Friday, April 18, 2014

Day 17: Freestone

For today's prompt, we had to write about the word "hope" as a topic, but we also had to use as many of another list of words randomly throughout the poem.  As the month goes on, I have drifted back to writing about the history of Sonoma County.  Today's poem is about Freestone, the town I live closest too and a place that's been transformed dramatically just in the time that I've known it, but even more so from it's earliest history when three men named James built a sawmill there.  Here is my draft:

Hope is a town quarried from easily
worked sandstone.  First, a general store
selling button candy, and dry goods
then a black-aired salon that gathered
like a compass, and then the architect
built the two-story hotel.  This is before
the train drew a silver line between product
and the deliveries made possible by
the Sausalito Ferry.
                                 Years before
when the chorus of frogs still sang from
Salmon Creek, three men named James were
gifted the land by General Vallejo
and they built a sawmill on the creek's stony jaw. 

It's a story that often ends in flame:
three men drunk on land, red-faced, chest to chest
over the names written on the deed to the mill
Instead of fire, one of the James saws the mill
in two, splitting the new wood right down the middle. 

But, even hope, like a field of sleepy-headed snapdragons,
can be grown from this, and keep coming back Spring after Spring after Spring.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day 16: Valley of the Moon

For today's poem, we were to write off of the word, pilose (which means covered in downy hair). For me, this was a tough prompt.  But, here is what I came up with.

Valley of the Moon

At eye level, the field is pilose, dew-
dappled grass rich with the scent of wet earth.
And the soil here hums electric--since
1920 Sonoma County has been
top ten in agricultural production.
So much available land on which to 
plant crops of hops, grapes, prunes and apples.
Already the apple trees stand their hills
clad in green gowns and vineyards hold back
in the maze of their arms. At night, the air
is fresh and alive with all that desire--
A fox screams her needs into salted air
night after night as we beckon sleep to
bring us back to the time before life throbbed and thrived.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Day 15: After The Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil (1100s)

I had to take a few days off from my poem-a-daying, due to life's unexpected surprises.  But, I'm back and certain I can make up for lost time.  For today's poem, we were to write about an artwork. For some reason, this piece from the 1100s depicting heaven caught my eye. It's featured at the Getty right now and is from an old scroll.  Here is my draft about the painting above:
The Divine Liturgy of St. Basil
Of course in heaven are a hundred birds
Each eave of the onion-domed home hosting
colorful families of air-boned hope:
red-throated, or whirling turquoise feathers
they coo and twill and prance their shock orange
claws on snarly gargoyles stone cold eyes.
And of course this place is a dappled thing:
made of new grass green and summer sky blue
points of light, gather like a cloud of witness
and swarm above our minds. We stand on
carpets woven from wild roses and
violets, sedated by the breath of
hyacinths.  Watching the light strike crystal
chandeliers and swallow us in rainbows.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Day 10: Grateful for Future, Whatever it May Contain

I am officially a day off.  But, for a good reason!  Last night, I got to read from Gold Passage and The Flying Trolley (and my manuscripts "500 Days" and "There's Ghosts in this Machine of Air") at Copperfield's Books.  What a pleasure to get to read to so many dear friends at a book store that I love!  It was truly a great event.  But, today, I am determined to catch up (instead of work on my taxes, or grade papers, which may or may not be a wise decision!)  The prompt I was supposed to write off of for April 10 was "ungrateful about my future".  But, since, after last night, it was impossible not to be grateful, I ended up writing about that instead. Here is my draft:

Grateful for Future, Whatever it May Contain

Hard to predict the future when you wake
to a fogged field at dawn echoing bird
song. Hard not to spend your day trying to
follow a straight line: long roads divided
by broken lines, contrails that dissipate
from the sky, a blue, shimmering pool still
unparceled by lane lines. A clock you doubt
the accuracy of.  But, the future
is funny, isn’t it?  You have no choice
but to watch it slowly emerge from fog
like a lone muscular buck.  Quivering,
unpredictable and surrounded by
the feathered hope of song.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014


Today, we were to write about the word pluvial which means of or relating to rain.  As a Californian, rain is something I think a lot about.  How we either have too much of it or not enough and how the rainfall is always on our minds.  Here's my draft for today. 

Growing up, when we doubted time, we dialed
P-O-P-C-O-R-N, heard the cool fact delivered in
a soothing accurate voice.  Important
in a place like this: built on faults, rainy
season that is always feast or famine.
What pluvial dreams will bloom from a mind
that sleeps beneath the staccato tap of rain-
drops on a tin roof.  Who feels the thirst of
the parched golden hills and the nervous willows
whisper even from under fog’s cover.
Once, this river swelled far beyond its banks
you can find those muddy rings marked surge.
Others, you could walk across the water.
You can find those muddy rings marked as now.
And still the river aches and winds toward
the salty mouth of sea with certainty.
No matter how much rain.  The waves will crash
into what the river’s got to give up
and that’s time’s secret.  Dial.  Hang-up.  Dial. 
It will always pass.
It will always continue to count.

Day 8: Broken

For today's prompt, I had to use the word broke or broken and write a violent poem.  I'm not sure I got to violence, but there are ghosts! Here's my draft:

Day 8: Broken
The hills are scattered with rotgut. Houses
or barns left for winds picking – paint sun-bleached
and peeling.  Windows shot or shattered, broke
like history.  A garden gone feral
in the front yard; generations upon
generations of kale and fennel knuckling
out of the weed infested ground.
My friend says when she dies she’ll come back as
a ghost and haunt us all. I don’t doubt it.
Funny how a life is looking back, how
it grows long as an afternoon shadow
how it doesn’t blink out but lingers on—
like a bleached house on a hill half covered
in blackberry bushes where memory
however broken or faded grows on.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Day 7: Self Portrait at Lake Tahoe

Day 7: Self Portrait at Lake Tahoe

Some days, ordinary some days crowned
by snow-capped jags – mountainous teeth.
Some days legs like reconstructed fossils,
joints where jeweled hummingbird wing-beats fan pain.
Relief can be as cool and deep as a lake.
Dive under the surface and pain dissolves
like fine sugar. Swim far enough under
and the body, however sparked, will numb.

Revising a Poem for There's Ghosts in This Machine of Air

“When I die, if I go to a place where there are apples, I’ll know it won’t be heaven.”

After the tractor cooled and dust settled
come into house gone cold, stoke fire’s coals,
peel and slice the windfalls thin, brown sugar
a lemon plucked yesterday from the bough.
Roll dough cold. Cover. Bake an hour.  Gather
the children.  Coax. Read words or written.  Stir
pot hot on iron stove.  Wash the earth from
crooked carrots and beets.  Slice thin into
caste-iron skillet.  Stir with yesterday’s
slaughtered chicken.  Wash the young faces.  Scold
the ones who know better.  Divvy chores: set,
serve eat, clear, wash, scour, hot steam boiled. Lay
the children down. Look for quiet enough.
Sit beside the glowing coals, song pouring
back into the fire what’s burned out.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Day 6: Sea Monkeys Have an Expiration Date

Okay, so I can't take credit for this title.  It's the prompt from my poem-a-day group.  Today's poem continues my trend of having animals in each of the poems I write.  This one features coyotes.  Hope you enjoy!

Sea Monkeys Have an Expiration Date

Last night, slice of moon startled the window.
Mercy of cool air, cleaved in two, and darkness
pressing from behind like a false promise.
These days we don’t sleep well.  Coyotes braid their
staccato screams together into air.
You’d think the air would saturate: reach a
point when no more sounds could compound into
its dark ear.  But, lying here, half asleep,
the sounds trifle, layer up, a swarm of crickets
in its glass belly, then the moans of far off cars,
the wrinkle of a tarp left out to gather wind,
the clink of a metal clasp against a metal pole,
and then the coyotes, so many it seems,
the hills been overrun.  We have become
tenants to their nightly follies.  A mere
audience of bodies, laid out on the cool sheets
waiting for breath of air; waiting for the shock
of the moon to remind of our place in this world.