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
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 …
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!
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.
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,
Life and stillness as they beat
The shifting sands
Where I can’t sleep.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Ally Schofield, Grover Beach
Scratched from the line-up
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
A pacemaker saved his life.
No matter the game
For us all, it’s the same
In the lives that we play.
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
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.
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,
Marguerite Costigan, San Luis Obispo
grass running a sideways wind
sharp edge of serpentine
I see you
rough muscle of a sideswipe tongue
eye like a black hole opening
I see you
tiptoe the hock thicket
smelling me hesitating
two lid-blinks away from oblivion
this one’s as caught as you who sees me
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.
Ruth Goodnow, San Luis Obispo
Through my mother’s eyes
spring looks like snowdrops —
laid against winter’s gloom.
Through my mother’s eyes
spring sounds like birdsong —
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.
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.
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.
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.