Who am I? ‘The Jazz Life,’ ‘Copper Pans’ and other poems exploring identity


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]




“The Jazz Life”

By Francesca Nemko, San Luis Obispo

I need to be truly living

The Jazz Life.

Spending each day grooving, swinging


Not just dancing around the edge.

I'm literally sick and tired

Of not following my dream

My body feels depleted

Slowly breaking down

For lack of sustenance.

No vitamin or mineral

Or supplement of any kind can do it.

No — only the creative spark

Fully fired up

Let loose to roam

Around the interior of me

Scraping the sides

Churning up the juices

To set free

All that's waiting to be.

Oh, how I yearn to live free

Unfettered, always

No strings, no ties

Freedom the only prize

Which, for me, is The Jazz Life.

~ ~ ~

“My pen”

By Nina Reinacher, Arroyo Grande

I laugh because I can cry.

I know because I wonder why

I am grounded

So I can fly


This, my pen, my best friend

Writes for me while I question

On darkened roads without an end

Leading me down a path I can’t see,

An unknown road of mystery

The light is cast from this, my pen

As I twist around another bend

Of misty shadowed gravel there

Beneath my feet.

Like leaves, life brushes on my face,

Bristling lines, it leaves a trace

Of winter’s cold and empty space

And radiance of autumn’s grace

While I adapt to nature’s pace,

Seeking crevices of light.

~ ~ ~


By Janice Peters, Morro Bay

Ah, the theater, the magic it brings … letting imagination take wings!

Drama, pathos, mystery, suspense, comedy, laughter, music and dance,

All out there on stage for the audience to see.

But that’s not the best part of theater for me.

I love the auditions, the thrill when you’re cast, highlighting your script, learning lines fast.

Sing the songs in your car, practice dance steps at lunch…then feel like a klutz when you try both at once!

New friends become family as you rehearse the show.

Then “hell week” … already?! Where did the time go?

Am I sure of my lines? Are my costumes OK?

Should I play that one scene in a different way?

Is my character complete, will she seem real?

Will I make the audience feel what I feel?

Then opening night and you wait in the dark, excitement measured by the beat of your heart.

Places everyone, break a leg! (NOT good luck!) The creation’s complete, and now, curtain up!

Step onto the stage, play the scene, do your bit…the audience likes us! Hurray, we’re a hit!

Look forward to weekends all through the run, spending time in the green room, running lines, having fun.

And just when you get every nuance just right, the show’s run is over, and it’s closing night.

After the curtain call, the hugs and the tears, the cast party gifts and program souvenirs,

The family dissolves, separate ways we all go,

With one last “I love you … see you next show!”

~ ~ ~

“A Sketch”

By Shirley Radcliff Bruton, Atascadero

During my childhood, I sold watermelons

at my grandfather’s roadside stand in the Mojave Desert.

While eating and drinking the sweet red juice,

I spit out the dark, plump seeds.

The hot summer temperatures scorched the ground

and radiated back up, enveloping and smothering

my rebellious self. It removed me from the volatile

internal heat of an indefensible home life. I loved that quiet heat.

In high school I took a modern dance class

and spent the next 11 years devoted to the discipline.

I was able to express my anger, joy, sadness and confusion.

Dancing also opened up a world of music, literature and art.

Performance Art gave me the voice I wanted,

still abstract in delivery, i.e. opening a folding-chair, and

then slamming it shut, over and over and over again

while shouting “Love, Love, Love,” as a couple close by

gently embraced.

My closeup photography revealed the details that the human eye

couldn’t see, a fascinating device to probe a little deeper.

The Prana of yoga and writing poetry seemed to arrive

at the same time; both mindful practices into the realm

of cause and effect. The world expanded, expressing

itself as a reflection of my soft easy breath. A kinder,

more accepting observation of life unfolded within me.

~ ~ ~

“Copper Pans”

By Juliane McAdam, Los Osos

The kitchen of my childhood was stocked with

copper-clad Revere Ware pans —

sauce pans, Dutch ovens, skillets.

My parents, mostly my father, cooked;

my job was to wash the pans

and polish the copper bottoms.

At twenty-two, as I prepared to

set off on my own —

graduate school halfway across the country —

my father gave me several of the pans,

pans as old as I was,

enough to stock my own kitchen.

Now, nearly fifty years later,

I still cook with those same pans,

in the kitchen my father used to cook in.

He surely knew that I could

always depend on copper-clad Revere Ware.

But I confess:

I no longer polish the copper bottoms.

~ ~ ~

»» 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