Category Archives: Poems

Message in a Bottle

I’m slowly reading Jean Sprackland’s Strands: A Year of Discovery on the Beach. I just finished the chapter SOS to the World, about two bottles she found with messages, the same message. And of course about messages in bottles in general and why and what happens and stories.

Why would anyone write this stuff? What kind of disturbed person keeps throwing messages into the sea? How can it be normal to send letters to people you don’t know? Eventually someone with a sense of irony writes, ‘Aren’t all blogs just nothing more than messages in a bottle?’

And suddenly, I need to write a blog post.


Dry blue jelly
Walking along, not really looking, I thought this was a used condom. But there was another, and another, and then several all together. Seemed like an unusual quantity of used condoms on the beach. And they were blue. With sails,
Another sry blue jelly
Seaweed air sac
Messages everywhere.
Harrington (Carrington?) at Foothill
19th Ave at International

Jean Sprackland writes lovely and powerful (sneaky powerful) poetry. Of her poetry books, I have Tilt and Sleeping Keys. Maybe because I’ve spent more time with Sleeping Keys, I keep returning to it. It Occurs to my Mother that She Might Be Dead. In. Last Resort. The Birds of the Air. Taking Down the Scaffolding. Supra-Ventricular Tachycardia. (Looking for that one poem, turn a page and “oh, that one too!” and turn another page and “and this one!”) I want to share them all with you (wherever this message washes up). Look for the book.

The end of In:

She hadn’t reckoned on resistance. Happiness, then,

is not some delicate gift, but a locked and stubborn thing

you have to break open. Now for a sleepless night

of rain and wind before the making good.


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Filed under Excursions, Oakland, Poems, Reading

Poetry (Aviso: Overuse of Parenthetical Statements)

Thinking about poems and poetry and writing (and drawing, insists the Kid).

We stopped at Laurel Books today.  I was looking at poetry books, probably prompted by St Brigid/Imbolc poetry posts.  Ishmael asked me if I like poetry.  I think I answered, less than coherently, that I like some poetry.  Why was that a difficult question for me? Easier to answer if I write – not now.

Which leads to a conversation I had (9 or 10?!) years ago with somebody (a local poet) in a tamale/coffee place, who asked if I write poetry.  I answered, not now, but I did in high school. He said to the effect that “everybody writes poetry in high school.” Humph.  I am not everybody and I did not write that poetry.  (Only sometimes I wrote that poetry.) I slid out of that conversation quickly, but 10 years later I am still irritated and offended. (time to put it down)

Today’s conversation was much more interesting. He (Ishmael at the bookstore, not the other guy) asked if I write poetry. I managed not to answer “everybody writes in high school” in an annoying self-deprecating way (that’s sticky shit). I went to an arts high school for writing, but I hardly write now. He asked if I still have some of my poems from then. I do, said with a proud smile (felt like it to me, anyway). Oh! Most people don’t like to look at their high school poems anymore. (damn, I’m not getting this accurately) Huh. I suppose not. (this was not an entirely me-sided conversation, but I’m leaving out all the stuff on his side) (he writes)

Now I’m digging around at home, looking for our high school publications, and not finding them. Where is my packet from my senior reading? I hope it’s in a box still.  I threw out a lot of stuff from high school just before the Kid was  born, but I would think I kept that.  I have some good poems in there.

A couple months ago, I sat down to write a sonnet.  Oof.  But it was fun and illuminating.  Oddly enough, writing needs practice.  (I rapidly devolved to words of one syllable only) The Kid dictated a Really Terrible Poem not long ago (it’s awesome).  I think I know where it is.  You’ve been warned.  I will share them both.

Ah! Here they are! First, the illustration that poetry takes practice, an unfinished sonnet written during the Kid’s martial arts class:

Sorry Sonnet of Parenting

Accusing me of everything! the cry

of children teasing, maybe not or yes

And now we wait a little early to die.

No, not to die but martial arts new class.

Ha We are family of our times and I

will write with words that sound two beats or less

But keep my mouth quiet because advice

Annoys. with ten minutes to make a mess.

My butt is cold and stiff, the chair

Be glad I stopped (but you notice I’m sharing anyway?) (for the laughs!)

And the poem dictated by the Kid:

A Really Terrible Poem

My heart is like rotten potatoes,

left too long

in the sun.

My feet smell like rotten eggs (stinky).

My intestines oh so mushy

at the sight of a dead skunk.

Then lunch arrived at the table, so he stopped.

I’ll leave you with a real poem I wrote, in 1999, soon after we moved to the Bay Area.  It was published in Sanctuary: The University of Alabama at Birmingham Honors Program Literary Journal Fall 2000.

November Mornings on 101

I’m not the type to drive

aimless hours

just to

drive and watch the road

blur under and slip behind.

I’ll sit and watch

a tree whisper,

let go a secret of a bird or seed

maybe if I’m still.


But November sunrises

slowly light the sky

my back and forth drive

and I could drive

until I’m lost

in this soft

silk light.

(I bought a few books. A Different Kind of Pretty by Joshilyn Jackson. The Dirt Is Red Here: Art and Poetry from Native California edited by Margaret Dubin. From Totems To Hip-Hop: A Multicultural Anthology of Poetry Across the Americas, 1900-2002 edited by Ishmael Reed.  [The last will balance out my high school copy of the Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry. {I studied Spanish literature in college}])

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Oda a mis zapatos

mis zapatos
toda la noche
bajo mi cama

se estiran
se aflojan
las cintas

muy anchos
se duermen
y sueñan
con andar

los lugares
adonde fueron
en el día

y amanecen

-Francisco Alarcón

It’s still February 1 for a few more minutes here. I’m sneaking in a poem for St Brigid.

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