Poetry Santa Cruz Poetry Santa Cruz

A Poem a Week

Poetry Santa Cruz ran a weekly featured poem in the Santa Cruz Sentinel from late 2001 to early 2003.  Below we have posted many of the poems featured, by writers of note from Santa Cruz and beyond.

Three Poems by Sam Hamill

First Snow

The first heavy snow
in the Olympic Mountains
brings them much closer


So much ambition
and such futility in
everyone's poems.
It's galling and quite lovely
that we dare write them at all.


The sum of this year's
harvest after all the deer--
one perfect red plum.

© Copyright Sam Hamill
Reprinted from Dumb Luck (BOA Editions, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel December 15, 2002.]

Lola Haskins

In the middle of the night, he arrives
with his pillow.  He climbs between us,
and slowly his shivers die.
                                        He heard
the leaves move in the yard, a step
at a time.
               This is what we live for,
you and I.  This private moment when
he enters into our breathing, and we
are three birds on one deep swell,
a lifetime from any land we knew.

© Copyright Lola Haskins
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel November 24, 2002.]

Euphoria At Zero
Aliki Barnstone

Euphoria is a cobalt winter sky that stings you.
A pink Cadillac fishtails 360 degrees -
then drives on. No accident.
The air deafens your skin, loud with zero and wind.
Cold is a lemon on your tongue. Bittersweet hunger.
You walk over your weaknesses
as if they were a sheet of ice,
knowing their dangers, not minding much,
confident in your big black boots.

© Copyright Aliki Barnstone
Reprinted from Wild With It (Sheep Meadow Press, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel November 10, 2002.]

Martha Rhodes

She wanders room to room.
There are two sofas, two places to lie,
there are four chairs, four places to sit,
there's a desk and a table
and a cat in different moods. There are books
too easy and too hard to read,
inherited vases she won't touch,
clothes on the floor she kicks into corners,
food she wants but the store's too far,
a bed for two that's now used to one,
an old clock too fast or too slow,
a bulb burnt out and none to replace it,
one body to soothe but the body says no.

© Copyright Martha Rhodes
Reprinted from At The Gate (Provincetown Arts Press, 1995).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel October 20, 2002.]

Tony Barnstone

Yesterday, as I pumped cold water
into a bucket
and poured it over myself
to bathe in the courtyard of the Snowlands
Hotel, an old monk, watching
from the porch,
came up to me, grabbed a handful
of my chest hair
and tugged it painfully.
He had never seen such body hair,
I suppose. I reached for one
of his hanging mustachios
and pulled it till he yelped.
In this way we understood each other.
Lhasa, June, '85

© Copyright Tony Barnstone
Reprinted from Impure (University Press of Florida, 1999).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel October 6, 2002.]

Meg Kearney

Nothing has changed after thirty-
nine years. The grown children
have come home for dinner. Each
sits in the usual seat, disliking
mushrooms, hogging the garlic
bread. They say grace, pass
the pepper. Salt has never been
allowed on this table, though
the youngest daughter will
fetch it from the kitchen cabinet
for a guest. Mother has barely
touched her food as she passes
the chicken and string beans
for a second time, urging, Eat.
Eat. Someone says Why don't you
eat. Someone says This is
delicious, and the rest nod.
Then the unsteady hand spills
the wine, a Rorschach test
spreading its red blotch across
the tablecloth. Each of them
sees the same thing. The phone
rings. They go on eating. Someone
says get a sponge. The phone
goes silent. Someone says
it might come out in the wash.

© Copyright Meg Kearney
Reprinted from An Unkindness of Ravens (BOA Editions, 2001).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel September 22, 2002.]

Francisco X. Alarcón

I sweep
and clean
my house
I burn
the trash
get rid
of obstacles
my house
now has
no walls
no anger
or sorrow
I am resting ­
my hamaca
is a canoe
the Milky Way.

© Copyright Francisco X. Alarcón
Reprinted from From the Other Side of Night: New and Selected Poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002).

Two Poems
James Richardson

Big decisions threaten to narrow us as if we
would no longer be, after choosing, the person
who could have chosen otherwise. Looking
into the future, we see ourselves completely
defined by one choice -- to be someone's lover,
to take such and such a job. We become flat
characters in a novel, and die a little.
Embarrassment and guilt console us. They
imply we have a purer self that we have some-
how betrayed. Regret, too, is a disguise of
hope, convincing us that things could have
gone better, and therefore that they may.

© Copyright James Richardson
Reprinted from VECTORS, Aphorisms & Ten Second Essays (Ausablepress, 2001).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel September 8, 2002.]

Praise The Fool And Make Him Useful
Sam Hamill

Now that I've squandered
almost a lifetime going
to school on those old
dead poets who rabble-roused
or retreated into a
kind of solitude
few can understand - now that
I have invested
forty years in the struggle
not to struggle, following
the ancient teachings,
how astonishing it is,
how embarrassing,
to wake up some days and feel -
well - almost respectable.

© Copyright Sam Hamill
Reprinted from Dumb Luck (BOA Editions, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel August 11, 2002.]

Ponce de Leon
George Lober

Now that I am fifty
I look at you differently,
I let the scent of your skin
wash over me at night,
I bathe my face in the red
spray of your hair,
and cling to your back
in the dark like a man
both afraid of the jungle
and certain as Ponce de Leon
that my last and only hope
of remaining young
is to discover you
again and again and again.

© Copyright George Lober
Reprinted from Shift of Light (Hummingbird Press, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel July 21, 2002.]

Ruth Stone

Wanting and dissatisfaction
are the main ingredients
of happiness.
To want is to believe
there is something worth getting.
Whereas getting only shows
how worthless the thing is.
And this is why destruction
is so useful.
It gets rid of what was wanted
and so makes room
for more to be wanted.
How valueless is the orderly.
It cries out for disorder.
And life that thinks it fears death,
spends all of its time
courting death.
To violate beauty
is the essence of sexual desire.
To procreate is the essence of decay.

© Copyright Ruth Stone
Reprinted from In The Next Galaxy (Copper Canyon Press, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel July 14, 2002.]

When I Lost My Hands
Greg Hewett

When I lost my hands I started wearing gloves,
the kind pallbearers wear,
thin and yellowed.
When I lost my hands I started to stare
at my father lifting his wineglass
like a dancer would a rose,
at my aunt shuffling cards,
brittle veins almost breaking
against the aquamarine on her knuckle,
at my grandfather holding his guitar
not so much like a lover as like a god
who has touched the earth.
When I lost my hands I started to see
how doves fold their wings
over their backs
like hands in prayer.
When I lost my hands I could no longer pray.
When I lost my hands I could no longer speak.

© Copyright Greg Hewett
Reprinted from Red Suburb (Coffee House Press, 2002).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel July 7, 2002.]

The Years Like Crows Coming Home to Roost
Joseph Stroud

Outside my window a single crow over the grove
forty years ago and when I look again there are legions
winging into the trees, their shapes like sable embers
flaming into black tongues, squalling among themselves
in the raucous unspeakable syllables of some primal,
alien world, cawing down the night to cover them.

© Copyright Joseph Stroud
Reprinted from Below Cold Mountain (Copper Canyon Press, 1998).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel June 23, 2002.]

How It Will Happen, When
Dorianne Laux

There you are, exhausted from a night of crying, curled up on the couch,
the floor, at the foot of the bed, anywhere you fall you fall down crying,
half amazed at what the body is capable of, not believing you can cry
anymore. And there they are, his socks, his shirt, your underwear
and your winter gloves, all in a loose pile next to the bathroom door,
and you fall down again. Someday, years from now, things will be
different, the house clean for once, everything in its place, windows
shining, sun coming in easily now, sliding across the high shine of wax
on the wood floor. You'll be peeling an orange or watching a bird
spring from the edge of the rooftop next door, noticing how,
for an instant, its body is stopped on the air, only a moment before
gathering the will to fly into the ruff at its wings and then doing it:
flying. You'll be reading, and for a moment there will be a word
you don't understand, a simple word like now or what or is
and you'll ponder over it like a child discovering language.
Is you'll say over and over until it begins to make sense, and that's
when you'll say it, for the first time, out loud: He's dead. He's not
coming back. And it will be the first time you believe it.

© Copyright Dorianne Laux
Reprinted with permission of the author.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel June 16, 2002.]

Martha Rhodes

My body given away, parts
flown to other parts --- a child
receives my eyes, another
my heart, the diseased organs
remain, benign now.
In death I am waiting
for my soul to arrive
that I may divide it equally
among frightened neighbors.
In death I pursue a man
younger than my father
ever was in my life.
In death I am a mother
who disowns her children
in a market parking lot.
In death a ghost lies
under me, pregnant. In death
I unbury myself and try
to extract my soul surgically;
it will not release, will not;
I discover there is no one else
this soul wishes to be.

© Copyright Martha Rhodes
Reprinted from Perfect Disappearance (New Issues, 2000).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel June 2, 2002.]

She Tries To Go To Confession
Meg Kearney

The priest has spent all day in the field
of strawberries, congregations of savage
hearts beating in June heat. God's servant,
he gathers them in his basket, weeping,
juice streaming down his chin.
Now he knows it is late -- the acolyte has
lit the candles; the stained-glass Jesus
has grown somber; three or four confessors
are surely in line already, and she is last
among them, shifting from foot to delicate foot.
Father is in the mood for a party. He sings,
dances a little jig between the rows, berries
bouncing and bruising as plundered hearts will
do. The church line grows. A foot begins to tap.
Let them wait, he thinks. Let's see who'll wait.

© Copyright Meg Kearney
Reprinted from An Unkindness of Ravens (BOA Editiona, 2001).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel May 19, 2002.]

James Richardson

When you sense from some almost blush of the brain that you are about to remember something embarrassing, but push it down before you can see what it is. When you wake in the small hours and un-think a thought that would have kept you up. When you stand in front of a crowd and slide a hand along a dark wall in your mind to find the switch that will turn off your fear, or the other switch that will make you excited enough to excite them. Where are these lids and erasers and switches, how do we learn to find them, why can't they always be found?

© Copyright James Richardson
Reprinted from VECTORS: aphorisms & ten-second essays (Ausable Press, 2001).
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel May 5, 2002.]

Questions For My Grown Children
Maude Meehan

Is it a burden that I ache along with you,
share not just your joy, but pain?
And do you know how much I want to be
all that you wish, and yet how much
I sometimes balk at expectations,
real or unfounded, and imagine
that the same holds true for you?
Does it make you uneasy to be so loved,
and does it sometimes comfort you?
It is the only love without condition
I have ever known or given.
And in your middle age, my old,
can you be patient with me, and accept it,
and can we keep the closeness we have shared?

© Copyright Maude Meehan
Reprinted with permission from the author.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel April 28, 2002.]

love lessons
Alison Luterman

like the child who
tore a twig
and planted it
in a Dixie cup full of dirt
no seeds, no roots, no holes for draining
because he could not bear to
       each time I am foolishly surprised
       it withers without blooming

© Copyright Alison Luterman
Reprinted with permission of the poet.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel April 21, 2002.]

On Being Asked Where He's Been These Twenty Years
David Alpaugh

he springs
the leopard lies in the grass
watching, listening
judging distances
making the LEAP
in his mind.
You always find him looking ahead.
You never find him looking behind.

© Copyright David Alpaugh
Reprinted from Counterpoint, Story Line Press, 1994.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel April 14, 2002.]

First Grade Homework
D. Nurkse

The child's assignment:
"What is a city?"
All dusk she sucks her pencil
while cars swish by
like ghosts, neighbors' radios
forecast rain, high clouds,
diminishing winds: at last
she writes: "The city is everyone."
        Now it's time
for math, borrowing and exchanging,
the long discipleship
to zero, the stranger,
the force that makes us
what we study: father and child,
writing in separate books,
infinite and alone.

© Copyright D. Nurkse
Reprinted from The Rules Of Paradise, Four Way Books, NY, NY.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel April 7, 2002.]

Why She Hurries Out, Then Home
Martha Rhodes

She's always expecting disaster,
blood scribbled on walls,
an empty carcass hung from a lamp,
roof and bricks collapsed, all she owns
shredded and burnt.
            Watching others' children
on their way to school,
stiff in their snowsuits,
reach to hug their parents goodbye,
she hurries out, then home,
counts the blocks, forces her hands
in her pockets (everyone's safe, she is safe).
She's always resisting what's criminal in her,
a small gray cloud waiting at the gate.

© Copyright Martha Rhodes
Reprinted with permission of the author.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel March 31, 2002.]

Two poems by Jack Foley
Sonnet to the Wonderful Venice Beach Poet, Philomene Long

She walks in Beauty at the Beach
She smiles and you hear glasses breaking
She takes a nibble at a peach
And all around her Earth is shaking
She wears a cross but isn't, ever
Though she can rage (she says she hollers).
She's been a nun, but monied, never!
"Why should I kiss the a-- of dollars?
My dolors are enough for song,"
She says (I hear another glass!)
Her name is short, and yet it's Long
This riddle anyone can pass:
We whet a knife until it's keen
But none so keen as Philomene.

Missing U

this is a poem abot
missing yo
i know what dr. fred wold have thoght
and what carl jng wold have cleverly taght
oh, hear my nhappy shot:
I miss yo!

© Copyright Jack Foley
Reprinted with permission from the author.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel March 24, 2002.]

Wild Wind
Aliki Barnstone

I listen to the wind lecture across the northern plains
but it's not content. It rubs its shoulders
against the house - I guess it wants
to be understood, wants to slink
across the sky with lightning, that glamour queen,
wants to be one with it all, the sexy one, the warbler.
So it belts out a vibrato, then hardens itself,
yowling through storm windows, making the walls
of the house and the bed where I lie tremble.
And now it sobs. Why won't it stop
bellowing frustration? Calm down. Grow warm.
Settle into a murmur like our voices talking in the night,
though all the while, beyond will, I am wild for you.

© Copyright Aliki Barnstone
Reprinted from Wild With It, The Sheep Meadow Press, 2002.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel March 17, 2002.]

The Hats My Father Wore
Ken Weisner

Today I was reminded of the hats my father wore,
as if I could feel what it was like for him.
I modeled those fedoras at the closet mirror,
tilted slightly against the temple and forehead
the leather inner band and satin lining,
perhaps his tailored overcoat, hands
missing now.  When he wore them, it meant
he was leaving.  Vitalis and a little water
set his hair shining, menthol aftershave,
fresh suits zipped in travel bags,
a briefcase, an umbrella.  We'd follow him out
and help him pack the Caprice or the Impala,
and wave as he backed out onto Weybridge.
He'd gesture back at us and force a smile,
the hat next to him on the seat,
a companion, cool and formal.

© Copyright Ken Weisner
Reprinted from The Sacred Geometry Of Pedestrians, Hummingbird Press, 2002.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel March 3, 2002.]

Chewing the Soup
Lola Haskins

It is how he did not die.
Fifty chews, then seventy-five,
then more. It is what kept
his sharpened ribs from breaking
skin. It is why, when freed,
he alone could stand.
He tells us how difficult it was,
how soon the starving throat
craves to swallow. Failing soup,
he would chew his own saliva.
Only the poets in the audience
are not surprised.

© Copyright Lola Haskins
Reprinted from The Rim Benders, Anhinga Press, 2001.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel February 24, 2002.]

Our Names
Janet Holmes

It happens that a few years after his death I go through the legal procedure of taking back my birth name. Though I'd been divorced years before I am still fiddling with my identity. My friend Jane said, "It's all just some damn man's name anyway" - but she kept her first husband's name through two marriages that followed and failed. Business reasons, she said. Months pass. My brother, who was always called by his middle name, Allen, announces that he now wants to be called by his first name, Paul. My mother has been Mrs. Paul Holmes as long as I've known her. My brother's son is Paul Allen Holmes. One by one, all of us are returning our names to his.

© Janet Holmes
Reprinted from The Green Tuxedo, University Of Notre Dame Press, 1998.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel February 17, 2002.]

from Dead man In A Greek Restaurant
Valerie Berry

part 1

He is quiet and polite, no one noticing he's turned the blue of a man not breathing.  He'd settled his bill, left an adequate tip on the table before slipping away, slumping across two cafe chairs on his trip to the door, near an old woman with small eyes, pulling on a cigarette between bites of pita bread, her table next to mine where I sit counting my dissatisfactions:  baklava with more pistachios than I prefer and too little honey, wishing the woman would take her cigarette outside, her eyes crazy enough that I know better than to call a waiter and make a scene.

© Copyright Valerie Berry
Reprinted from difficult news, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2001
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel February 10, 2002.]

Lost Body
Terry Ehret

      after "Anatomy Of Love"
      by Ulalume Gonzales De Leon

One less
                possible day
opening and closing.  There
we awaken, about to cross over
into the province of our beloved name.
As if the danger of brandishing this body
belonged to another.  We do not know
where our blood is taken,
why our eyelids throb,
whether our hands can translate
what the heart repeats, its remote
       One less possible day repeating
with our arms, our skin, our knees
and the amorous nape of the neck
what it is like to be a body.
To lie in wait, opening and closing,
crossing from this body into the only other possible.
We utter our forgotten name to one beloved,
as if to travel into that dangerous heart
were possible.  As if it were possible
to be a body.  As if we had never forgotten.

© Copyright Terry Ehret
Reprinted from Lost Body, published by Copper Canyon Press, 1992.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel February 3, 2002.]

The Ancient War
D. Nurkse

I rode beside her
on the bus to the capital.
I bragged of all the rallies
I'd been to since childhood,
all the arrests and gassings,
and only a few were lies.
Factories slipped by
and the groomed highway forest
and then we were motionless
in the shadow of monuments
and the crowd formed, and I lost her.
I marched all day
thinking I was hearing her voice
in the slogans that echoed
from the empty crypts: at dusk
I met her by the chartered bus
and on the way home
in darkness, I told her
how the crowds had been so much larger
so long ago, how you could truly have been lost
for days in the shadow of banners rigged
like sails, how the rulers of my childhood
teetered on the brink and fell.

© Copyright D. Nurkse
Reprinted from Shadow Wars, published by Hanging Loose Press, 1988.
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel January 27, 2002.]

The Road Home
David Swanger

The high beams lie like poems.
Beer cans become the eyes of wolves.
The deer try suicide and fail;
they are too gentle and inept.
It happens every night
in this land without street-
lights and oncoming traffic.
Why is there a road here?
Each rain the mountain throws
ribbons of dirt across its scar.
I leave the seat belt dangling
and run the radio too loud.

© Copyright David Swanger. 
[Published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Jim Heynen

They lie in bed talking foolishly
about eternity. "Just remember,"
he says, "there is as much eternity
behind us as ahead of us."
"I donít like this kind of talk,"
she says, and rolls over, silent.
A little later he starts up again
about eternity. "Get off it," she says.
"We have better things to do with our time
than waste it on eternity."
"Good point," he says,
though it is too late to start over.

© Copyright Jim Heynen.
Reprinted from Standing Naked, Confluence Press,2001.
[Published December 23, 2001 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

'Reading Willa Cather' (Part 1)
William Olsen

Before the next page turns, it's already
chilly on the prairie,
the moment the light climbs all by itself
from the ponds and the grass
The prairie birds find their places,
but a single gull circles a pond
sees the windowlight, comes
right up to it.
Because the cold night won't let go
what was all ocian once,
it must think it sees a boat,
tired enough to try to take
in a mistake.

© Copyright William Olsen. 
Reprinted from Visions of a Storm Cloud, Triquarterly Books, 1996.
[Published December 16, 2001 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Other Longevities
Janet Holmes

If, like snakes or reptiles, we grew with years,
then imagine the huge elderly, slowed
with age and bulk, frequenting
delicatessens, libraries; crowding
laundromats; taking whole booths to themselves
in family restaurants. The ample bodies
of the long-married, ambling their constitutionals.
The memories, all of smaller times.
Regardless of our wisdom or kindness, faith
or virtue, regardless of our capacity
for loneliness or independence, we would each grow
larger and more splendid,
and, lying down, would dream again and again
of childhood - the narrow long road back
to the vanishing point - each new dream
permitting another to be forgotten.

© Copyright Janet Holmes. 
Reprinted from The Physicist At The Mall, Anhinga Press, 1994
[Published December 9, 2001 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

The Sound
Hayden Carruth

When I was a boy at this time of year
I lay on the near side of our small meadow
in the tall grass and listened to the bees
on the far side in the honey locust
trees. I couldn't see them, or the trees
either, hidden as I was in the grass,
but the sound was loud and somehow
sweet -- the humming of innumerable
bees, as Tennyson would have said.
The sound seemed everywhere as I
gazed at the sky, enclosed in my sweet
grave in the grass. This is how the sound
of the invisible stars singing would be,

I said, if only I could hear them.

© Copyright Hayden Carruth. 
Reprinted from Doctor Jazz, Copper Canyon Press, 2001
[Published November 18, 2001 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Common Brown Birds
Amber CoverdaleSumrall

In the time it takesfor a full breath
you may miss them: birds the color of tan oak,

sun-crisped weeds, baked summer earth
flying low across a meadow;

their assorted buzzes and whistles
like tea kettles, kitchen timers, going off.

Common birds: wren, thrush, towhee, finch, sparrow,
as if any bird could be called common.

They blend into manzanita, hide in blackberry bramble,
invisible to eyes desiring more exotic vestments.

Humble as monks in simple brown robes they open
each morning with praise, swell the air with uncommon grace.

© Copyright Amber Coverdale Sumrall
[Published 10/21/01 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

Exhibit #1, Lawrence Hall of Science
Maggie Paul

He couldn't turn away
from the sight of the human brain,
that singular universe
glistening in its own juices.

Looking at that wilderness of river and dream
called into question his own sense of divinity.

Here, pointed the docent, is where memory is.
And here resides emotion.

All his life he'd depended on what he couldn't see-

About the stars he had the same complaint.

© Copyright Maggie Paul
[Published 9/2/01 in the Santa Cruz Sentinel]

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