Who am I? ‘Daughter,’ ‘Radiance’ and other poems exploring identity and diversity

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.

[»» Start at the beginning]





By Sara Popp, Los Osos

Sweaty head nestled under my chin

His breath wets my neck and I never sleep deeply

But still I welcome his little body

Night after sleepless night I breathe him in

Storing up a lifetime of memories

To sustain me for the years ahead when he doesn’t fit

Under my chin anymore

And I lie awake thinking fondly

Of pointy elbows and tangled legs

And the short season of his childhood

~ ~ ~


By Gail Jensen Sanford, Morro Bay

Because Jackson once ran toward me on an ordinary

day, meeting in the middle of the streets where

he remembers to look all three ways,

this evening, as we’re walking back down Black Hill,

studying our ascending footprints in the dirt of the trail,

when Chris and Keela enter the gate with their dog

and he hurls himself down the hill into their arms,

I don’t need him turned toward me to know

that his face is lit with an extravagant joy

as dazzling as the instant saffron glow that slants

from beneath the grey bank of the marine layer

in the moments before the sun sets.

~ ~ ~

“Mothers Die”

By Kathy Bond, Grover Beach

In the south of England

during the Second World War,

my mother died the day after

my Marlboro birth in Savernake Hospital.

Years later, I stood in that delivery room.

Administration told me that Dr. Morris

had just retired. What an eerie cosmic

feeling trying to take this all in.

My father came to see me

when I had our first child.

He said something about

history repeating itself.

Thereafter, when times came

for me to deliver a child, I prepared

myself for death and ordered my affairs

because mothers die.

I wish I’d told our son-in-law this when

our daughter labored with our grandchild.

He misunderstood my lack of

excitement, because mothers die.

Myocardial degeneration from a childhood illness took mine.

~ ~ ~


By Michele Flom, San Luis Obispo

Blood of privilege bequeaths

an alliance of tarnished spoons.

For you, I have no heirlooms.

But this old rugged cross

upon which Jesus hangs

bloodied and beaten for us.

And these canines and bicuspids,

your first teeth lost in the move.

Here then, this gift of hieroglyphs.

Each kin marks their own set.

Tattoos etched into soft flesh, or carved

on shards of broken vessels, now buried

beneath the sawdust and damp root cellar.

Waiting quietly for the dull shovel.

The clay is hard and time is short

for thoughtfulness. I see that now.

Yet sometimes I hear still

one single word, breath of a syllable,

hiding between quilts, floating in air.

A memory’s ghost at the top of the stairs.

One measure of you raised under my roof.

The other, my dear, by wolves I once knew.

~ ~ ~

“Pure As Salt”

By Dylan Hahn, Paso Robles

To them, I am a bundle of sticks

The flames are beginning to lick at my feet

The crowd looks pleased with themselves

To them, this is an act of justice

To Them, I am a bundle of sticks

Beautiful boy who would've been mine to keep

Put a stone in the ground with my name etched into it, for I will have no remains

You were always better at hiding, and you have made the decision to keep at it.

You deserve that

You deserve to remain on earth

To them, I am a bundle of sticks

Please my dear keep hiding.

Do not let them know you are sticks as well

I was brave and stupid enough to peer out of the shadows,

Now I feel the heat of God's painful, searing light crawl up my body and into my mind

To Them, I am a bundle of sticks

I am disappointed by the deceit of those around me,

But I am proud to burn

~ ~ ~

“Irish Girls”

By Clayton Jones, Nipomo

I mailed her a pamphlet

on birth control

and the dangers

of overpopulation

back when I was 17

and she was

the Irish Catholic girl

across the street

who moved away,

the one who

taught me to dance

If only I’d known then

what I know now:

You can’t have

too many

Irish girls

~ ~ ~

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

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San Luis Obispo County poet laureate Jeanie Greensfelder reads her poem "At Sweet Springs Preserve," at the location of the same name, in March 2017.

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