Friday, October 8, 2021

Poetry Letter No. 3, 2021 - Poets Greg Gregory and Franklin Gillette

California Poppies by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Welcome to the Fall issue of the Poetry Letter for 2021.  You will enjoy previously published poems by Greg Gregory of California, and Franklin Gillette of Colorado. Since both poets have been inspired by natural beauty, I selected California landscape painters of early 20th century to illustrate this issue of the Poetry Letter.  Benjamin Chambers Brown, 1865-1942), Anna Althea Hills (1882-1930) and Selden Connor Gile (1877-1947) are hardly household names. 

As Californians enjoying the natural beauty of the same landscapes they painted, we should learn something about them. I am endlessly mesmerized by the waves of the Pacific and have taken countless photos of the waves breaking at Mandalay Beach, Hermosa Beach or Topanga Beach. The crystalline jade, aqua and sapphire shades of water are so full of life and the energy of water so incredibly powerful.  Awe-inspiring! Two paintings I found capture the beauty of our ocean.  

Other images show the grace and beauty of the trees, flowers – meadows of California poppies! – as well as mountains and streams we can see after leaving cement wastelands of cities and venturing into the unknown. Previously, I picked landscape paintings by Karen Winters; this time, we can see the tradition she continues to bring to life. We should also know more about California poets, of course. CSPS tirelessly works for this cause by publishing the California Quarterly, organizing contests, and more. Next year, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1971 but the first issues of the Quarterly came out in 1972, hence the anniversary will be celebrated that year. 

The book reviews from Poetry Letter No. 3, 2021, are posted separately on this blog. 

Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D.

CSPS President

Selden Connor Gile, “Stinson Beach,” 1919 
Photo: Oakland Museum of California via Wikimedia Commons Public Domain



A loon cries

in our evening ears

in the lull of summer

nightfall - the sound 

like a void of ripples of stars

on the lake's blackness.

The thing of the world is

the softness of its secrets.

Memories flow in like snow melt

or the light of an extinct star,

traveling so long its last existence

rests on the surface of the water

where light and dark 

romance each other.

The heavy bones of a loon

let it dive easily into the night water,

its histrionic red eyes colorless

in the indifferent dark among

shifting pools of moon

and star.

Unlike the loon we

cannot easily force ourselves into

the void underneath.  We

remain at the edge,

our fingers like those

of the deaf

who touch pianos so they

may feel the music.  Like them

we reach,

crazy as loons,

into sparkling black ripples

for the constant spill

of moon and stars.

                     ~ Originally published in The Avocet


The airwebs of late Summer - 

life's fling of random chance

in the face of Fall,

spun works of small spiders

ballooning into an infinite sky.

Gladiolas in endbloom,

faded last flowers,

woven fabric of light and shadows -

the season's Archimedean

displacement of 

being and emotion.

The aphasia of bare soil,

the speech of tongues of 

old leaves,

mute glossolalia

of the empty earth.

The rubric of tubers and roots

cloyed in tangles of clay, all

Fall come

astringent and acerb in 

dry skins of 

onions and bulbs,

life asleep at the center.

Old rose petals,

handfuls of potpourri

ripe for release in tongues of

fall fire, spun works of smoke,

twisting webs of voices,

stories ready to 

balloon into an unknown year.

~ Originally published in Reflect

Gathering Clouds by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain


Crawling into the entrance

I hear the soft flutters, the squeaks - small

bats living deep in a hole in

stone and clay.  My lantern

plays on the walls in shaman's images or

shadows in Plato's cave

frightening beings living

in their own echoes, clinging to rock

like Rodin sculptures - half in and 

half out of stone, wrapped

in delicate wings, giving birth, suckling

while clinging with slight bones,

single thumb claws hooked tight

to the crevices, fragile

skeletons in brown fur

transforming just before dusk, exiting in 

erratic flight into open dimness, drawn

from stone and clay into night

sky.  Nocturnal undercurrents always

pull us out

of Utopia, acute ears tuned

to hear only what is echoed back.

                   ~ Originally published in The Kerf


By day, the kelp sways below the cliffs,

hypnotizes like sirens in the moving blue water.

The waves never stop moving to and fro, to and fro.

The kelp holds fast to its submerged anchors.

Its fronds float like brown feathers

The pound up onto the rocks.  They rarely let go.

Foam churns.  Cormorants dive under the surface

then pop up like small black dots and look around,

surprised at where they find themselves after surfacing.

Voice is the lightest thing to carry along the cliff path,

a tongue in the sea air, a privileged perspective

for an instant, to seem like one who never dies.

A rock falls from the cliff into the waves below.

I remember the old Beatles' lyric, "Here comes the sun".

The water glistens to the horizon from the eroding cliffs.

The sky dances over sea, cliffs.  the sky dances for itself. .

A fool walks one more day and leads a lucky life.

I must send postcards to others who are not here.

The cormorants dive.  The kelp hangs on in the blue sea.

The sea sings its song.  It has ever since I first saw it as a child 

from my first walk on this cliff trail.

I looked down, watching the waves come into the rocks

and wondered about mermaids, who, after their life

of a thousand years, finally turned into sea foam.

             ~ Originally published in Quill and Parchment


Sea jellies

who float luminous

in moon-cast tides

die invisible,

without legacy

except, perhaps,

a trace of their salts in

the wanting water.

They pulse

invisible in darkness

like our hearts.

Like them, we trail

tenuous strands

of ourselves

as we move 

to sense where

we have been,

perhaps to bring up

small bits of food

to feed the pulsing hearts

from a fading past

fast receding into nothing.

These soft living crystals,

these fabrics of soft glass

are too much like us,

pulled in and out

by tides and who,

in death, dissolve,

their lucent domes gone into


empty water,

only their memory,

a phantom beauty

enfolded in another

breathing skin,

its heart pulsing

on the water's surface.

                                     ~ Originally published in The Avocet

Breaking Wave by Anna Althea Hills,


Franklin Gillette, a Colorado native, is finishing the first instalment of his book of poems: Word Atlas (Part One). His work has been selected by Poetry East, Blue Unicorn, Light Quarterly, CSPS, and more. His operettas were set to music by various composers and performed in Kansas City and New York.  He illustrates his own work.


Your feet stand on the lower planets, 
Your legs are mountains-- alpine stairs,
Your knees are flowing with bird flutters,
Your thighs hold the atmosphere,
Your yellow robes like the evening twilight
cover up the ocean of your loins.

Your breasts contain galaxies that range, 
Your heart pounds religion in motion,
Your mind shines the brilliance of the moon,
Your chest is the golden throne of fortune,
Your head echoes truth in endless caves,
Your smile is the cause of all illusion.

Your arms are filled with splendid angels,
Your hair is murky clouds of outer space,
Your eyelids turn the night and day,
Your touch is lust, Your feet are a lotus,
Your hairs are drugs and herbs, Your veins rivers.
Death is nothing other than Your shadow.

Your intelligence is all that is divine,
Your head is the place of higher planets,
Your back is where irreligion hides,
Your tongue holds all the water spirits, 
Your neck: vibration, Your chest is the Truth,
Your words forever are the holy chants.
Your nails shed leaving giant boulders, 
Your breath circles wind to the stars, 
Your brow heats with righteous anger,
Your activities are rituals of fire, 
Your tongue licks lips creating craving,
Your ears open out to all directions.

Your eyebrows (on suns of eyes) give warning
to friends and enemies that are in You, 
--the galaxies are atoms of Your Being.

~  A shorter version published in Poetry East, Number Fifty–Seven, Fall 2006.  4th and 5th 
stanzas added here.


Before the ever-bellying radiant sky 
they break sea hobbling past dunes of ice 
whose silent monuments of compact snow 
cut to mystery like unknowable gods, 
lonely, lacking ancient worshippers. 
Huddled on the bottom of the earth 
what they must endure-- the dimming skies, 
months without food, ice catapulting,  
skirmishes of wind which freeze the will  
of our boldest.  --Here they must find warmth 
pressing to great circles beneath moon and stars, 
and millennia after millennia of rebirths.

~ Originally published in The Aurorean, 2,  2010- 2011.  


We were scuba divers telescoping
in the Pacific’s deep caverns where dark songs 
of whales vibrate through the undertow.

Seagulls plied like knives on piano wires
as if to warn us when we leaped to sea,
yet we clawed down, to fulfill our mission
reaching for the hushed nocturnal floors.

Water weighed heavier; the sunlight dimmed; 
flaming out were eels, fish and squid.
Our hands reached solid mass and yet it slid
from our grip.  A humpback paddled from us.

Yet once we found the basement of the sea
we broke the ocean’s crest and there we saw  
our little boat’s mast on the horizon.

~ Originally published in Poetry East, Nos. 64 & 65, Spring 2009.  The first sonnet from “Songs Beyond News.”

The Grand Canyon by Benjamin Chambers Brown, Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

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