Sunday, April 29, 2012

Day 28: That Which is Needed

Before there was a town, Sebastopol, (first known as Pine Grove) was a place where a road passed through.  It was a spot on the road between the Russian River Valley and the mouth of the Petaluma River where the great felled trees would be stacked on boats and floated down to San Francisco.  I started thinking about how the town was first only that which was needed: a few shops catering the travelers who passed through before some of those travelers (such as J.H.P. Morris who founded the town) stopped and that which was needed increased to support those who stayed. Here is my draft for today:

At Gateway to the Russian River

When there were just the two worn ox-cart ruts:
a road traveled between the lumbering
camps in the Russian River Valley and
the mouth of the Petaluma River
that which was needed was built roadside
a few salons, blacksmiths, a general store.

The few who stopped were welcomed by the scent
of the tall pines that crowned the hills above
and the wide prairie of the Laguna
where oaks rose offering majestic shade.
What the town would become, months later, years
was still written in the minds passed through

Body stiff from too long sitting at helm
of the massive cart, the mind wanders, spins
cities out of fields, spells fortune out of stars.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Day 27: This is a Rare Thing

I can't believe so many days have already passed in my poem-a-day project.  What a pleasure it has been to dive into the history of Sonoma County.  Today's poem takes a short break from diving too historically deep.  I had a big day (interview) and wrote this as my students were taking their in-class exam.  It all centered around images I had seen on my incredibly beautiful commute to work: the grass dancing on the hillside, a lone swan splitting a field pond where normally I only see ducks.  Then, a host of brightly colored hot-air-balloons seemed suspended over the college before I walked in.  Here is my draft for today:

Stepping Over into the Rare of Now

How landscape beckons me into it:

first light and already the grasses dance
under wind’s breath, a lone swan in a field pond
opens a line in the dull-eyed water
with its feathered buoyancy. But the dream
of the snake was rare. (Had I seen it or
read it first?) Before the long body stretched
across my known path in the golden field?
It was a gopher snake, not poisonous,
just fat on too many gophers, soaking
sun into its cooled brown skin as it lay
still. But fear shimmered high in the bay leaves
breathed heavy on the gold stubble of grass
until his body became vinculum:
To step over was to hush the leaves and
wind. To step over was to risk passage
into another life.

                              This morning when
bright pink and green hot air balloons hung in
the sky above now like hope, I knew to
close my eyes and step over the dreamed snake
into the rare chance of what lay beyond.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Day 26: Say a little prayer

Today's prompt hit close to home.  I have a big event tomorrow - an interview for a job  at the college where I am currently working part-time.  So, I have a lot of prayers of hope I'm whispering under my breath.  But, when I turned to the natural landscape to reflect I saw the apple trees that just a few weeks ago were blazing the hills in radiant pink have begun to disappear.  I saw them scattered on the ground in the fields and felt they looked like the end of a party.  Then, I looked at the trees, still wet from a light rain we had last night and saw how they had puffed up (almost overnight!) with green leaves.  Here is my draft for today:

Prayers for Trees
At night the light rain whispers prayers through
the tin roof of our barn; prayers not meant
for our sleeping minds or motionless forms.
They are prayers for those last scattering
of pink apple blossoms strewn across fields
like the forgotten confetti of spring
as the gnarled trees stand steady against wind
in the wide green field.  Prayers for those trees
as they thicken with green leaves, the promise
of tart, ripe fruit.  By morning, the storm will
be gone, the tree near bare of blossoms
and we will wake without knowing about
the prayers whispered in the dark of night.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Day 25: Salvation can be found_______

Today's prompt started haunting me the moment I woke up.  I get up early to prepare my lessons and write and this morning as I walked out of my office it was still dark, but a dawn chorus had erupted.  It was amazing.  I could hear everything from song birds to wild turkeys.  Then, an hour or so later on my drive over Roblar road the green hills were bathed in syrupy sunlight.  It was so beautiful, it was almost too much to bare.  It got me thinking about what it must have been like to live there (as the Coast Miwok did for centuries) and not be willing to give it up to anyone.  This draft is about the story that haunted me as I drove to work today.

There’s a Ghost in This Machine of Air

Salvation can be found before light comes

the dawn chorus tightening the fogged air
then sun rises to reveal the massive
green flanks of hills rolling back to the sea,
a lone black calf, itching his shoulder on
a telephone pole, or a rotting barn
commanding a hill’s sharp crest. There are ghosts
that flit past my car window as I pass.
The Irish immigrant who settled here
built a cabin on crane creek, planted wheat,
was surprised by the young Miwok men who
ran bare-chested down the flanks of the hills,
their arms elongated by fiery
sticks of tule that hissed and burned. The settler
would escape but his cabin and wheat fields
burned to the ground. He never returned to
the rolling green hills, the dawn chorus, that
had hypnotized him because he understood
why one might run, arms aflame, to save this.

Of course, it was only a matter of
time until other white men came to take
Kota’ti. But each day until the next
The hills rolled green to the sea, and the men
watched the fog roll in silently at peace.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 23: An Invisible Thread

Yesterday, I had the great pleasure of walking on the beach in Bodega Bay. The birds were out in full force - pelicans circled the dark waters looking for dinner, sandpipers swarmed the breaking surf. Today's prompt got me thinking about how animals around us continue with or without or historical events. How distant relatives of these birds were likely here to greet the tall ships. Here is my draft for today:

An Invisible Thread

Is stitched between yesterday and today.
Some days when pelicans fly over in
Tight, impossible formations, when sandpipers
Stitch the delicate lace at wave's receding break,
I believe our past is malleable as paper lost
To water or time. Circle back a stitch
And find only remnants, stories re-told
That are as chameleon-like as the sea's surface.
But hope is deep and wide. Who says I can't
Decipher the hidden threads that bind us.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Day 22: A Rueful Moon

This prompt brought me back to Friday night, the benefit reading we did for the Laguna (our local wetlands) that our community has begun the long journey back to restore. Here is my draft:

Moon Over Laguna de Santa Rosa

It is a rueful moon that drifts over
Laguna de Santa Rosa tonight--
River that flows both ways carrying
History heavy on its back. Those who
First recorded what they saw were in awe
Of the wooded plain, ripe with water and
Animal life. But change was drastic. First, the cattle ranchers cleared and burned the Live Oaks
Leaving their ominously blackened bodies girdling the golden tule fields.
Then the Gold Rush increased the price of game--
white and grey geese, ducks, deer antelope, elk
Even the few grizzlies that had survived
Were caught and sold for outrageous prices
on docks of the Petaluma river.
The remaining oaks were split and corded,
or reduced to charcoal. Then channels dug
To drain the cattle farms. Then the sewage ponds
Dug and filled. Today, the moon hangs low in
The sky. Not full, just a thin fingernail
Illuminating a single path back
past the remaining oaks, past forgetting.

Day 21: Alate

Well, there is always one day when one falls short in a poem-a-day exercise, right?  Since yesterday was that day for me, I aim to "catch-up" today.  Yesterday and the night before were packed with inspiring events.  First, I had the great pleasure of reading Friday night with the talented poets Gwynn O'Gara, Phyllis Mesculum, Terry Ehret, Bill Vartnaw, Penelope LaMontagne, Larry Robinson and Judith Stone in an event called, "Poems of Sacred Geography".  I read selections from the poems I've been writing this month.  It felt risky to read what is just written.  But, I'm glad I did.  Then, the next morning was Sebastopol's Apple Blossom parade.  The parade is still a big event in our town.  Main street is shut down and we all go out to watch the marching bands and floats roll past.  It was the hottest day we'd had this year (it seems like the Apple Blossom festival always is!) as we watched modern Sebastopol interwoven with the past: an Wells Fargo Stagecoach, and 100 year old apple sprayers that once pumped arsenic and lead on the apple trees to keep the pests away.  This parade, which was once the Gravenstein Apple Show (1910 - 1915) continues long after the apples are less and the main crop grown in our town.  Then, in the afternoon, we had a wonderful fundraiser for California Poets in the Schools - the organization I teach for where we teach poetry lessons to children in K-12 classroom.  Students ages 6 - 16 got up and recited from memory or read poetry in front of a large crowd.  It was a powerful event and thankfully, a successful fundraiser.  All of these events left me without much time to write but contemplating the prompt.  Alate means winged. It come from the latin alatus - meaning wing.  On these bright days it seems most everything is winged.  But the parade is where my imagination was centered yesterday.  One woman kept walking up and down the mile stretch of the parade route.  She was an older woman and she was wearing golden wings that she danced up and down the route flapping.  At first, her appearance just made you smile, but then when she continued to show up: dancing next to the high school marching band, or the town fire trucks, she made you question why she was there.  For me, she became a symbol of the town's history. A golden winged pest that continually returns and makes us question the present.  Here is the draft I wrote today, for yesterday's prompt:

The 66th Apple Blossom Parade, 2012

The whole town seemed over-exposed in bright
new sunlight on the day of the Apple
Blossom parade. We stood four-thick watching
our children in uniform marching bands
pass by, the shined up fire trucks throwing
handfuls of bright candy, and the old men,
who continually ride their old tractors
or apple sprayers down the parade route.
Arcs of water spray out of old machines
that once carried lead and arsenic to
keep an orchard clean of unwanted pests
and the hot parade watchers beg for it.

All along the parade route the alate
woman appears. She spreads her golden wings
and dances next to the marching band. Then,
re-appears in front of the fire truck.
We laugh at her. Shoo her off. Think her a
fool. But she returns, dancing and smiling.

When the parade stops, we gather children.
The streets are swept. We go home to fallow
fields still freckled with unpruned trees still warm
from sunburns, still thinking of what’s passed us
by as the fog rolls in and sedates us.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Day 20--How to be Zen about NOT losing weight

Today's prompt was a tough one to fit into my project.  But it got my associative mind thinking about how my colleague was talking about Napa once being called, "the breadbasket of the Goldrush" for all of the wheat that was produced in that valley before the grapes were brought in and Napa became famous for wine.  I started thinking too, about how growing up in Sonoma County leaves you spoiled by the abundance that is every where.  The produce alone can ruin you from being able to live anywhere else and be satisfied.  I also started thinking about the idea of weight.  What weighs a place down.  What weights you to a place.  Part of finding out who I was as a writer was coming to terms with how important it was for me to have a relationship with the place I lived because writing about place is such an integral part of my writing process.  Finally, driving home from Napa on this beautiful day I couldn't help but notice all of the remnants of the past that surfaced as I drove home: the old Adobe (which was recently almost shut down), the old railroad line of Railroad avenue, the Washoe House on Stony Point, the numerous old farmhouses that stand dilapidated or remodeled.  How do we stay "Zen" with the weight of history as it hides and reveals itself in our daily lives.  How do we appreciate the abundance of where we are right now?

Day 20: The Weight of Abundance

On days when sun blazes hills awake, when
still damp earth aches dark possibilities,
when crooked teeth of dilapidated
barns, and crumbling stucco of lost missions
hum with stories they cannot forget
I look at my freckled hands, try to find
a cartography for this desire to know
that seems stitched into me, into any
that live where one wakes to a horizon
that is continually blurred by low fog.
Stories are as abundant as the trees
and vines that are continually heavy
with fruit. What to dig up? What is enough?
In a garden so thick with weeds, sustenance
bleeds with what is pressing upon it. So
days slur past, fat and happy, until
the eye sights it driving past, or the hoe
upturns the hidden artifact, revealing
another history or desire buried.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Day 19: I Have Envy Enough

For today's prompt I was thinking about the old farm houses around Sonoma County.  You've probably seen them before: wide porched, shuttered homes that usually crowned by two palm trees and a wooden water tower.  (My favorite of these homes is located on Lakeville Highway).  This draft of a poem has one of those old farmhouses in mind. 

I Have Envy Enough

I have envy enough for the net of

swallows that skim and dive through golden air,
for the place their fragile bodies protect:
the white shuttered house already shadowed,
the water tower, the two lonesome palms.

Envy enough for the ridge of tall pines
that seem to hold the wide blue sky aloft
by pointing their crooked wills toward ascent
for the hawks nests they carry year to year
for that searing cry, for the dark lean of

shadows over the house, over the steep
graveled drive that follows the creek out.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Day 18: I Must Go Out and Find Something Else to Hate

Today, I was thinking about what it would be like to leave a place you'd worked hard to farm.  I drive the same back roads most mornings on my commute to teach at Napa Valley College.  They are winding roads paved over steep green hills.  This morning as I was driving I started thinking about what it must have been like to drive on a road like this in a wagon.  Then, when I passed an orchard filled with trees that hadn't been taken care of for years, I thought about what it would feel like to leave an apple farm you've put your sweat and blood into.  Here is my draft for today:

I Must Go Out and Find Something Else to Hate

Besides the pink-petal blossoms that flag
the untrimmed trees that continually line
the passage of potholed roads carrying
me away from their embrace and this place.

I must find something that is more deadly
than arsenic and lead to kill what spreads
uncontrollably: mistletoe, cankers
mildew, flies, and my need to always look back.

I must watch the green hills roll out toward
somewhere else where the fog rests. I must
site a single tree rising on the hill’s
green, broad back, and know it as a sign

Even as the wagon slows, even as
the dust rises to blind us of hope.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Day 17: The density of dreams is made from________

Today's prompt got me thinking about the way dreams are made of the ideas we are afraid to think about while we are awake.  They are where we work out the under workings (or back-end) of our emotional lives.  This idea got me thinking about how if towns could dream their dreams would be like muddy rainstorms that carry a towns history from one place to different place and how that shift would haunt a town.  One of the most famous stories about Sebastopol is the naming of the town.  The story has been told and re-told 100 different times.  But, the gist of it is that two guys got into a fight and one man ran into the general store.  The other (blocked from entering the store by the store's owner) stood outside for hours waiting for the other man to emerge. Passersby called it a standoff like the one that was then being held in Sevatopol during the Crimean War.  This draft reflects on this story.

A Storm-Minded Town

The density of dreams is made of mud
and rain.  The storms that can wash through a small town
and clear it of dread.  Waters so deep
and swift they roar muddy loud from far off
woods.  So strong they roll stones effortlessly.
Then, leave them stuck in the mud of desire.

Dreams are built of new lumber: still sticky
with sap, still fat with water  What you build
in dreams retracts--shows cracks--places where wind
licks clean.  This town dreams its name again and
again.  When the two men stood face to face
on the main road, they were up to their knees
in mud.  The dream (that airy house) is what
happened after: one man running away
into the general store the other following
but stopped at the door by the shopkeeper.
"You ain't coming into my store" he'd said.
So, instead the man paced the muddy street.
For hours his feet rutted the deep mud.
Until passersby named it: the battle
of Sevastopol after the standoff
with stubborn British troops. And the name stuck.
Now, we hardly remember the battle
or details about the standoff between
two men.  A story with the density
of a dream still travels down mud-swollen
creeks of our town when it rains hard enough
when we're up to our knees in the mud of
it searching for lost stones, houses built of truth.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Day 16: Unfettered Joy

Today will be a short post.  No big project.  Just what I call a breather poem.  I wrote a short draft of a lyric about the joy of landscape here in Sonoma County. 

[We are writing these things so that our joy might be complete]
Unfettered joy is hard to tether down:
sunlight sifts through fans of redwood branches
rolling hillsides blazing in pink blossoms
tang of bay, smell of deep forest wet earth,
surprise of what rises from what is left.
Joy that carries on wind can rise again
and again. Joy stitches words in passing
clouds. Even in the leaden hour, dark spot
growing on the horizon, to become
history. Joy spreads itself thin as sea
to cover everything in the salt of truth.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Day 15: Crying in the Face of Rain

Today's prompt should have been titled, crying in the face of taxes!  But rain it is and after finishing my taxes today (GULP!) I dove into the prompt.  This morning my friend Martha Wade mentioned to me that she remembered how the fog really held onto the scent of flowers and seemed to intensify those scents.  I couldn't agree more.  Here where it is often foggy, one smells not only the sea, but also the smell of the lavender and rosemary plants the cover the hillside, or the earthy smell of redwood or tang of bay.  For the past few days I've been wanting to write about Luther Burbank's experimental garden which is located just up the road from my house in Sebastopol.  It's a lovely place where you can walk the paths and see some of Burbank's original trees and plants.  At the back is the Mother Tree.  The fruit tree where are graphs were tested.  This draft incorporates that tree and Burbank's gardens:

In the Face of Rain

A low fog will gather the aromas

of lavender, rosemary, whatever
lies blooming in its path. Whoever walks
by smells the specific potpourri of
place: sea and salt mingling with what grows.

When Luther Burbank arrived he declared
Sonoma County nature’s chosen spot
He sold the rights to the first Idaho
potato to fund his long journey out. But,
once arrived success took to the soil.

Visitors to his Experimental
Farm in Sebastopol weren’t encouraged
(due to threats of thievery). But Shasta daises
still grinned big toothy grins at the front gate.
And rows and rows of plants and trees glistened
still coated in rain in the morning sun.

Toward back, near Pleasant Hill cemetery
the Mother Tree loomed full and large, always
bearing fruit, always bearing another
graft or possibility. Under brace
her branches seem threatened even in
a light rain. Her arms extending over
the fence as if beckoning ghosts back from
the earth, back from the fog as it burns off
leaving only the potpourri of plants
some known, some yet to be dancing in the air.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Day 14: I have been____

Today the prompt took me on a journey.  I tried to follow in my mind the immigrant's path from Europe to Sebastopol.  What it felt to plant that first crop and taste that first Gravenstein Apple.  When I was leafing through the book I'm reading on the Gravenstein apple I came across a photograph of one of the first Sebastopol families the Roberts.  I had this family in mind as I imagined this journey.

On Gold Ridge

(for the Roberts family)

I have been on steamships crossing cold depths where the horizon slurs away to a blue blur of what is left behind.
I have been in seas of tall grass that sway with the song of wind.
I have been bumped and roughed slowly in a wagon for days that are longer than the sky.
I have been across great mountains that jag the sky.
I have been to where the edge of the world rests and the sea tries desperately to reclaim it.
I have been up and over hills of redwoods and oak, looking for clearble land.
I have been behind a donkey pulling a plow slow through cleared fields until hope forms.
I have been knee deep in that new dirt, in the scent of it and the stain of it.
I have tenderly nurtured the seedlings when the rain worried, when the wind ripped off the sea onto the newly cleared hills.
I have watched seedlings widen into trees.
I have been the man who sits on the wide porch waiting for things to grow and open as the stars sharpen and come into view.
I have seen the hint of pink buds peek through like perfect tongues.
I have seen the hillside ignite in pink blossoms.
I have nervously paced the wooden porch as clouds formed on the horizon.
I have cursed the rain.
I have propped branches.
I have walked the rows like a child unable to wait.
I have readied the bins and ladders.
I have slept out under the tree just to keep the deer off.
I have picked the first perfect fruit.
I have tasted all of the sunsets and sunrises, the limestone studded hillsides, the tang of fog and salt, the rot of bay and oak and redwood on my tongue and it was good. It tasted like hope.
I have picked the apples until I feel asleep underneath the very tree I had bared.
I have lost myself in that shade and earth.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Day 13: Pay Heed

Today's prompt was ominous.  I thought about it as I drove from Sebastopol to Napa on my commute to work.  It's a lovely commute, all country roads, one of which is Old Adobe which stretches across the foot of Sonoma Mountain and offers a gorgeous view of green rolling hills.  Today the shadows of the clouds in the sky were cast unto the green hills.  It was beautiful and troublesome at the same time.  I started to think about the fate of the apple industry.  About how to the apple farmers of 1920s and 1930s the industry seemed destined to continue to thrive.  How one can never see the future that looms.

Pay Heed

Shadows of clouds passing over green hills
reveal a barn undone by time where cows
linger during rain showers.  There was once
a Gravenstein apple tree that bore more
fruit than any other.  Here, on the ridge.
In the photograph the giant tree fans
out in a screen of leaves big as a house
behind the Arnold family: Minnie,
John, E.W., Meta and Vivian.
Pay heed the future looms in the sky –
spells out in the trees massive shadow
of leaves on the loose dirt below.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Day 12: Fowl Weather

Every month when I write a poem a day the wonderful poet who dreams up these daily prompts includes a chicken poem -- a prompt that somehow includes a reference to a chicken.  It's always heartening to get the chicken prompt.  This year the chicken prompt was subtle, but still fun.  Last night we had a bit of "fowl weather" - a massive rain storm that woke us in the middle of the night.  My family and I live in a big barn with a tin roof, so whenever it rains, we hear it vividly.  I love the sound of rain on a metal roof, even when it is a storm.  That sound was still in my head when I began to write today's poem.  In it I started thinking about the lives of three women in the apple industry.  A migrant worker with children, a beauty queen who stepped out of a giant apple at an Apple Show and an apple rancher's wife who works the fields by day and cares for the family by night.  Here is my draft:

Three Hybrid Women in the Apple Industry
“When I die, if I go to a place where there are apples, I’ll know it won’t be heaven.”

1. Winterstein

I remember how rain punctuated
the night in the tin-roofed barn where we slept.
How the wind howled through the drafty old barn.
How the children, still tired from picking
woke and howled too. In between—gossamer
frescos were painted in our dreaming minds:
sitting in the quiet shade undisturbed
without the weight of work, ahead, behind.
Before light comes, the rooster screams us awake.

2. Red Maiden’s Blush

At the 1915 Apple Show, tent
air thick with warm sweat, dust, rotting apples.
Luther Burbank stood elevated on
a packing crate. Ta-da! He said cracking
a foolish grin and waving a wooden
wand at a gigantic Gravenstein apple.
Then the apple opened, revealing two
half-moons of white flesh and painted on seeds,
and the young pretty girl who stepped out of
it bewildered for a moment, as if
she’d just awoken from a restful sleep,
before the smile spread across her tight lips,
before the applause poured over her.

3. Bonita

After the tractor cooled and dust settled
come in to 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 one’s 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.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Day 10: The Geography of____

Yesterday, we all had the opportunity to board and sail replicas of the tall ships that once entered Bodega Harbor.  As you can imagine, this experience was extraordinary!  Below is my draft where I try and imagine what it was like to get off one of those ships after months at sea.

Geography as Seen from the Tall Ships

Two hundred years ago from lull of dank
wet wood and passage, too many bodies
pressed together;  our clothes bleached and worn thin
from sun’s glare and wind’s incessant blowing.
From the sway that had pooled and gathered in
us like a brackish bilge until we were
unable to understand land, that line
of shore defining an end, then from it
the green hills pouring back into what we
were meant to discover.  From the weak legs
that strode from the small boat into icy
surf came uncertainty and doubt.  The weight
of cargo carried across then dragged off
the ship and over the grassy dunes
to the waiting wagons.  There were no maps.
Only ideas and a strange man standing by
the wagons. Still wet we gathered again
close, but far away from what we knew of
ourselves in the rough wood cabs.  Two rutted
tracks leading a dusty path out from months
of salt and sway, over the roll of hills.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Day 9: Here Lies the Thing I Most Desire

This project has been an incredible journey so far.  What an amazing thing to get to dig and dig into the history of the community I grew up in!  At it's root history means to ask.  The fragility and disparity of history is easiest to see in local history because you are so close to the source.  What is history but a lot of people telling stories.  I guess the writers job is to unwind a few of those yarns and look at them more closely before they fall apart.  Today's prompt brought me on an interesting journey.  I was researching the immigrants who founded the apple industry here in Sebastopol and came across an interesting story of what happened to Japanese-Americans living in Sebastopol when they were interned during World War II.  We are lucky to have an incredible Buddhist Temple in town named Enmanji (which means garden of fulfillment).  The temple was built by the Manchurian Railroad and displayed at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair.  After the fair the building was donated and shipped to our town.  There were many familys effected by the internment.  For some, neighbors harvested their fruit and paid the tax on their lands to keep them afloat (like the Furusho family), for others (like the original heirs of Fountaingrove the Nagasawa family) everything was lost.  For today's draft, I tried to think about what it would have been like being stuck at the desert internment camps, so far away, listening to stories of worries and fear and not knowing what to believe.

There Lies the Thing I Most Desire
            for the Furusho family

Dark oaks spun their crippled fingers over
the star-slurred sky the night our family left
our apple orchard for internment camp.
Now, we live in horse stalls where air is stiff
and void of fog.  I’ve paced these wooden planks
worrying futilely over the harvest
we left behind day and night but there is
no wind here strong enough to carry my
prayers back to our temple Enmanji.
Now its name, garden of fulfillment, stings,
like a face slap.  Letters from the Holte and
Williams boys promise to pick and sell our
fruit but trust is difficult to plow here
each stall where whispers root and spread their rot
wood to wood just as the oaks roots carry
fungus that left will kill your apple trees.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Day 8: Susurration

Today's prompt is the word susurration, which means to whisper. The word is from the Greek word for flute, which made me think of Ovid's account of Pan hearing the wind in the reeds then creating the flute to mimic this sound. It made me think about how tied to our water sources we are here in Sonoma County and how for early apple farmers ample water was what made their success possible. So I traced the path of one of our major creeks: Atascadero and found its source started at one of my favorite places in Sonoma County - English hill on Burnside road (also known as the three sisters by cyclists). From Burnside on a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean in one direction and all the way back to Sebastopol in the other. It's a beautiful perspective. Here is my draft of a poem for today:


Tule sway in the wind carrying song
from creek bed to creek bed:
born on English hill where the sea lingers
on the horizon like a forgotten
idea, flows back over Gold Ridge to town
then veers away toward Green Valley. And all
along that blue song moans, fog and limestone,
above then below the ground. From patchwork
hills the orchard leaves whisper reverently
back until there is a song spoken in
pale pink blossoms that rise from each trees’
green budded but dark, delicate fingers.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Day 7: Slightly Bereft

Today's prompt was: slightly bereft.  The word bereft comes from germanic roots meaning to rob (which is interesting given the history of the Gravenstein apple).  I spent most of the morning looking at photos of the Gravenstein Apple Show which took place in Sebastopol from 1910 - 1915. It was quite a grand affair and over 25,000 attended the show that first year.  The show featured sculptures of historic places (like Fort Ross) and apple growing scenes.  What I discovered was that the show was stopped in 191 due to the onset of World War I when Sebastopol began to ship off many of it's young men as well as supply the army with dried apples for soldiers overseas.  I began to think about how strange it must have been to ship out down the Petaluma river, following the same route of the apples your family had been sending out for years.  Here's my attempt at a poem for today's prompt:

After the 1915 Gravenstein Apple Show
“The Gravenstein Apple has, above all others, proved to be the money winner in Sonoma County.  It is a healthy vigorous tree.  It always bears a good crop, never over-bearing, as many varieties do; is of the best quality of all known apples”
      –Luther Burbank

After the logging, after the plowing,
the planting, the yield, most hills stood slightly
bereft but ever producing apples.
To celebrate the escalation of
apples sales, the Sebastopol Apple
Growers Union raised a tent across from
the train depot, began the Gravenstein
Apple Show in 1910.  Photos show
uniformed boys lined in neat rows, women
dressed in white floor-length dresses, entering
the sawdust floored tent.  Inside, the warm air
swelled with the tart picked apples arranged in
sculptures that set into form history
of the apple, the town.  Fictions or truths
built out of the bittersweet fruit yielded
gristmills, locomotives, a gold ridge farm.
even Gold, a Petaluma river
steamship that shipped the apples down the slough
to San Francisco Bay.  Until war closed
the fair and that same steamship was loaded
instead with the cargo of men and boys,
their arms still browned from the season’s harvest
their eyes looking back to the golden hills. 

Friday, April 06, 2012

Day 6: Your obvious homage to your grandmother

Since my project thus far has been to write about the Gravenstein apple and the history of Sebastopol, I found today's daily writing prompt hard.  My grandmother never lived in Sebastopol and her only connection to Sebastopol is through myself and my parents.  But, my Grandmother has an interesting past.  She came to California from Oklahoma as a young girl in the dust bowl (she always told me she didn't think Steinbeck got it right when he wrote The Grapes of Wrath).  She was always eager to retell things the way they really were.  When she ended up in California she worked long hours at a peach cannery in Atwater.  During the 1920s many women worked long hours in food production plants.  And it was this thought brought me back to Sebastopol.  (There is always a road back, isn't there?)  After the apple industry took off, there were 100,000s of delicate apples to pack and ship across the United States.  It was women (like my grandmother) who worked long hours in these packing house jobs.  Here is my (not so obvious) homage to my grandmother's work and a little story she told me about reciting poems to stave off the boredom of such repetitive work.

Tending the Gold Ridge, 1920
Each day a new field was plowed and planted.
Each season production would swell.  Each fruit
handpicked into wooden crates, delivered
by wagon or truck to the packinghouse.
Then, the small, red-striped globes were placed
into shipping crates.  How tiring to
stand ten hours a day sorting good from bad.
It was women’s work.  Closed-doored, but
checkered with sunlight brought from high windows.
A dull, quiet work that could open or
close that quiet wilderness of mind.

Decades later, when their bodies had grown
old, when their minds strobbed memories—
that wilderness (however conquered) would
return.  In a few lines by Tennyson
about an old king who traveled far and
couldn’t return home:
but every hour is saved.
How those words illuminate the musty smell
of the packing house, the ache of feet,
but also the ballet of young hands, the hum
of low voices staving off silence with
by repeating the few poems they knew by heart

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Day 5: The accidental poem

Today, I looked into Nathaniel Griffith (the man who planted the first commercial Gravenstein apple orchard in Sonoma County on his Laguna Road property).  He was good friends with Luther Burbank (hence the trip out to For Ross I mentioned yesterday) and they often met to discuss altering the Gravenstein to extend it's season.  I've seen cuttings of the Winterstein, one of these variations of the Gravenstein that never really took off at Burbank's experimental farm in Sebastopol.  While I was researching Griffith though, I came across my "accidental poem".  Turns out, Griffith had three daughters, all of whom were extremely artistic.  One of these daughters, Grace, was an incredible painter.  Here are a few of her paintings I was able to find online.  What's interesting is how after the orchard was gone, after the farmhouse had burned down and their father had died, the girls (who had all had pretty successful careers as artists) returned to live on the property in their old age.  And if you look Grace's work, it appears in her artistic mind she never left.  Here is attempt at a draft for today:

The Accidental Pull

Griffith brought Burbank to his orchard on
the flat Laguna.  From his home the trees
spelled across the wide expanse in straight rows. 
Already, they were good servants –yielding
a ton of fruit each.  But the season was
short.  Burbank had ideas for winter fruits:
the Winterstein, still bittersweet tasting,
but with tougher skin to withstand the frosts.

The three girls could see the men on the porch
as they sat in the skirt of soft grass surrounding
the willow.  Spring had covered the grass
between rows of apple trees in yellow
mustard.  They made a game of following
the strokes of color – the low freckle of mustard,
the high powdery acacia, to the
solitary exclamations of
yellow iris crowing the front yard.  Years
later, after Burbank’s experimental
trees had failed.  After their father had died
and the green wooden farmhouse had burned down.
They would remember this inventory:
how that day the golden lines had burned in
them a tether to this land.  And each day
after they would try to pull themselves back.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Day 4: The cottonwood I lived in as a child was a comfort when I found out I couldn't fly

Fort Ross was the first white settlement on the Sonoma Coast and it is celebrating it's 200th aniversary this year.  It's also where many (including Luther Burbank) found the oldest specimen of the Gravenstein Apple tree.  In the early 1900s, they discovered a tree there that they suspected was over 100 years old.  I've been haunted by this fact, and the state Fort Ross would have been in when they visited Fort Ross to find the tree.  The Russian settlers were by then long gone (they left in 1849) and the buildings must have been run down.  The fort has been set aside as state land, but little had been done to preserve it at that time. It was just a bunch of rundown buildings stuck in a huge cattle ranch right on the Sonoma Coast.  There was one old house where (I believe) the cattle rancher and his family lived.  Today's poem which is written off the prompt: The cottonwood I lived in as a child was a comfort when I found out I couldn't fly.  As you might have guessed, I switched the tree to apple.  Here is my attempt at a draft.
Upon Finding the First Gravenstein Apple Tree
--Fort Ross, CA, 1912
By the time the two horticulturalists
Griffith and Burbank discovered the tree
it had been bearing fruit one-hundred years.
These days, few lived at the decrepit fort.
Only the cattle farmer, his family,
and the Pomo servants who cleaned and cooked.

It was a willowy boy who emerged
from the white clapboard house on the steep cliff,
who led them reverently down the thin worn
path to the tree.  A few red, shriveled globes
still clung to its bare branches.  Immediately,
the men were sure it was the specimen
they had been looking for and went to work.
They began picking the shriveled globes, and breaking
off cuttings to bring back to Burbank’s farm. 
Without words the boy flung himself into
the tree’s wide crotch then shimmied his body
out to the edge where he could see the cold
deep waters that frothed the bay below. 
He became so much a part of the tree
the men, busy in their work, mindful of the long journey back
to town forgot he was there.  When he said,
“This is the tree where I learned to fly” His
breath folded, effortlessly into the
rough wind that flapped their canvas pants like sails.
Late breaking addition (thanks to Mari L'Esperance who graciuosly sent me the picture and made my day).  Here is an actual photo of a gravenstein apple tree at Fort Ross (the photo was taken in 2008).

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Day 3: A Tiny Love Poem

The prompt for today was to write a tiny love poem.  I'm still stuck on the discovery I made yesterday -- that Gravenstein Apples (the apples that Sebastopol, the town I'm from and am currently writing about) are originally from Schleswig (what is now Northern Germany).  They were brought there from Italy by Prince Carl von Ahlefeldt then planted in orchards around the castle.  A century later, some of the Gravensteins were brought to Fort Ross (near Jenner) and were later introduced to the Sebastopol area where they took off as a crop.  So, my love poem is about apples and an old cemetery near where I live called Pleasant Hill.  Here is my draft.  This project is turning out to be so much fun.  I think it's going to be hard to doing else but write poems all month! 

Pleasant Hill Cemetery, Sebastopol, CA
The old gravestones are tiny granite-tongued
love poems covering the dead who now
mix with the soil they once plowed and planted.

And all around the air-bound apple blossoms
still powder the air with possibility.

The arthritic trees that surround in straight
dirt rows are still fruit bearing. These days
children steal their delicate branches with
little cost (no more beatings from farmers
who saw what each blossom would become).

The children pluck the tiny white blossoms, carry
them carefully in their palms to the creek
where the blossoms float: white, barren fairies
in the still, black limestone bedded pool.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Day 2: Facing NaPoWriMo with a Plan

This year I'm facing my thirty day writing stint with a plan.  It seems to help to have a topic to fall back on when you take on a long-term writing project.   I've taken on writing about the history of Sebastopol, the small town where I grew up and currently live.  My first poem was about the early history of Sebastopol.  My second, traced the history of the Gravenstein Apple.  If you are looking for a prompt for today, here is the one I wrote off of:

Day 2 Prompt: Ossuary - a place or receptacle for the bones of the dead.

Happy Writing!

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Poem-a-day Begins Today

Happy National Poetry Month!

For the past two years I've written a poem a day throughout the month of April in celebration of National Poetry Month.  It's an amazing experience.  Today I'm writing a poem from a prompt given to me by Molly Fisk and Lisa Cihlar "How will I find you without a map?"  So, I better stop blogging and start writing!  If you are interested in joining us just post a comment with your contact information below and I'll email you the details.  Good luck! 

You can also sign up to receive a poem a day in your email inbox here.   It's a lovely way to read poetry every day even after National Poetry Month has ended.
And don't forget to leave a comment on my blog post about The Big Poetry Giveaway!  You can win a book by the poet Amy Lowell or an anthology my work was featured in called What Redwoods Know