In this stressful world, people need to stop, breathe and come home to themselves.
Like a best friend, a poem can offer the right words at the right moment.
In light of National Poetry Month, I have selected some poems by San Luis Obispo County poets to offer soothing lines for difficult times.
In “Hello Ol’ Friends” by Jerry Douglas Smith, you’ll visit a wildflower meadow to relieve “winter lupine blues.” You might be inspired to drive to Shell Creek Road off Highway 58 or Bitterwater Road off Highway 46, or to go to your garden.
My poem “At Sweet Springs Preserve,” which describes a walking meditation in Los Osos, invites readers to notice how time stretches when we slow down to watch egrets and kingfishers.
And Roslyn Strohl’s poem “Star Gazing” reminds us of the calming beauty of the night sky, “that dash of fallen sequins.” Light shines in the dark just outside your door.
Also included are poems by Lani Steele and Kevin Patrick Sullivan. You can find links to more comforting poems by the likes of Rumi, Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver and Pablo Neruda at sanluisobispo.com.
To join my countywide “Come Home to Poetry” program and receive poems via email, contact email@example.com.
Jeanie Greensfelder is the San Luis Obispo County poet laureate.
Editor’s note: The Tribune is teaming up with Arts Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council and San Luis Obispo County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder to celebrate National Poetry Month. We’ve invited readers from across the Central Coast to share their best original poems dealing with self-identity and diversity. Read their poems online at www.sanluisobispo/entertainment/books. A selection will run Sunday, April 23, in the Tribune’s Central Coast Living section.
Poems that comfort
“At Sweet Springs Preserve” by Jeanie Greensfelder
I leave the world and my worries,
walk the wood-mulch trail that shifts
to sand. Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh
said we’re just one step from the
kingdom of heaven. I say his mantra,
“Oui, Oui, Oui, Merci, Merci, Merci.”
Yes to Morro Rock, our small Gibraltar
across the bay. Thanks to eucalyptus trees
where migrant monarchs dangle—hanging
from one another like beads on a string.
A kingfisher calls and circles her pond.
At the bridge I inhale rain-fresh air,
and note mallards, heads tucked. A snowy egret
lands, fans herself, then folds her wings,
and steps into the pond. Perfect stillness.
Time stretches. My mind quiets.
The egret ignores her wind-ruffled feathers.
Focused, she waits for food to near.
Her pointed beak strikes, catches a fish.
I caught what I came for.
“Hello Ol’ Friends!” by Jerry Douglas Smith
Barefoot in a buttercup meadow,
I hang ten through wild oats,
give a low-five to a rabbit-foot sedge.
I bend to wink at windmill pinks
and kneel to see
a filigree of belly-flowers
below goldfields, butter’n eggs, tidy tips
filaree, and tiny eyes in owl’s clover.
Down the hill scents flow:
wooly blue curls, fairy lanterns,
redmaids and pearly everlasting
lying lush beneath bush poppies.
I suffered the lupine blues all winter,
but now touch noses with hummingbird sage
and checker blooms with runway lights
I trail my hand through scarlet fuchsia …
I’ll come often, Friends,
before you disperse
in seed again.
“Robot Love” by Kevin Patrick Sullivan
I think of Data from “Star Trek: The Next Generation”
Of R2D2 and C3PO from “Star Wars”
Of the robot Robbie from “Lost in Space”
But I’m going all the way back to the Tin Man
From “The Wizard of Oz” – if I only had a heart
So there he was teaming up with a Scarecrow – a brain
A young woman with a dog – I just want to go home
And a cowardly lion – courage yea that’s all I need – courage
Notice I said teaming up because for me that is important
We cannot get there from here alone
There is something big as the sky inside you
A blue cloudless sky
Inside you are the dreams I look for in my waking
I need your heart – your mind – your courage
If I’m ever to get home where all my life is sweet
Childlike and we are hitting our stride
You and me – all of us together
And maybe some love
Not robot love
But real love–
A real human love
A blue cloudless sky inside you!
An ocean inside you!
“Spirit-House Angels” by Lani Steele
The Thai build little houses
for the guardian spirits of their buildings,
exact replicas or mirrored fantasies,
small enough for fairies or large
enough for pigeons – all acceptable
to the catholic tastes of the spirits.
I want to live there
in that tiny jeweled temple
safe in teak and incense-fragrant gloom
with guardian spirits in every room –
the house my soul makes.
Mirrored outer walls shine like Xanadu,
reflect / refract the ugly beauty of the ‘real’,
draw us in and show us out,
just a small, shining house!
I will make daily offering to the house spirits:
so many words on a golden-wire treble clef
so many kindnesses sung in Gregorian harmonies
so many gratitudes for all the houses of earth and sky.
“Star Gazing” by Roslyn Strohl
“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
At night I watched
that dash of fallen sequins
tumble from the sky
that blue-black blanketing
the quilting gone awry,
a passage to heaven
a rip in the firm flesh
sharp as the shrapnel
through the dome
the skin and bone
of my grandfather’s head.
Or the inside flash
of my son’s night brain.
The comfort of darkness
is a trillion eyes of grace
needled across the night
when all the little stars above
hold still, don’t fall.
More soothing lines for difficult times
Here’s a selection of comforting and inspiring works by international poets, picked by San Luis Obispo County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder.
“Love after Love” by Derek Walcott
“It Is I Who Must Begin” by Václav Havel
“The Peace of Wild Things” by Wendell Berry
“The Guest House” by Rumi
“‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers” by Emily Dickinson
“The Journey” by Mary Oliver
“Write it on your heart” by Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Sweet Darkness” by David Whyte
“Let This Darkness Be a Bell Tower” by Rainier Maria Rilke
“Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda
“Lost” by David Wagoner
“You Reading This, Be Ready” by William Stafford
Celebrating identity during National Poetry Month
- This spring, The Tribune is teaming up with Arts Obispo, the San Luis Obispo County Arts Council and San Luis Obispo County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder to celebrate National Poetry Month. We’ve invited readers from across the Central Coast to share their best original poems dealing with self-identity and diversity. Read their poems online at www.sanluisobispo/entertainment/books. A selection will run Sunday, April 23, in the Tribune’s Central Coast Living section.