After all those March showers, most of us are hoping for April flowers.
As we welcome spring blossoms, The Tribune gathers budding voices from around San Luis Obispo County to celebrate April as National Poetry Month.
In her book of poems, “Words Under the Words,” Naomi Shihab Nye transports us from the kitchens, streets and fields of Greece to India and Pakistan as she puts “soul to paper.” We seldom hear the word “soul” in daily conversation, but it identifies this contest, “From Soul to Paper,” perfectly. I believe each person has an inner soul reaching out, and the result is often poetry.
We find a variety of voices reaching out in our county: the ode to the upbeat cowboy, the cries of illness and loss, and the songs of birth and rebirth. After you read each individual poem today, I hope you will pause and take a moment to feel the “words under the words.”
- Bonnie Young, 2011 San Luis Obispo poet laureate
BuzzardChris Weygandt Alba, Paso Robles(As viewed by my mother with Alzheimer’s)
She looks up and sees you riding the wind over the landscape,and something – your freedom? your effortless wings carryingyou where she wants to go, on the updrafts straight to heaven?– something about you makes her gasp Oh! A hawk!
She sees you not as you are but as she dreams you are. She’s busyrewriting history in her head, remaking the whole world. A newcreation arises from her dying brain, and it is all so miraculous,she needs a new language to speak of it. Nouns become verbs,gerunds grow wings, words take flight in the midst of a sentenceand escape through open windows in her mind.
Oh, hawk! she cries, mesmerized by the circles you carve in the sky,by your wide black wings like arms outstretched and fingers reachingto grab onto God. She transforms you with a word. Vulture no longer,you are majestic. You are not a scavenger, seeker of the putrid dead.You are now the great hunter who has harnessed the windand she would ride you, if only you would please snatch her up.
After and BeforeNorma Wightman, Morro Bay
His eyes bulge like a rock codpulled to the surface too quickly.Left arm hangs useless; leftshoulder droops. White unrulyhair fans over ears as he readsabout nineteenth centuryEast Coast canals.
Before the stroke his muscularbody and vibrant mind builtbookshelves, mowed meadows,played challenging chess andregaled dinner guests with triviaabout Meville, Nabokov orthe Civil War.
Now his brain is starved of speech.
The GardenerLuke Johnson, Pismo Beach
A milk white elder tends to a gardenof velvet chinned roses with translucenthands much like a cotton bed sheet hang-dryingacross the yard. When the presence ofApril rears his head through a smattering ofclouds in shattered light, she pauses to listento the Santa Ana wind blow like an orchestrathrough a sea of dandelions ‘til they move like anorange rip tide into the valley’s bowl. She is learningwhat it means to stop, listen – to lasso the gauzy stallionsgalloping in the vast horizon. To make friends with thebirds and believe the sun her lover – the Aspen trees, earth’s paparazzi.
BORNEPat Stoplman, Nipomo
I want to be raised up and slidinto the pouch of a White Pelican,that soft-lined couch of orangewith faint throat pulse I’ll hearin my willed stillness; weightless, Iwon’t skew her lift and glidein flight across the slough.
Her wings will shade then open sunto me; I’ll see translucent ochre riseto gold before she lands; her widestraddle through stalked grasswill rock me in her silken sacuntil she lays me narrow downin cat-tailed night.
UntitledMeg Crockett, San Luis Obispo
sweet suckling howling in the night.eyes tight, your mouth openly huntinghot milk which pours out of me.your grateful gulps still trusting this abundance;streams are spilling out your mouth.
frantic feeding finished; you nodagainst my breast. nodding and suckinguntil i kiss the lashes, and the brow,already furrowed with a dream,and lower lip thrust out.
i hold and mold the shapeand weight and curve of his perfection.how i hate to part with thissweet infant sucked to sleep.
Fish CreekRobert Pavlik, San Luis Obispo
Morning doesn’t break herethere’s no crack at dawnonly sunlight slowly sliding down the canyon sidepushing cool night air toward the creekwhere arthritic sycamores andwillowy alders stand ongnarled tiptoesstretching for the sky.
Flycatchersburble and flit frombranch to branch in anundulating wave of wings.
The cold stream slips throughcolder polished boulderswhile rainbows riseto pluck insects from itsmercury silver surface.
SPRINGTIMELinnaea Phillips, San Luis Obispo
I look to a day of claritySpring has no confusions.
Sun laps the edges of the treesFecund branches shudder in the wind.
A profound air, a terrestrial lightFalls on fruiting buds.
Full now as rounded birthing breastsTheir sepals fling back their coverings.
Petals open blushing foldsStamens toss golden dust on anther.
A gate opens to birth’s passages.Clarity in Spring.
I Am of the EarthMadeline Martin, San Luis Obispo
I am of the earth,cocooned in wheat, guided by clouds, protected by trees
I am blooms within hollows, springs within canyons, pueblos andpyramids, castles and caves
I am of the earth,wrapped in fog, caressed by sol, soothed by waves
I have been the earth,sealed in amber, a molten crust, a breath of life
I was vapor made dew, dew shifting shape, the shape becoming thought,the thought crafting clay
I was sacrifice honored, lightning bared, a voice remarked, an idea shared
I will be the earth,drifting ash, dots of dust, transforming stars
I am of the earth and the earth is me
LayersShirley R-Bruton, Atascadero
My stillness observes the gentle breezeMoving cautiously through a dense webOf intertwining branchesClinging to one another like rigid gangly armsPulsing in unison
The tops of the rose bushes cluster togetherLeaves shimmer; buds & blossoms rub against one anotherCreating a hollow belowA sanctuary for fallen petals, dried leaves and creatures
Birds & mice & dragonflies are protectedFrom the racing childrenWho dare not venture into the densely populated thornsEven the bees and hummingbirds are safeFrom the screams of boys & girls & shouting adults
Who seem oblivious to this enchanted patch of lifeFilled with exotic scents & colors that create odd stirringsFrom within the deepest realms of my layered psyche
Somewhere In BetweenBarbara Goldman, Morro Bay
In the night, in those momentsBetween darkness and dawning,Between insomnia and sleep, Do you ever think of me as I think of you?
I think of you oftenat unexpected times, insituations where you have no business being.
Sometimes I think thatI shall never have a moment’srecollection that does notinclude your being as I turn backward, forward, sideward, upward, downwardOr somewhere in between.
In Seeking the Answer or the QuestionJon Jaeger, Paso Robles
Love lives now,In a fragile place, in a fragile time, with fragile steps.
Love breathes now,In quiet talks, in quiet moments, with quiet whispers.
Love dreams now,In deep sleep, in brilliant light, with open eyes.
Love works now,In labor of, without complexities, with pride.
Who among us has ever dreamed of a love,Based on truth, complete with honesty, as equals?
BY THE ROCKBenesta King, Atascadero
Gazing out to sea, the sun full in your face, what do you see?Do you remember long days of fishing?Or perhaps the future forever changed?Behind us stands the rock,Fractured, enduring.
I stand in your shadow, one arm wrapped around you,My face pressed to your broad back.If you go, will my strength desert me in the glare of lifeAnd its soul-searching trials?But you are my rock, always were, always will be,Fractured, enduring.
OliverMyra Lathrop, Paso Robles
Cat sleeps in the sun,Afternoon shadows lengthen,Stretch, yawn, and he’s gone.
Hey Lil’ Cowboy Teo Carol and Delbert Sailors, Oceano
Hey lil’ cowboy, come sit in the saddle with me.Let’s look around at all there is to see
Ride thru life with your head held highand enjoy all the wonders under the deep, blue sky.
Though life may throw you many a curve don’t despair and lose your nerve.
The future is open, giving you a chancejust don’t worry and stay too long at the dance.
Respect all that you might meetand life’s pot of gold will land at your feet.
Many a cowboy has ridden this spread,so don’t be afraid of what’s ahead.
A bronc may throw you on your chin just jump up, dust off and ride again.
Don’t let people put you on a shelf just always, always be true to yourself.
FrankieEllen Pool, Morro BayM
With oblique squats you brought laughter.Your nose-nudges showed love.Batting your toys around you taught play.Your eyes said: “Let my life shimmer in the sunlight, Let me dance in the moon glow, and finally: When winter haunts my bones, let me die.”
UntitledFaith Weedn, Creston
Don’t strap me in a stroller Mama and walk along the street,Take me to an open space with grass beneath my feetLet me run wild, and feel the wind against my face.
Let me learn the natural highs of distance and of spaceMy eyes will be gentled by the many shades of greenAnd I will look out to sea where many ships have beenDon’t strap me in a stroller Mama and walk along the street.
Let me learn excitement now, with creatures, birds and flowers,Lest I become a sidewalk youth with merely gangland powers,Don’t strap me in a stroller Mama, and walk along the street.
Life’s small detailsBruce Henderson, Grover Beach
Life has its big moments:births, weddings, funerals, graduationsbut life has many more small ones.For every wedding there will bea thousand sinks of dishes to wash.For every funeral there will bemany cleanings of the cat’s litterbox,the walking of the dog, the changing of the diapers,the taking out of the trash, the vacuuming of floors.The wise among us will realize that happiness liesin finding meaning, or maybe just calm anda sense of accomplishment, in these small things.For what does it benefit us to be gladonly with life’s large eventsbut feel bored and dreary whilenavigating the galaxies of small ones?No wonder the Zen masterwhen asked by the young novicehow to achieve enlightenmenthanded the novice a broom and told him,“Begin by sweeping the floor.”
Today’s WorldRick D. Wiley, Arroyo Grande
In this big world of so much trouble,Each life shapes into one great bubble.We work, we save and take our place,Then the bubble is broken in our face.We stand amazed at our shattered past,While our faith in humanity is fading fast.Though God in Heaven has sent his token,Many spirits are crushed and hearts are broken.The destroyers of good are always on hand.A menace to the righteous throughout the land.No mercy is shown in greed’s mad scheme,And the devil as always, will reign supreme.