More local poetry: Week 1 »
This second group of poems by adults is presented in honor of National Poetry Month. There are flecks of gold in the river-gravel in these selected adult works — or maybe they’re more like those round-edged gray stone geodes that burst into rainbow crystals when you break them open.
Older people often snort when you suggest they’ve gathered wisdom in their lives. But it’s apparent, from this group of mature poets, that we do get wiser. Every one of these works is a wisdom-geode, carrying these crystals of understanding, hard and/or happily learned over many moments, over seasons and longer time frames. My poetry mentor, past San Luis Obispo poet laureate Jane Elsdon, writes:
“When at last we have lived long enough to grasp the fleeting preciousness of life the paradoxes it comes clothed in what ineffable sweetness and sorrow autumn brings…”
These poems prove her right, in so many ways.
—Marguerite Costigan, San Luis Obispo County poet laureate
Ivon Blum, Cambria
They still cuddle after an evening of yelling and screaming
about their grown kids’ live-ins.
They pout over decisions that each wants the other to make
and dueling remotes.
The hallways have grown treadmills, the bed needs steps
and the stairs are no longer to code.
They laugh at creaking bones and deeper pains which
they downplay but can’t deny.
They plan a great vacation to Hawaii, the whole family, Dutch-treat,
They cry together at the swish-swish of medical machines
and study Medicare Parts A, B and D.
Planning ahead, he drains the savings to buy her
an engraved headstone.
Planning ahead, she sells the family burial plot to buy him
a new kidney.
Nicholas Campbell, Atascadero
Once in a cave someone wrote on a wall
and though years passed before it was discovered,
the past gestured, a hand moved across the years
to greet us and a sound that may have been lost was heard.
Sometimes it happens: a friend will write
or you’ll read a poem and you’re not alone anymore.
Writing is a way the world has of not turning away.
When we write we keep saying hello.
Taming the Wild Ones
Michaelann Dimitrijevich, Atascadero
When I was twelve
I would ride my horse
through the hills for hours.
Resting under a tree I’d let her graze
while I sat with my arms spread wide
waiting for birds to land on my branches,
and all the small creatures
to gather around me
just like Francis of Assisi.
After all, cats and puppies
always followed me home
but to me, there was something holy
about taming the wild ones.
The Dog That Stopped Minding
Cal Wilvert, San Luis Obispo
For years late at night
my black lab Bear and I
climbed to the top of the street
so she could roam unleashed
in a vacant lot.
Glancing down to where I stood
under the streetlight,
she watched for my beckoning wave.
She came bounding,
to trade freedom
for pats and praise,
until one night
she failed to respond.
Wading through dewy weeds
I scolded and grabbed her collar.
The next day as I knelt tying a shoelace,
she nuzzled me.
Then I noticed those big brown eyes
What I Want
Will Jones, San Luis Obispo
What I want is sacred ritual
chanting, fire, strong tobacco,
animal spirits on the edge of darkness,
dancing until I collapse in ecstacy,
boundaries disappearing like morning mist,
thoughts scattered like windblown seeds,
by numinous awe and wonder.
What I get is a slow walk,
in bright sunshine under blue skies,
up a steep hill with good friends
on a late winter trail that cuts through
scrub oak, sage, manzanita, sudden meadows
flush with pink and purple shooting stars,
tufted orange poppies, rush-rose,
delicate chocolate lilies, an endless vista
of coastal ridges receding in all directions
like pebbled ripples in a quiet pond,
a mountaintop communion of strawberries,
apples, laughter and grateful talk.
What I want will have to wait.
What I get will more than do.
Clouds of Cambodia
Glenna Luschei, San Luis Obispo
Clouds dwell like lovers over the Mekong River
We walk barefoot through the jungle, splash
through the streets.
I have no lover.
The humidity drowns me into a new life.
I bathe in water from the Mekong and shear
my long hair. The air fills with water
and the river changes course.
It is my time to be reborn, to take refuge as a crone,
to sweep the Buddhist temple with a broom
made of twigs.
In a cascade of rain we study the carving
of creation, how the two armies pull
at Naga, the snake, until the sea churns in milk
and all creatures are born beneath it.
Jeanie Greensfelder, San Luis Obispo
The sun sears hot this morning,
comes down hard.
At breakfast, we stop to laugh.
He laughs when I say
we need to get the ladder
to change a light bulb
when I mean he needs to.
We laugh extra as we age,
look at each other a second too long,
see our inner roulette wheels spin,
and know the one left standing
will remember this moment.
The sun sears hot this morning,
comes down hard.
Marvin Sosna, Morro Bay
It happens in small silent steps,
the first tremor, an eyelid flutter
and no one thinks anything of it
until the next time but even then
it passes almost unnoticed.
Then, where did I put that jar
of jam becomes a question soon
answered there it is silly me but
why is it so difficult to open it, and
what did I do with the spoon?
A skin crease at the lip, the chin less firm
and the lines from nose to mouth
suddenly deeper than they were
last week or was it last month or maybe
yesterday, time an uncertain commodity.
Inside the frame it is as it was, no
Dorian Gray’s cast to the visage here,
nor Peter Pan’s shadow either, only
the sound of breathing, the aware sense
of passages and where they lead.
Lani Steele, Los Osos
When I was a kid I made
up words: WISHOO.
I was so confident of my words
that my friends used them too!
And it was sort of an in-group
thing, pretty good for a smart,
flat-chested junior high girl.
We’re going there; WISHOO …
He just ran — WISHOO — all the way
to the record store!
Hurry, WISHOO, we’re waiting.
Pachuco girls went WISHOO after school
to the Foster Freeze, where they
fought it out with nail files,
and my longtime boyfriend, Rickey, left me,
WISHOO, for Anita, who had a bosom.
He didn’t even send a card:
WISHOO were here.
Brainy Object of Knowledge (a.k.a. BOOK)
Sherry Shahan, Morro Bay
Check it out: Neo-technology.
No wires. No circuits. No batteries.
No on or off switch. No microchips.
Even children can operate it.
It appears on recycled paper,
bundled in a type of a binder.
A browsing feature lets fingertips
flip forward or back — no censorship.
The latest style has a bookmark.
Users can track where they left off.
Unlike other display devices,
this one never freezes or crashes.
Added function: Portability.
A library card makes them free.
Investors call BOOK the latest boon.
Heads-up: New titles to appear soon.
Kneeling by My Meyer Lemon Tree
Josephine Redlin, Arroyo Grande
I’m on my knees, pulling some weeds under my dwarf
Meyer lemon tree when I notice the trunk is so small that
I can almost encircle with one hand. How does it have
the strength to hold up the umbrella of branches laden with
over 100 lemons, let alone the power to siphon up gallons
of juice and nutrients? This tree has secrets, perhaps various
departments working in unison, surely a chemistry lab that
distills the exquisite Meyer lemon flavor, so fine that even
Martha Stewart uses this lemon in her delectable desserts.
And kudos to the perfumery that draws from this musty earth
the inimitable fresh lemon scent, the sweet smell of velvety,
white blossoms, the rare oil to fill gazillions of tiny glands
dimpling the lemons’ skin. What mathematician plots the seed
sections, and sets the complex schedule for this ever-bearing tree,
bringing on buds, blossoms, green fruit, golden ripe fruit all
at once? Enough multi-tasking to crash a computer. What a flurry
of activity goes on in this slender, gray trunk, this super highway.
Are there separate lanes to carry the fixings for the sweet and sour,
the oil and juice? Traffic seems to be moving along effortlessly
without mix-ups or delays, unlike the gridlock at the Port of L.A.
Here the plant manager has things under control. Everything
gets to where it needs to be without ado and right on time.
Gail Jensen Sanford, Morro Bay
The little boy up the street, his face split
into a triangle by his Dennis Quaid grin,
charges by on his compact body, “I’m four!”
he’d claimed when his mother introduced him
as three. “Almost,” she’d agreed. He invites
me to look at the dead bird in the driveway,
“It’s covered with ants!” Even better.
Sun setting in a strata of crimson clouds
over a peaceful Pacific. Boys finishing
a golf lesson roll down a slope above the green.
A father calls out that it’s time to go home,
“Don’t be an angry bird.” I’m so old
I don’t even know what that means.
‘Like Your Poetry’
D. Williams, Los Osos
“Like your poetry,” she said.
Honey, if you only knew, the source of my expression
should be familiar to you.
My poetry is my life, pages of my pain; words are the bullets;
ripping, tearing, twisting, explosively quiet refrain.
My poetry, is it not common, do you not recognize a line,
Each is a gift from you to me,
passed over time.
You sit there and make such a statement, bold as can be,
oblivious to your presence, writing the words for all
but you to see.
“Like your poetry,” you say, a staring beauty I see, facing her empty closet,
ready to move away from me.
Careless sista, if you only knew, when you walk out that door,
The poetry goes too.
“Like your poetry,” you say, tightening straps on your backpack,
preparing to go away; California to New York, with the coming day.
So many loose pages, that you never read, but today you manage to see one
Lying on the bed.
You are the words I squeeze onto the page, the thoughts, tastes, smells and colors I see,
that makes what you call my
Life on the Edge
Evelyn Cole, Arroyo Grande
sounds dramatic, but
feels old when you wake up
every morning with a
precipice on your driveway
You look over the edge
which path to shimmy down?
which diet to drive you nuts?
which doctor to operate on you?
There’s a path down to riches
but it’s strewn with sharp rocks
There’s another path to deep love
but it looks rugged
filled with ghosts of parents
and past heartbreaks
The path to Heaven
disappears the minute
you step onto it
There is none to Hell
Life on the edge
is hell — back up
Chris Weygandt Alba, Paso Robles
My mother’s cookbook — stained
with chocolate, gritty batter, mysteries
dipped in oil as her fingers anointed
its pages with the holiness of food
for the stout and devout, whose
stormy hours and salvaged parts
rise together in pies and pigs,
chickens and cakes, sacrificed
on the altar of family —
Priceless now, this ratty book
record of her life as chief cook
in the tribe of not-chosen
and born-to and claimed
with the fragrance of herbs
seared meat, melting sugars
crispy crusts of bread
cast upon the waters, returning
to me now, daughter, mother,
new high priestess in the church
of Betty Crocker.
Linda Reed, San Miguel
This morning mineral mist
Swirls around the crockery of my yard.
Notes of mustard, lupine,
Ruffle the invisible coyote bush.
Wisps of winter mask the
Promise of spring
As a lover’s quarrel masks devotion.
Pushing mulberry buds
Obscured by the gauze of morning’s white bisque,
Remind me that love sometimes hides.
If we are lucky it will coalesce into rain,
Soak the parched earth,
To waiting roots,
Awaken my soul.
Fill my vessel with succulent water,
Sublime with notes of earth,
Wildflower, coastal prairie and you.
John Anderson, Nipomo
Ask a reflection
If there are whispers beneath
The winter water
Robert C. Pavlik, San Luis Obispo
Diving into ocean water is akin to
jumping through a pane of shardless glass
the hurtling form creating a
splash of shattered drops that
rain back down into the deep green crucible.
Water clings like fire to the skin
molten liquid waves
boil and melt into a
vast beach sand casting
leaving faint shapes.
A brawny ocean reclaims its raw material
cold shimmery sheet
pulling tight a frameless window
awaiting another swimmer
plunging into another world.
This Is Not a Dream
George Asdel, Atascadero
I must be in a horse-drawn cart
headed down a narrow path to a
village in Ireland. After the rains, new
grass burst out of sleepy seeds to paint
every hill and valley a soft green.
Morning fog quiets the coastline,
sun rays cut through early mist
like Leprechaun lanterns.
But … this is not Ireland.
I’m driving my car down the Grade
to San Luis Obispo. I rub my eyes,
and shake myself to see if this is a
dream. It’s not. Once a year, we
become Ireland or Scotland. Then
quick as it came, like Brigadoon,
it vanishes. Our California hills change
their palette back to sienna browns
and golden ochers, as they rest
— and wait for winter rain.
Liz Aires, Templeton
The Earth is singing its love to the sky,
in color, in green, that springs from the soil,
from last year’s leaves, the past’s reminder.
Along the hills the grasses are singing
their love to the trees and the oaks respond
with leaves the size of mouse ears.
In the shade, the ferns unspiral their fronds,
the thick tight coils reaching toward light,
and the silent mosses and fungi emerge,
while the trees crown themselves in crepe paper,
and the air is raining blossoms.
The sun is singing its love to the earth
and the spotted towhee replies. And the light!
And the night, still overtaken with Orion
the great master of the hunt, his time
at an end and who sinks now to the West,
while in the North, the bear will rise, arc high.
Surely the stars are harbingers. Why else
would Scorpio extend itself in the dark of morning
if not to reveal a new day at hand, a new season
coming round the bend, a time when the sky sings,
when even the earth is breathing light?