Who am I? SLO County poets write about identity and diversity

A praying mantis.
A praying mantis. NYT

April is National Poetry Month. We’ve invited readers from across the Central Coast to share their best original poems dealing with self-identity and diversity.

Here is a sampling of the poems. We will be posting new poems at throughout the month.

»» Read the first group of poems here




“Mirror Shard”

By Joe Amaral, Arroyo Grande

I am a man burdened

by what I have seen. Yet,

who hasn’t a tragi-comic story

to share when they get to talking?

I embrace the bruised hues.

Leaking sap, a tree still stands:

oaken, aloof. Approaching

the topography of forty years,

in denial I have a beer belly

or admitting my nose is big. I am

olive, rugged, Portuguese — I think.

Then I eat too much and all vanity

betokens a shipwrecked anatomy.

Do I wish to revive carefree youth?

It’s weightlessness? Unaware of

the cartoon-sized anvil looming over-

head, hanging aged on rope fray.

I refuse to let years unfurl as surrender flags.

This despite the impetuous, needled

hairs, growing on my back

and in my ears.


“Citizens Speak”

By Jacquoline Wms, San Luis Obispo

Last night I was proud.

Our citizens showed up.

They came together on a rainy evening.

They spoke fervently, advocating items

they believe need attention.

They requested our representatives

to prioritize, plan and implement

our City’s next two-year goals.

New positive leaders

and hard-working staff

bring eager energy and

their open hearts, listening.

They receive their assignments:

Create a community that thrives,

that offers each citizen opportunity

and the freedom to lead a successful life.

We all gain by coming together.

We all gain by hearing other ideas.

We all gain by respecting each other.

We are a greater City today.

Today, I am proud.

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“Me Me Me”

By Hellie Blythe, Paso Robles

My background’s profusely diverse:

Thousands before me were worse,

And, except for a nurse,

Who left in a hearse,

Not one has complained of a curse.

I am full from a diet organic:

Free range kids, and grand kids botanic.

I’ve got friendships sustainable

And health that’s containable.

I’m enjoying old age without panic.

I had no chance to rehearse

When I chose which paths to traverse.

I’d sign on again

With a stroke of my pen,

Could I return in an age less perverse.

~ ~ ~

“I Come From”

By Lani Steele, Los Osos

I come from women

who spoke German

when they didn’t want us

to understand

Rich smells of pot roast,

silky gravy to soothe

the day’s bumps

Houses so neat they hurt


“Sixty minutes makes an hour,

who dare waste it,


I come from hit and run men,

charmers who couldn’t take the heat,

made beautiful babies,

died young

I come from tract homes

and palm trees,

roller skates with keys

homes without TVs

and from fields which have fallen

under freeways.

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“Random Notes, March 11, 2017”

By Dale Preston, Grover Beach

On my back patio

I sit under my pergola.

Its stripes of shade

Moderate the warm sun.

A light breeze lifts tendrils of my hair

And the clapper of the wind chimes.

Scents of jasmine from neighbors’ vines

Mingle with aromas of dust on slate.

The campaign season was all too long

And I became addicted to online news.

In the aftermath, I was even more

Addicted — seeking to understand.

This is no way to spend retirement

Missing life as precious years fly by.

Today I turn a page and begin anew

To find my way to peace and contentment.

I review the decades of my life —

Taking stock of ups and downs.

I have overvalued work and

Underestimated life’s pleasures.

As I listen to random notes

Of chiming metal tubes.

I drink my chardonnay

And savor its complexity.

~ ~ ~

“Quiet Sadness”

By Janet von Freymann, Nipomo

A quiet sadness

Spills over me

An inside feeling

No one can see

It is loneliness

At depth’s deep

A personal feeling

That I keep

An empty swell

Pierces my soul

A mental anguish

Takes its toll

It is something

No one can see

A hollow emptiness

Part of me

Sadness knows not

When to rest

It consumes me

Takes by best

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“Self-Portrait as a Praying Mantis”

By Megan Healy, San Luis Obispo

You are a generalist predator — Queen of the Arthropods —

a lecherous femme fatale type hellbent on

camouflaging unrequited disappointment

into an oxytocin-induced appetite

driven by a diet of half-hearted deflections

you mean a lot to me,

you’re like my sister

never a nutrient-heavy

I want to be with you

maybe that’s why you devour your mates

head first —

a post-coital cerebral snack—

because when I love you is answered with thank you

there isn’t much left to do but submit

to frenzies of sexual cannibalism,

a lascivious alternative that can never quite satiate —

they owe you at least that much.

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»» There’s more: Click here to read the next set of poems.

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»» More poems: In troubled times, SLO County poets seek to comfort and inspire

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