The Tribune’s 10th annual celebration of National Poetry Month

Spring has always felt to me like the birth of a new year, and so I’m tempted to see these poems as a kind of verbal birthday cake, with the haiku serving as flickering candles and the more substantial poems as the slices of cake on each plate.

The candles — the three-line haiku poems, that is — cast the lights of tiny moments.

Leaves fall. Possums rattle bushes. Cats watch moths. A giggling child carries a toy umbrella. The flame is small, yet its power is real.

The cake slices are moist and flavorful, made of fresh natural language ingredients by the sort of cooks who don’t skimp on heart.

One cook loves the surf, another his dog, another the music of Thelonious Monk. Some book in celebration, some in remembrance.

Welcome to the party!

— James Cushing, 2010 San Luis Obispo poet laureate


Tricia Lipscomb, Nipomo

Warm night—guest returns — Sad eyed, long snouted, bare tailed, Bush-furred possum friend.


Bonnie Young, Arroyo Grande

I drive out west, turn north on 35 Heading for St. Paul on Thursdaymorn— Saying good-bye to Mom leaves me torn. Will winter rest arouse her mind alive? Across the highway drifting snow blows fierce, A red-striped barn announces, For Sale: Antiques — The only prized old things anyone seeks. Against gray skies a leafless black trees appears While fuzzy green sprigs dot the crusty snow. Baby Christmas trees run up and down Following fence posts closely into town, Seeking strength from frozen ground below. Misted in whirls of snow, the tired earth Stirs within, stretches to her sure rebirth.


Debra Davis Hinkle, San Luis Obispo

For Kyle Taylor Murphy, My Nephew

My mother’s graveside service His grandmother’s

He sat with his three aunts and cousin In the first row

In the second row

Sat his mother and father My husband, aunt and uncle, too

He was ten I was fifty

I should have comforted him

My sister gave me a tissue When I began to cry And, he held my hand


Hannah Richardson, Los Osos

Giggling umbrella

Dancing along sunlit paths, Clutched in small fingers.


Ivan BrownOtter, Cayucos

Like a wooden barrel rolling to shore the surf spills over a tunnel of air with a bluish-green curl of its own

When I was a child

my father taught me his rage from inside a bottle of booze

I learned to throw temper tantrums too Tense as a piano wire struck by the hammer

I pounded the keys with my fists

But when I watch the surf curl and listen to it crash

a long length of white water sweeps a cinemascope sea and all that angst slips away like time slips from summer into fall

With the rolling surf I feel soothed inside but if I don’t watch it rolls on without me

The surf has a curl of its own


Benjamin Daniel Lawless, San Luis Obispo

My dog is a kind and benevolent master. Just this morning,

I made him a bed of dog toys like a great sea. Under the waves his squeaky felt animals lay ripped apart, their stuffing like seaweed washed ashore.

And Apollo, like Noah before him,

invited Nicole and me to climb aboard his ark, a padded throne of his design, my effort, stacked to the rafters with dog biscuits. Never again would he need to nuzzle our hands for affection; free love in our new world.

Sunlight, surf, and a thousand other arks for us to visit.

Our king will butt-sniff hello’s with foreign dignitaries, leave whizz graffiti across their kingdoms and then we’ll sail, his head in my lap. His days at the door are over.

I’ll steer by the stars, Nicole watching for whales. Yelping at passing gulls, perhaps, but not Apollo. His legs will twitch, dreaming of his kingdom we left far behind.


Sierra R. Eaton, Los Osos

Moths madly flap wings Towards enticing porch lights; Feline eyes follow.


Lucas Gallant, Los Osos

Summer crept quiet

Stealthily crouched behind me Thirteen moons have passed


Cynthia Ransom, Paso Robles

I awoke suddenlyby the stripping of cloth from his chest, unaware of my deep slumber.

With desire that shocked I felt his young eyes on me. He simply smiled.

The earth pulled at me. The sky turned azure. The water called like a lost friend I had once played childhood games with.

My face spoke to him in a forgotten language of desire. He turned away. We stood.

I retreated. Yet returned. He still stood. I flew.

Across an ocean crumbling into arms held open to me for years.

Piece by piece she has reconstructed me. Made me vow to stay true for a second breath of life.

This morning I touched the tip of my desire for you. Prayed to the winds. Called out for you to rescue me. At the moment of my climax the German sky answered. Out my window it is snowing.


Rachel Gellman, San Luis Obispo

Your life is a cross between hard-boiled and scrambled. You didn’t go to Catholic school and you weren’t Bat Mitzvahed either. No chorizo coagulating in your yellow mucus. No fork poking at your yokes.

You weren’t salted and peppered. There was no milk mucking things up. You were not poured into a pan, forgotten, then scraped and salvaged from the sides with a wooden spoon. What’s left of you is not resting in the sink

under a hot, soapy layer of resentment, a voice from the next room screaming, It’s your turn to do the dishes.

You were poached, guided with two spoons into a shape all your own.

In a town far away, a boy sits on a stoop, his fingers tracing the stitches of a baseball, his hand in the glove, sweating the leather, eyes searching for his father.

His mother scrubs her scrubs in the toilet, dreaming of her meth days, no thoughts of him, or her lover

who is loving a man, pretending it’s a woman.

Somehow you slipped through the cracks, unscathed,

but who is washing the dishes?


George Asdel, Atascadero

Fat clouds like vessels drift on bright cerulean sea; casting rich shadows.


Matthew Hansen, Los Osos

Plentiful colors

Battle the wind; back-and-forth Fall dead upon ground.


Francesca Nemko, San Luis Obispo

Convoluting Resoluting Congeniality

Illogically supreme. Sound over sound over sound Unraveling as it

a skein Of multi-hued yarn Thread by thread Inch by inch. then Exploding in a vast sheet An intricate tapestry. And Monk said: “Well, you needn’t” In his own quirky way

Daring always to be different. As I am— Not always. Spinning, grinning Leaping out of time

In the key of G!