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
This week’s narrative poems, sonnets and odes were written primarily by young people in schools. These writers are curious explorers, making sense of an adult world that isn’t always logical or fair.
Their poems reveal stories of war, death, divorce, suicide, slavery, softball and surfing. They portray how boring certain classes are for some, and how that boredom is mitigated by books, competitive sports and the arts and music.
Never miss a local story.
— Jerry Douglas Smith, San Luis Obispo poet laureate
HUMANS, THE IMMORTALS
Amanda Grace Calmere, 14, Atascadero
Humans, we’ll always live on, right?
We’ll find a new way to cheat death,
or be remembered after we’ve died.
We act as though the earth is ours,
but she will always humble us.
As we go on,
we forget the places that once held laughter,
Because now they’re irrelevant,
like death to a four-year-old.
He doesn’t know yet, but he will soon:
all is forgotten,
We’ll live on forever, right?
SOME THINGS CAN’T WAIT UNTIL TOMORROW
Audrey Roben, 14, Atascadero
Some things can’t wait until tomorrow.
A feud with a former best friend can.
A good grade on that big test can.
An invitation to the party can.
But the girl who plans to swallow the rainbow-colored handful of pills cannot.
She cannot wait for you to decide if her piece of the puzzle fits into your future plans.
Her life has been unraveling at the seams and fraying at the edges.
And the rug is about to be pulled from under you,
’Cause she’s six feet under.
Some things can’t wait until tomorrow.
The date for your prom can.
The winning touchdown can.
The daunting SATs even can.
But the boy who sees bringing the gun to school as a way out cannot.
He cannot wait for the voice that talks of hope to save him from his purgatory.
His blood aches in his veins at the sight of a locker or a simple glance at a hallway,
And matte-black metal that spits back hate is his saving grace.
So when you decide you care, just so you know,
Some things can’t wait until tomorrow.
ODE TO SOFTBALL
Carlee Santana, 13, Nipomo
The feeling of the threads under your callused fingers,
As you release the fluorescent, glowing ball into the air
You see the fright in the batter’s eyes.
Your ears hear a smack that brings ringing to the eardrum
Which sounds similar to the bells ringing for class to start
The ball flies by, straight down the middle
Into second baseman’s glove
Their hand aches but they still pull through
And she throws the ball to first base,
Tags the batter out and we win this game.
The crowd is cheering,
The team is tearing
Not just because we won the game
But because we love to play.
Parents are proud
And the team is vowed to this game
Do not ever say softball is easy
Because if it were easy
They would call it,
Nathan Spooner, 13, Grover Beach
He had big black paws.
He always ran away in the night.
His teeth were white and sharp.
Omar named him Husky.
He pulled the sled in the snow
and pulled his bike in the summer.
Once Husky dragged home moose bones
and he even chased a bear.
We left him with friends
in Alaska,near the glacier
where he could howl at night.
California would be
too small for Husky.
Courtney Limon, 16, Shell Beach
Glory, fame, honor Crystal lies
Red, white, and blue Stained scarlet
Battle cries echo throughout the ashen field
Limbs strewn across the frail grass
Amongst shards of bullets and destruction
Life lingers and slowly deteriorates
Like a candle being suffocated
By utter darkness
Tired eyes, wandering for hope,
Searching for survival
Yet none is found
For the spark of war has been smothered
Overpowered by the brutality of reality
ODE TO PAPA
Grace Price, 14, San Luis Obispo
I’d come over on sticky summer days,
and bask in the sun.
You’d let me polish your rocks,
while you polished your guns.
I’d always ask for your Red Hots,
even though they burnt my tongue.
And I miss you making margaritas,
and pretending to give me some.
I remember hearing the news,
and feeling totally numb,
I asked if you’d get better,
but we all knew that you were done.
I came in to say goodbye,
but you’d pulled a fast one;
You had already left me,
and I came undone.
Caleb Tomasin, 12, Pismo Beach
When life has you beat,
And pushes you around,
Get back on your feet,
And plant them on the ground,
When things get rough,
And good turns to bad,
You have to be tough,
And not get sad,
These things will happen,
There’s nothing we can do,
Except fasten our seat belts,
And enjoy the view.
THE WRITTEN WORLD
Isaac Lerner, 12, San Luis Obispo
I ride a horse in an endless field
while chased behind by blades of steel
or sail the seas in the eye of the storm
as my pirate ship hides gold and treasures in all form
I solve the mystery of an artifact found
while pursued by enemies over perilous ground
or fly through the air in a past metropolis
and soar straight over the ancient Greek Acropolis
For hours, in this armchair, I can sit
a still body, but an adrenaline-filled wit
for in my hands, within the binding
live rough seas, flat plains, and endless findings
Eleanor Johnston-Carter, 14, San Luis Obispo
One day you’ll wake up
and there’ll be nothing left
except for dirty dishes and stale bread.
Everything is the last something around here
and it’s hard sometimes
standing in the kitchen, staring at the kettle.
Nobody is ever around to hear it whistle.
One day you’ll stop going through the motions,
the bond will finally be broken
because glue can only stick for so long
before it comes undone in the hot California sun.
Sometimes it’s good to have low expectations
and you have to keep telling yourself that
so you don’t get worked up
over small things.
UNTITLED Kathleen Schwind, 16, Arroyo Grande
She wore it like a cloak;
Trailing behind her and flowing in the wind.
She wore it on her face;
Bore it in her wrinkled feet.
You could see it in her hands;
And you could see it in her eyes.
The eyes that had seen so much of life’s goodness and beauty;
The eyes that had witnessed and played in God’s creations.
The eyes that had seen the sun and moon rise,
And the flowers bloom in the spring.
The eyes that now seemed to tiredly stare at nothing.
But they were looking at something; intently.
She looked at all it had outlined, all that it represented;
All the good times it had brought, the hardships, the friends.
Each feature of her appearance defined by it; exacerbated by it.
Though it made her weary to think of it monotonously rolling on,
She wore it with dignity, and it gave her strength;
As it gives others life and eventually takes that life away.
She was at its will, and yet still made it her own;
And it made her eyes sparkle without fear of the future.
May Ritter, 9, San Luis Obispo
The taste of winter is rich warm hot cocoa with marshmallows that are so light and
puffy they could be cloud children, and fresh baked rolls.
The sound of winter is the laughing kids as they take cover in the forts of snow,
dodging little snowballs and it is the crackling wood in the fire.
The sight of winter is the gray gloomy sky with lonely patches of blue that show the
hope of spring and it is the white trees covered with snow.
The feel of winter is the bright white snow that makes me feel like I’m walking in
crisp clear air and the snug ice skates on my feet.
The smell of winter is the freezing air outside, so cold that it burns your throat and
when you exhale, it makes a baby cloud all your own.
Caleb Hernandez, 15, Atascadero
Maybe you have seen me —
a piano playing along to a sad tune
a canvas painted black with hopelessness
a crow misunderstood and curious
a paintbrush trying to make art out
of a blank, hopeless campus
Maybe you have seen me —
an alarm, panicked by indecision
or rain saddened with anxiety
or a bird, easily frightened by the unknown
and filled with worry and stress
or a cat confused and unsure of everything
and only made worse with the hell inside my head
More likely, you have only seen me as a fox, shy yet
curious at other strange people, a penny —
quiet and just, there,
not noticed and not worth bending down to pick up
Rebecca Schwind, 13, Arroyo Grande
Furry brown otters,
Glorious fuchsia sunset,
Calm, rippling waters.
ODE TO SLAVERY
Kailee Browning, 13, San Luis Obispo
Aching backs hunched over infinite fields.
A tear runs down my frowning face.
A whip leaves scars, never to be healed.
Tears follow the first, as if in a race.
Though stomachs are faced with endless hunger,
And they don’t get enough hours of sleep,
Hopeful thoughts of freedom keep them younger,
And for a few hours they cease to weep.
Over sun-baked black heads the flag stands tall,
Red, white and blue stripes waving in the wind,
A symbol of hope and freedom for all,
When finally the chains that keep them pinned
Are broken, and each slave is a free man,
When society accepts racism’s ban.
ODE TO FLASH
Chloe Keith, 14, Arroyo Grande
She looks at me
Through the fence
Thinking, can it be, my master coming for me?
And her body starts to tense
She whinnies to me in greeting
With her halter in my hand
She smells treats remembered from previous meeting
And wiggles her nose at the feel of the nose band
As I groom her she falls into a deep sleep
I bet she dreams of food and other things
I put the saddle on, she does not leap
And her saddle has lots of bling
As we walk into the arena
Her body says, let’s run
She runs faster than a cheetah
She could also pull a ton
She has very caring eyes
And she is, will always be mine
She never says bye
Only “Until next time”
Reagan Ledford, 12, Pismo Beach
The beach is a treasure chest,
Of pearl and silver shells.
Some smaller than my fingernail,
Like tiny orange bells.
Large flat plain shapes,
In white and yellow tones.
Pretty swirly curly shells,
Shaped like ice cream cones.
Small, rough, rugged rocks,
Shining in the light.
Smooth, silky, pebbles,
In black, grey, or white.
LIVE IN THE MOMENT
Harrison Ames, 12, Pismo Beach
What people take for granted, can be gold,
Childhood is a gift, but children treat it like coal,
So concerned about being an adult,
They don’t see what should come first,
Laughs, and fabulous days,
Not, boring work days,
The times they should cherish,
Will soon perish,
Now kids play,
Don’t worry about the next day,
Just, worry about having the best day today.
William Treganza, 12, Pismo Beach
You know that this is your time to shine,
So you drop right in and take a right down the line,
Hoping this is the ride to win,
You pump the nose and carve the fin.
At the end of your wave you throw the tail,
And you look back upon your trail,
Your board skidders to a stop and falls to the waves,
You wade through water and up toward the caves,
If you’d be judged on your very last wave,
You would have scored perfectly, this you know,
You walk away from the waves,
But not with brag and surely no swag.
Dionne Gregorio, 14, Los Osos
Wish I was back in Hawaii.
beautiful white sand, beaches
as white as snow but with a beige tint
crystal light blue water, giant waves like a surfer’s dream
ehu haired women, colorful flowers and leis like the rainbows in the islands
amazing sunsets, yellow, orange, red, purple and pointed palm trees
ukulele strums with softly spoken words, with an island strumming
pidgin language: shoots bruh, yuh bruh, we go, k’den, no need
Mixed cultures, nice, helpful, fun loving people
hot winters day, breath taking views
hula girls, fire eaters in the Luau
fresh poke like it was just cut
love and the
ANNE FRANK: WHERE I’M FROM
Quin Etnyre, 13, Arroyo Grande
I am from a playful childhood surrounded by supporting, loving friends whom I used to
talk to daily, but now haven’t seen in years
From the old days when Father came home with news of his new, higher paying jobs
I am from lemonade on a hot summer day, with my parents’ co-workers and my own
classmates after we end our prayers at the synagogue
I am from the safety of my hometown, neighbors looking out for each other, and children
dancing on the streets
From dinners based on my father’s salary, enjoying every last bit of it
Now I am from hiding, with the most irritable human beings in the Netherlands
From Dussel complaining about waking up when I have nightmares, when he was the one
who was grateful for being able to move into the Annex!
Now I am from the terrible image of Green Police fighting down our door, when we were about to have supper one evening
From the stay at the station that night with thousands of real criminals, not like us
Now I am from the fear of being executed in the showers, like some of my new friends in
From frightening scenes of fellow Jews dying from horrible diseases
Now I am from hard work inside the fences, carrying dirt to the mass graves
From seeing innocent Jews like me struggle against the Nazi force, only to be killed
Now I am from hoping that Peter and my father still love me
From believing that everyone is good at heart, and making the best of the situation
Even though I am from being part of the genocide of the Jewish race