well, Martha Stewart hasn’t seen my kitchen junk drawer

Which is totally beyond my control.

There are snippets of notes I’ll paw through one day

When I’ve lost an address that I need;

But of course after months and months in a drawer

They’ll be stained and too faded to read.

But there are pencils with nubbins of lead I can use,

And a couple of pens that will write;

There are bag-closing gizmos I someday may use;

You never can tell … I just might.

The scissors I use day in and day out

To open where my teeth cannot tear.

The chopsticks aren’t used, but nevertheless,

I like knowing they’ll always be there.

Loose change I suppose should be in my purse,

But I throw it in the junk drawer instead.

The matches? Who knows, the light may go out,

When the flashlight batteries are dead.

So there, Martha Stewart, get off your high horse

‘Cause my junk drawer is good for my soul!



Anthony Pannone, Templeton


After work and I need (my car needs) gas

stop at Circle K

regular unleaded $3.89

these California prices …

I grab a 25oz Bud

two packs of Munchies salted peanuts

think about a Snickers and Doritos

the man leaving bought two lotto tickets and an 18-pack

Debit or credit? she says

swipe the card and press green

punch the four-digit code

and press red and green again

She stares at Pot-O-Gold and Lucky 7s

never looks up or at me

only stares and sighs

and taps taps taps

Blue eyeliner

Black mascara

Blonde highlights

Fading tattoos

Have a good one, I say

We remain invisible.



Beverly Boyd, Los Osos


Elated consorts,

a gliding hawk pair,

twine figure eights

on rising air.

Slow wing beats thrust

their joy in tune

to trace lines winding

through cloudless blue.

They tug two pairs

of earthbound eyes

to play cat’s cradle

in paradise.



Lani Steele, Los Osos


Still I wear your ring,

pretty symbol of the love

you abandoned.

After forty years,

most of the memories

are painless.

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