Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Laguna, Part 8 - The Impaired

Here is the latest installment on my Laguna poem: section 8.It is still very much a draft, but thought I would post it anyway to keep myself going.

Impaired

This
14-mile wetland, this 254-square mile watershed that’s spread between four cities where history’s left over sediments are still being removed. By 1990, 92% of the Laguna’s riparian forest was gone.

Left arm reaching into Copeland, Washoe and Blucher Creeks. Right arm reaching into Santa Rosa, Hinebaugh and Five Creeks.A mouth that breathes into Mark West Springs Creek.A backbone made of the Mayacamas and Sonoma Mountains. 

In summer months, the Laguna wastes into a silver
ribbon of water threaded between hills.
In winter months she spills and swells back into what she once was: a series of lakes that lead to the sea. 

Considered a national treasure. Listed as impaired
under the federal Clean Water Act for sediment, nitrogen, temperature, phosphorus, mercury and dissolved oxygen.

Which system is miraculous?   The plentiful before or the rescue of what’s left after?  

When you walk the smooth, grated paths that now rib the Laguna, hear a thousand oak leaves rustling in the light wind. and remember the miraculous ghost of what was once there.  


Friday, September 26, 2014

Laguna Part 3 - A Double Sonnet on The Llano de Santa Rosa


Here is another draft of a section from Laguna de Santa Rosa.  This one, a double-American sonnet focuses on the first land grant to Joaquin Carillo (son of Maria Carrillo and brother-in-law of General Vallejo) called Llano de Santa Rosa Rancho.  The map pictured here is from Calispehere - an amazing resource for historic photographs and documents.  This is a survey map of the Llano de Santa Rosa Rancho (which did run out near what is now Llano road). 



Llano de Santa Rosa Rancho, 1843


Joaquin Carrillo was granted three
leagues of forested delta or llano
thanks to his brother-in-law, General
Vallejo. Soon, acres of oak forests
that seemed to breathe light into dark were gone.
Land cleared. Lakes drained. Crops replaced sedge with corn,
wheat, and barley. Trees were burned for charcoal.
An adobe home was built near Analy township.
But even as the trees thinned the plain still
teemed with large game: great herds of elk forged lakes,
mountain lions paced their territories
and grizzly bears roamed at will.  One day when
Joaquin rode across the eastern edge
of his rancho, one such bear followed him.

His horse, wild with fear, stumbled into
one of the many sink holes that had opened
up from the changed land and it was in that
dark hole that the three tangled into a story.
From which a bear would emerge unharmed.
From which the man and his horse would follow
what dark commerce was executed to
obtain this outcome is unknowable.

When settlers arrived after the Gold Rush,
Carillo began to sell off pieces
of his land.  Farmlets of 100 or
so acres of hops or cattle.  Trading
post went up. Whatever was in the way –
water, or animal, decimated.

Laguna de Santa Rosa, Part 2 - Tending the Sedge

Well, I don't think I'll rest until this poem is done.  For those of you who are following this blog, this is the second section of my poem, Laguna de Santa Rosa (it directly follows my last post "Prelude").  I'll keep posting these small segments as I finish them. Then, I'll post the finished poem sequence once it is completed.


 Tending the Sedge

The land was first the lands. Then, the Pomo,
the Miwok and the Wappo lived on it.
The triblets of the Konohomtara,
the Kataictemi and the Biakomtara
settled on different sections of the wide
Laguna for over 10,000 years. 
Little changed except the roots and stalks of
the course sedge plants that grew half-submerged in
the water.  The Pomo basket weavers
cultivated the sedge fields, passed prayers
for straight stalks and supple roots from mouth to
ear. Prayed and sang, untangled and threaded.
The basket is in the roots, that’s where it begins.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Canvas - A Prelude - The beginning of the Laguna de Santa Rosa poem

I guess you could say I am obsessed with finishing this poem about the Laguna de Santa Rosa.  But, it is slow work.  This week we were to write a poem called "Canvas" in response to a stunning poem by francine j. harris called "Canvas".  Here is the re-written opening section of my poem, tentatively called "Canvas - A Prelude".

Canvas - A Prelude
Begin by  walking the cracked, chamomile- paths.  Let the path stretch across a wide stubbed field. 
Fill the air with the sounds of birds.  Fill the air with fat bees and the machine hum of insects.
Post appropriate markers that mark miles and decades but not the truth..

Try to contain the fissures of time in each quick step. When you walk under the lone oak that still, like the last visible star, constellates the field, smell smoke.  See the ghosts of the hundreds of other thick oak trunks that once crowded this space.  Hear their lost leaves rattling in the wind.

When you reach the man-made lake made to replace the natural lake, walk the perimeter.  The cattails that cage the floating bodies of seven white pelicans who have stopped here to rest on route back to the sea.

Look out across the drought dry field and imagine an chain of hundreds of lakes linking their way back to the sea.  Drain them for the good soil underneath. Fill them with soot.  Fill them again with feces and urine.  Cover what’s left of them in brambles. Get tangled in the sticky blood of berry juice.

And when you near the last of the water, the floating pontoon bridge, and the sounds of children playing baseball on the chalked diamond, let a red-snake T-bone the trail.

Let it open in you a wound that at it’s center is a mouth.

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Laguna poem - Revised and Expanded

In honor of my friend Paula Koneazny, I'm continuing work on a long poem I am writing about The Laguna de Santa Rosa which she had greatly helped me on.  There is still much work to be done on the poem, but here is the draft of a new section I've written to add to it today:


Marine Mammals of the Northwestern Coast of North America, 1874

The whaling captain Charles Scammon left
the ragged, rocky cliffs of Maine's coast for
San Francisco in 1849.  He led many whaling expeditions
But what those large bodies lent instead of
flesh and oil was a path to a luminously blue,
Baja Lagoon where the whales stilled their bodies
to give birth.  The first day he arrived
at the open-mouthed bay his heart shifted:
a locked wooden chest left open and bare.
He learned to observe for a different
purpose: not to hunt, but to know
what the dark bodies could spell into him.
When he left that unpredictable sea to write
it all down he settled with his son on the edge
of the Laguna where the sea still speaks
in susurrations of muted fog.
 

Monday, September 08, 2014

Emily Dickinson Mash-up

For today's exercise we were to write like the first poet who influenced us.  Quite humbling, to say the least! My first poet-love was Emily Dickinson. I started reading her in 7th grade.  Here is my attempt at a draft:

Emily Dickinson Mash-up

That leaden hour when morning fog will block
the automatic warmth of a robotic sun. 

A wire caught – nosed and laced through
air’s translucent ribbons – writhes and snakes

until the dawn is stuck to brood in  
the zero hour.  Too much for the swallows

tired throats to attest.  A golden pressure
that winks against the barrier of glass.
What keeps me in, waiting –
for the lift, the dry field,
day purged of fertility of night.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Mean Mommy

After a few weeks off getting the semester started, I've finally drafted a poem (YAHOO!)

Mean Mommy

You wake to the liquid dark. You wake to
the new container of your elastic
body.  You wake to cold sweats, small femurs,
and wrist bones fossilized into your flesh.
You wake to shadows breathing in corners
of what could come what could enter and take
away what you love.       Days slur drunkenly
by --fat with syrup and homemade pancakes
(FROM SCRATCH!).  Days made of: diapers and wipes and
mismatched brittle laundry.         There are days when
you look head on at your face in the mirror.
When you can see through your elastic skin
into what’s underneath: geometry
of bones and at its center a hearth of rage.
You wake to the dark empty before dawn. 
You wake to the slit of night light.  You wake
into the new routine of meal to meal. 
The bend down and pick up the wrapper on
the floor, check the laundry on the way out.
Some mornings you wake before the others.
You open the door into the yawn of
dawn into the deafening chorus of
sea birds and raptors and blue jays into
the air that is fresh and possible with
fog and you feel the perimeter
of your own body return to you.

But footsteps THUD! into closer  into
the open belly of the house. And night
slurs into the noise of day. The stuffing
of bodies into clothes and the packing
of (NUTRITIOUS!) lunches.          These days when you
look head on at your face in the mirror
and see beyond the bone cage, the raging
belly hearth to the bedrock beneath:
 a mountain lake gone slack and cool.   
A lake that burns with its origin of ice.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Into the Hybrid at Luther Burbank's Garden

I'm working at Napa Valley Writers' Conference this week, which means in between helping to run this incredible conference I get to sit down and hear poets like Brenda Hillman, Kazim Ali, Camille Dungy and Brian Teare blow my mind with craft talks about various topics.  This draft of a poem happened while listening to Brenda Hillman discuss the various types of courage it takes to engage in the poetic space.  It's a meditation on Luther Burbank's Garden in Santa Rosa and the way we hold history to a specific line, even though it is all subjective. 




Into the Hybrid at Luther Burbank's Garden


Mounds of earth like open graves
grammared by stones, guarded by toothy daisies.


The medicinal garden, the sensory garden
the garden of starts and failures contained.


To question history is to watch the chaos of its particles
glisten into discernible patterns in the air.


We loosen embedded stones with our toes
amongst tree that grow into each other.



We ask--where is he buried?
Light caught in the fingers of lost cedar.



We ask--where are the unattested species recorded?Indecipherable writing in notebooks
sketches of leaves, a seed big as a child's fist.



Please do not record insidePlease do not disturb  outside: the war of air.



What's pushing up--
ache of earth against this litany of breeding air:
mind to mouth to mind to mouth.



This breeding between what was, what will be,
and what will be left to believe.