From soul to paper: Week 2 of The Tribune's 14th annual celebration of National Poetry Month

San Luis Obispo - The TribuneApril 14, 2014 

More local poetry: Week 1 »

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. 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

We received a wonderful variety of poems representing just about every type from haikus to odes, rhymed and unrhymed poems, sonnets and slices of life.

We see the world in various hues, and everyone expresses that vision differently. Having an outlet for our expressions is extremely important, and The Tribune generously affords us that opportunity for National Poetry Month in April and Letters to the Editor throughout the year.

Writing helps us sense the world from the point of view of the various characters in our stories. Maintaining a curious, inquisitive mind about the nature of the universe continues to be agreat asset. — Jerry Douglas Smith, San Luis Obispo poet laureate

 

 

THE TOURIST

Samantha Lê, San Luis Obispo

 

I go on holiday to where the other lives —

so pretty in my new breast-baring dress

with matching shoes, the veins in my neck play

peek-a-boo. And I repeat party conversations

about mayflies — floating deaths and short lives.

Slow my breathing to the rhythm of grapevines.

I think I can stay here — fold the darkness

into rectangles and spheres, stuff it down

in a corner closet where there is a hole dug out

like a hollow tooth. Paint won’t stick to it,

pain won’t stick, not even memories or stains.

Everything just slides right off. I leave my face

on the Carrara marble floor and sand my sorrow

into the gray grout. Before these borrowed looks,

I had a face that you didn’t want to see, didn’t want

to guess at what you didn’t already know.

You say, soon even I will learn to forget …

 

THE POEM

Tom Hamilton, Morro Bay

 

I tried to write “The Poem” tonight,

As I sat here at the table

See I had read about your contest,

But my fingers just were not able,

Now my arms began to tremble,

And my mind, of course, went blank.

My eyes began to water,

Yes, a silly poem to thank! I tried to write my very best,

But, with all this tribulation,

Guess what I really need most,

Was just some Inspiration!

But I was simply all stressed out,

At just what I should write,

See my body ached all over,

And the feeling was not right. N

ow my pencil lead was broken,

And my pen ran out of ink,

I knew I couldn’t write “The Poem”

That I need more time to think!

 

GONE

Donna Arozena, Los Osos

 

The riders are gone — gone until spring —

Gone are the dancing broncos so wild.

The dappled greys and the chestnuts filed

Between these sagging chutes to bring

Cheers from all the crowds so gay.

But that was months ago and now

The ground is strewn with moldy hay,

While colorful big posters bow And swirl, caught by a dusty wind

That sweeps across the empty land

Where ropers and riders hoped to find

Big prize money or fanfares from the band.

Quiet prevails throughout the grounds,

Silent are the stands, the chutes, the cheers.

Gone are the horses, calves and steers

And just a memory their rowdy sounds.

 

UNTITLED

Nina Reinacher, Arroyo Grande

 

I want to sleep on the beach tonight,

Under the orange sky,

Where the waves may sing sweet answers

To the confusion locked inside.

Shifting waters, rumbling deep

Provide the seascape. I can’t sleep.

For the waves they answer

In their form Of ebbing and flowing,

Unsettled, torn,

Breaking, shaking,

Thunder-making,

Curling, whirling,

Rising, taking

Life and stillness as they beat

The shifting sands

Where I can’t sleep.

 

PASSAGE

Kathy Hansen, Santa Margarita

 

How do these atoms become sheep?

In the secret cathedral,

bathed in red and blue,

fed by timpani.

So begins the smallest echo of the mother’s drum

rocked in oneness with the world.

So grow bone and brain, limb and lung,

Until, circumscribed by safety,

it folds upon itself.

Until it bursts the sac and falls to earth,

suddenly less than everything,

baffled by clear light,

separate, hungry, cold, alone.

Shaking out angular limbs, learning itself,

it finds the stained glass colors of the womb

in droplets on the ground.

 

RIVER’S END

Tom Bauer, Morro Bay

 

Down the sculpted gorges the river rages,

Ruthlessly pursues its steep descent

Engulfing obstacles it engages

Until its seething anger is spent.

Sometime the violent journey must end.

Somewhere the water’s restless motion

Will pass the ravaged land and blend

With the endless waters of the ocean.

Soon it will edge cowardly towards

Its place in oblivion’s realm,

Where humbled by higher lords

It bows beneath its master’s helm.

The vast sea that is history’s womb

Will become a lowly river’s tomb.

 

ABSENCE

Norma Wightman, Morro Bay

 

His seventy-year-old baby sister

looks around. Floppy leather boots

stand by the bed, history books lie

stacked on the floor and a few

chocolate-covered macadamias

languish in a glass dish on the

bedside table. A favorite album,

Dean Martin’s All Time Favorites,

rests on a still turn table.

His absence like blank areas

in Rembrandt etchings creates an

illusion of form filling empty space.

 

CHICAGO SWELTER

Charles F. Thielman, Santa Maria

 

The heat drags its knuckles

over blacktop, brick, arms, faces

jack-boots the street as humid mist

drifts from the heart of our bricked square

out to the curb where coffee shop workers

are delivering ice waters to the street urchins.

Scooping a cube onto her neck, she’s trying

to triage her malaise with iced coffee,

relief dissolving her street mask for a moment.

Summer night draping damp linens

over city intaglio, blue glyphs of exhaust

above intersections, verve and pocked nerve

hinged on the dark geometries of power lines.

No seats inside, she fingers another cube

up an arm, beveling the edge honed all day

at work unloading boxcars to load trucks.

Square denizens promenade and sweat,

cop on horseback beside a sidewalk tree

regulating the pulse as a corner sax player

lets fly with a freighted wail, notes

like orchids spun down canyons,

drawing stragglers to our shared swelter.

 

ALL HER DAYS

Joe Whitaker, Arroyo Grande

 

She wanted me all her days, but I took little note, ’til it was long too late.

We essayed our games of love together,

Through both fair and stormy weather,

But she truly believed her lines, while I simply played a part.

She wished me all her nights, but I was elsewhere, ever elsewhere.

She brightened my life, but under cover of darkness, I sought other pleasures,

She offered a richness of spirit, while I gathered instead the baser treasures,

And became infinitely poorer for my choices.

She waited me all her years, her youth sacrificed at the altar of my desires.

She’s gone away now and can never return,

I was so easily taught, but ever unable to learn,

And thus am left with merely the remembrance of my folly.

 

PRESERVED LEMON

Gail Jensen Sanford, Morro Bay

 

I am standing in the peanut butter aisle in New Frontiers,

pondering the lack, the dearth, the utter paucity of offerings —

not remembering if there’d been a recall of the Cadia brand

I’ve bought here before — when I hear a woman behind

me announce to her kids,

“I’m looking for something I probably won’t find.”

Which catches my attention, and I think to myself,

“Well, aren’t we all?” She continues, “Preserved lemon.”

As it happens, I am probably the only person in the store,

or even the whole City of San Luis Obispo, who can help.

“You can make it yourself,” I offer, looking up to see her

move past me along the aisle. “It takes too much time,”

she responds, moving away. “Actually,” I persist, “Mark

Bittman has a video, with a recipe, on the New York Times

website. You put in a lot of sugar and salt, and you can

use it today.” I mutter the last part to myself.

Going back to perusing the peanut butter shelf — maybe

seeming eccentric in ways that are invisible to myself —

I assume that she will make do with some other seasoning

in whatever Moroccan dish she is preparing. But it occurs

to me that maybe the trick is to recognize what we need

in whatever form we find it, no matter how curious it is.

 

THE GAME

Ally Schofield, Grover Beach

 

Scratched from the line-up

Status: “Day-to-Day”

He sits in the dugout

And watches them play.

Will he sit there tomorrow?

Or be back in the game?

Will his career end abruptly?

His life, never the same?

Will the sun rise tomorrow?

We expect that it must.

Is anything certain?

In God do we trust?

A good friend of mine

Who yesterday felt fine

Recovers post-surgery,

A pacemaker saved his life.

No matter the game

For us all, it’s the same

Status: “Day-to-Day”

In the lives that we play.

 

CAST-OFFS

Juliane McAdam, Los Osos

 

You see the cast-offs in yards

On street after street:

Rusted cars that will never run again,

Motor homes covered with weeds

And bird-droppings,

Stacks of wood, abandoned barbecues,

Bicycle skeletons, and broken plastic chairs.

The cast-offs belong to the old,

Infirm now and stuck in their homes.

They thought they would take care of things

Someday, but someday overwhelemed them,

And the things piled up,

Gathering dust and decay.

The old themselves are cast-offs,

Jettisoned by the world of work,

Ignored by neighbors busy with

Children and jobs and living.

They wait in their houses,

Slowly decaying like the

Stuff in the yard.

 

BLISS

Will Jones, San Luis Obispo

 

What my dog doesn’t know won’t hurt her,

like her upcoming rabies shot,

or eviction of the fat tick

residing in the thick fur near her ear.

What I don’t know won’t hurt me either,

if I choose not to let it.

Like the next reminder of mortality

residing in the shadows of the near future.

Or, let’s face it, mortality itself,

biding its time out there somewhere,

hanging around like God whistling

while waiting to create the universe.

So the good news for both of us,

my dog and me, is that

neither her ignorance nor my knowledge

diminishes our love for each other.

At least love is what I call it.

Who knows that she calls it.

But not knowing won’t hurt us,

will it?

 

INSTANT

Marguerite Costigan, San Luis Obispo

 

Leaves, leaves

grass running a sideways wind

sharp edge of serpentine

I see you

Black-leather

rough muscle of a sideswipe tongue

eye like a black hole opening

onto everything

I see you

tiptoe the hock thicket

smelling me hesitating

me thinking

Black-tailed buck

two lid-blinks away from oblivion

this one’s as caught as you who sees me

seeing you.

 

DIRECTED DEATH

James Lockshaw, Paso Robles

 

I remember you and I always will.

I saw you for a second or two.

You were wearing an aviator’s cap

Tied under your chin.

You were looking towards us.

Two of your comrades had just missed; would you?

I didn’t see them as I saw you.

You were turning to approach from our stern

You couldn’t miss!

The explosion pushed on my chest.

Our PT boat lurched forward.

Stinging hornets of debris scored my hands.

I was alive

You were dead,

You the Kamikaze.

It still pains me.

You and I could have been friends.

What is this insanity?

This madness that continues on?

“Die for our cause;

I promise you everlasting life in heaven.”

Will we ever learn?

 

ON BEING ASKED TO WRITE A SONNET

Jane Jennifer Carey, Paso Robles

 

Write a sonnet someone said. Oh sure.

Those 14 lines I’ll soon whip off

And while I’m at it I’ll just cure

World hunger, croup, and whooping cough!

Why not? Dear friends, give me a break!

Should we not wider paths pursue

Than set our aging brains to ache

O’er such poetic derring-do?

Volunteering left and right,

Heading good friends’ beck and call,

Playing bridge through half the night,

Busy women are we all!

I, for one, don’t keep a sonnet

Tucked at the ready in my bonnet.

 

SPRING SENSE

Ruth Goodnow, San Luis Obispo

 

Through my mother’s eyes

spring looks like snowdrops —

petals paper-thin

laid against winter’s gloom.

Through my mother’s eyes

spring sounds like birdsong —

trills, twitters,

calls for mates,

winter’s doldrums a mere dream.

Through my mother’s eyes

spring smells like fresh air

through open windows,

musty sadness wafted away

by sweeter scents.

Through my mother’s eyes

spring tastes like timothy

pulled from tall stalks,

childhood memories of farm life.

Through my mother’s eyes

spring feels like hope on bare skin,

hairs raised, expectant.

 

THE WOLF’S LAMENT

W.R. Cole, Arroyo Grande

 

An echo of the wolf is all that’s heard

out of the canyons of yesteryear

seeking ever seeking its rightful place

in nature’s long and troubled history.

The guns of man from land and sky

have searched him out driving him

from meadow and plain and forest deep —

even his young have been cruelly spent.

The sweep of forest and river gorge

no longer echo his bitter lament

a cry of pain and loss —

a deathly stillness claims the realm.

But now one hears the sound

of a page — ripped from the book

that told the tale of what once was

a green and fruitful land.

 

WINDING DOWN

Marion Shannon, San Luis Obispo

 

When all is still and quiet

In the middle of the night

I get my pen and paper out

And I write

’Bout all the many things

That happened on that day

And sadly found out to my dismay

I had nothing much to say

So goes a life

When winding down

It simply ends

Without a sound.

 

TURNING EIGHTEEN

Sherry Eiselen, Cambria

 

He just ran past. So fast I'm left with only a glimpse.

Chubby in my arms. A whiff, a bubble, a grin.

Whispering secrets, playing games.

Triggering imprints.

Fragile things.

Lost jackets and lost people. 

Broken arms and broken promises. 

The last thread of a wiggly tooth.

Speeding skateboards and halting questions

Answered with sullen tears. Barely balancing.

Sudden hugs triggering trust.

He just ran past. So fast. 

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