On one of the first sunny afternoons in spring, I put on my poet laureate hat and read the first batch of entries. I was struck by how the best poems conveyed a fragrance of becoming. Among other charged events, an egret flies by and changes everything. Forests give secret clues to the trained eye. People take journeys by water that lead into and out of this life. All is observed as it moves.
I was also intrigued by the questions some of these lyrics pose.
Is the seashore a place to be feared? Do we really deserve the natural beauty we live in? When we meet ourselves at a border, what do we learn?
I want now to share these poems with the reading public for the pleasures of honest language found in them.
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These poems do not talk down to anyone. They show no anxiety about categories such as “accessible” or “obscure.” They capture images in words, and the images become moments of real life, preserved.
— James Cushing, 2010 San Luis Obispo poet laureate
GYPSYMadeline Martin, San Luis Obispo
with the moon in my pocketand the stars on a larkonly i understandthe importance of dark
when the night is your home and the sun never seen then the world is a gypsy and your life but a dream
ALONG THE SHORELinnaea Phillips, San Luis Obispo
Fog’s scrim liftsAnd hangs along the shore.
Tide left coils of kelp; Medusa’s hair come undoneSeething, twisting, turning tendrils Of a thousand blackened snakes
Caught up by razor-clam barrettes.
HOW AN EGRET SAVED MEChris Weygandt Alba, Paso Robles
I lay prostrate on the couch & worried & worried The newspaper scattered like leaves around my bier The syllables of war trip over the tongue like poetry Afghaniraq darfuristan & the birds are fluttering Into distinction In the latter days the seas arise My aunt says God is coming soon but where is he Where is his sign I’ve lost you to the television & the latest tennis match among the titans Worried & worried until I saw the water’s reflection On the wall there A dancing curvature of light & through the glass I saw the egret winging past The long white neck folded & long dark legs folded Trimly as a package born aloft on broad white wings A love letter airmailed from a distant God
UNTITLEDBarbara Bell, San Luis Obispo
Birds sing the day awakeThe sages bend their flowered lips To hummingbird’s long throatWhere sun meets fog
Pelicans and shorebirds give way to eagle and hawk A dream takes shape Beside the shadowOf deer, coyote, bobcat and cougarOne day, looking out at summer The next, yellow leaves Light slants at new angles Geese turning into it
Crickets chirp in time to heart beats The crescent moon glides up To light indigo darknessI meet myselfAt the garden gate
TINY FLYMichael McLaughlin, Nipomo
tiny flydies my thick black coffee, eyes into legsoutstretched.
arabic poetrymistaken for moonlight. human arabesques
BY THE RIVERPam Stolpman, Nipomo(For Kathy, 1943 — 1998: Rest in Peace)
Flag the boatman down, if he’s got a seatempty. Though we can’t say it, we all seethe counterpane lifts less with every heartbeat.
We don’t need banana bread; please don’t heatmore casseroles. Just sneak out and quietlyflag the boatman down. If he’s got a seat
we’ll pay in advance; she’s not going to cheathim this time. Don’t haggle over his fee— the counterpane lifts less with every heartbeat.
What it comes to, in the end, is completeexhaustion — so much for epiphany.Flag the boatman down. If he’s got a seat,
Have him dock here tonight, but be discreet —we still haven’t dared tell her openlythe counterpane lifts less with each heartbeat.
We figure the best way out is deceit,to avoid any talk about the journey.Flag the boatman down. He must have a seat;the counterpane lifts less with each heartbeat.
JENNY LAKE, TETON COUNTRYRobert Huttle, San Luis Obispo
Wyoming sky, fat with rain,late August afternoontoward Jenny Lake.
We carve our way up a trailripe with huckleberries, stumped withfire-blackened trees.Downpour of angry thunderbolts,smell of decay in Teton country.
Up ahead Jenny Lake, gem in the cauldron,sleek-waisted maiden beckons,languorous fingers entwine.
Jenny Lake:Cover girl debutante ingossamer gown, awaiting the Ball.Galloping thoroughbred withtawny coat of burnished bronze. Spinnakered sloop infull song; glazed goddess.
Jenny Lake:Her intoxication takes us home.
WEAR IT WELLCarly Imhof, San Luis Obispo
broken loveit broken goesbackward brokenin broken rowsbroken sunsmake broken glowbut when i’m broken,no one knows.
ON HER WAY TO ZEROJo Taylor, Paso Robles
Below hersounds of the city tumble alongskyscraper canyon walls
Birdslike black freckleson the face of a distant dometoo far away to see wings flapor hear the caws
With an eagle eyeshe notes the time on the clocktwo stories down
A note tucked in the bodiceof her yellow-flowered summer dress
His careless wordsleft lying on the clean-swept floorHer descent is as calm as stepping off her mother’s porchNo frantic handsno fierce grabs at air that will not save her
on her way to zero
THE COVEYMyra Lathrop, Paso Robles
I am quite honored:The quail marched into our yardAnd seemed to approve.
HAIKU FOR DAnne Klinger, Avila Beach
Being loved by you Is like standing forever In a shaft of light.
DANDO LUZ (GIVING BIRTH)Nancy Rucci, San Luis Obispo
I remember that night,Floating in wait,I dreamed of dinoflagellatesSpraying flecks of magic light from my breast-stroke.Moon rising fearlessly,my uncompromised heart was buoyant,on the edge.
I awoke to the rhythms of my labor,A forceWhose unrelenting pull would eventually deliver mefar out to sea,Into a deep blue stillness.
Yet now I awake, transformed;dissolved like salt,metamorphosed beyond recognition,thrown onto the shore like wreckage,my arms bulging with treasures;my heart forever divided,still trying to breathe.
ONE DAYRuth Goodnow, San Luis Obispo
I’m losing you.I’m not readyto miss your kissesgiven with abandon,your eyes crimped with age,or your smell that I knowlike my own. I’m not ready.Time hasn’t prepared me;it’s made me unequal to the task.
I’ll lose you one daywhen the backyard redwoodkisses the cerulean skyand the hummingbirds chitter,the spicy radishes are plump ready to pickand your water bowl is full.
MADE-FROM-EVERYTHINGJerry Douglas Smith, San Luis Obispo
if you always thank morning starmarvel at bee flowers and chuparrosasknow home by owl pellets and animal scrapesplant corn deep under frost to ripen earlydance in place for old warriorslisten to old trees
if you revel at rowing raven wingshear tongues of rain and windare tranced by dewclaw dancersride out storms in tall pinestremble at buffalo thunderpray in opal sunsets
if you soak up Great-Mother-Earth’s rhythm,you are Made-From-Everythingand walk the good path
THESE MOUNTAINS OF GOLDMark Lloyd Richardson, Los Osos
If you stand hereand lean against the sky,you see a field of poppiesstretching toward a distant blue,their golden petals outshiningeven the morning sun.In these mountains of gold,black tailed deer graze in glory,snowy egret stand in serene repose,regaling you in their white gowns,and choirs of chaparralchant ancient anthemsrising from an ancient sea.If you stand herethis place becomes a temple,and clothes even you in awe.
WHAT REALLY MATTERS?Ann Dozier, San Luis Obispo
I know the answer to that —It’s love. Except that’s no answerat all, because as years turn, love shifts
its shape like glass in a kaleidoscope:parents, friends, lovers, children —lives connect in different patterns.
As mirrors glued in a kaleidoscopereflect light and make bits of glassglow like jewels,
so what matters in life is the lightthat love shines into darknessilluminating the ordinary.
Moon in empty room Again the pale lily turns
A door sighsand opens.