Books

In troubled times, SLO County poets seek to comfort and inspire

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 office@artsobispo.org.

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.

And me?

I caught what I came for.

 
“Egret Stalking” by Walter Moore depicts an egret at Sweet Springs Nature Preserve in Los Osos. Courtesy photo

∼∼∼

“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

for bumblebees.

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

An ocean

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–

Yea!

A real human love

One love

One planet

A blue cloudless sky inside you!

Yea!!!

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,

tackily brilliant

anciently juvenile

brashly wise,

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.

∼∼∼

 
Roslyn Strohl’s poem “Star Gazing” reminds readers of the calming beauty of the night sky, “that dash of fallen sequins.” File photo

“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

brightly glimpsed,

a rip in the firm flesh

of forever.

Stars shot

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.

∼∼∼

»» Read more poems: SLO County residents speak out about identity, diversity through poems

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.
  Comments