Books

Who am I? ‘Driftwood,’ ‘Celebration’ and other poems exploring identity and diversity

Driftwood near the Cayucos Pier in January 2017.
Driftwood near the Cayucos Pier in January 2017. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

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 sanluisobispo.com/entertainment/books throughout the month.

[»» Start at the beginning]

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Poems

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“Celebration”

By Mila Vujovich-La Barre, San Luis Obispo

Friends dying — my age I suspect

Sixth decade and the repercussions of habits or gene pools send people away

Vibrant souls reduced to ashes or eternal rest in a casket

It is a humbling feeling to be the living one in this wild and wonderful world of ours

To cope with the emptiness there is so often in remembering loved ones

I create a shrine of memories in my heart

Knowing that their human forms are intangible forever

I dutifully attend celebrations of life out of respect for the family and other friends

But here and now I am starting a revolution

I say, “Celebrate me now!” and I will celebrate sweet you!

Don’t wait until I am cold and lifeless to tell the stories of how you loved me when

Of how I made you laugh or inspired you

Or how I made you crazy with demands or lavished you with gifts

Yes, you! Remind me how we jumped into the pool with our clothes on

And you! Remind me how we jumped under a wave naked

And you! Let’s reminisce about long nights under tousled sheets

And sunrises in each other’s arms …oh tell me now that you love me

Whisper to me that I make your load lighter — your day brighter

Let this be our remembrance, our celebration of life

Don’t wait — the time is now to kiss me on my soft cheek or on my warm lips

To hold my strong hand … let this be a revolution of love and light and laughter

So, hear my call to arms!

Embrace me now while I am able to hug you back

Look into my shining, open, vibrant eyes

So I can celebrate you as you celebrate me now.

~ ~ ~

“Nothing Is Certain”

By Kevin Patrick Sullivan, San Luis Obispo

from the encaustic collage by Wendy Campbell Smith titled “Nothing is Certain”

Just my death

my true self

revealed

bones

and a halo of light

My hands and

my heart hard and soft flowers

still offer

the gifts

I tried to nourish

this go around

My body numbered

every molecule of color

holding fast

in the darkly

lit sea

this universe

spinning itself

through me

only this is certain

my death

my bones

a halo of light.

~ ~ ~

“Driftwood”

By Chris Schulz, Atascadero

In the cool flow of a river,

I found a child-sized piece

of driftwood partially

submerged in the shallows.

As if I were the curator of this

drifting log; I lifted it from its

basin, placing it on the rocky

shoreline. Its bark peeled off,

trunk worn smooth; I studied

the nicks and markings on

its surface. My hands rubbing

these pictograms to life, reading

the story of its bruised and

battered journey downstream.

In our brief time together, my

hands discovered its heartwood.

We shared the nature of our

authentic selves; I learned about

afterlife of trees, of drifting, floating

and eventually being worn smooth.

~ ~ ~

“California Woodlands”

By Susan Lara, Atascadero

The roar behind my left ear portends a visitation —

A tiny holy spirit.

There he hovers,

Flashing the fire of his breast,

Dipping and probing the pendulous bells,

Speaking in tongues.

The blessing of thankfulness fills my heart,

Not just for this Eden,

But for ancestors fleeing and adventuring,

Leaving their natural histories behind —

Mediterranean blue and Italian cypress,

Edelweiss and heather, hedgehogs and small English robins,

Kauri trees and kiwis in a giant fern forest —

And loving each other

That I might find myself here in this oaken lair,

With this tiny iridescent spirit,

And you.

~ ~ ~

“Prairie Woman”

By Anne Candelaria, Morro Bay

On the last day of the old year,

the slender branches of a birch

still hold a few gold coin leaves

turning in a crisp wind.

I am content under a winter sun,

combing the days of the year past

for graces bestowed. They play

as on some jaded jukebox,

the merry and the mournful.

By morning, I wake warm in my bed

while the cold wind rakes branches

across the window pane.

The quiet hours carry me

into the New Year,

where the glitter of the future beckons.

What dreams and desires

drift through the ghost

of my young self,

encased in this worn body.

They clamor against forgetfulness.

Yet, all I ask is to walk easy

on this old earth,

and to remember

that I came from the land.

~ ~ ~

“Breath of God”

By Todd Livermore, San Luis Obispo

It´s evening —

I sit and watch the light fade from the sky

Feel the warmth sucked out of the air

Mountains casting their shadows like

a fisherman's net over the water

In a moment —

a web of darkness encompasses me

The lead weights sucking the net towards

the bottom with severity, closing its throat

A dull, gray darkness, slowly becomes an

absence of all light, turning into a blinding black night

A black so deep, so deep, so ... silent

Here in the darkest of darkness, I dare to ask, who am I?

Within a deafening dark silence, I begin to feel the palpitating

thump of my heart, sense the spirit of God’s net

hovering over this body of water

Sense every atom of red blood slithering,

gurgling through webs of veins, feel the little wind

of God's breath rush into the desperate

vacuum of my lungs filling the emptiness

Filling me entirely with God’s Spirit

suddenly I know, as God is, so am I

living, breathing, loving,

Breath of God

~ ~ ~

»» 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

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