Friday, December 9, 2022

Contents of California Quarterly Vol. 48 No. 4, Winter 2022, Edited by Deborah P Kolodji

California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 4, Winter 2022
Guest Editor - Deborah P Kolodji. Cover art by Tiffany Shaw-Diaz,  
You Push and You Pull, watercolor on paper (2020).   


A Path I Can’t Refuse  — William Scott Galasso  7

Teton sunset  Cynthia Anderson    7

Fire Season — Milton Bates 8

Asleep on the Couch — Cary Bogart Ziter 9

Morning — Michaela Chairez 9

Dusk, Hudson Valley Palisades — Robert Dorsett 10

Arch   Paul Willis 10

Stargazer Lily — Sharon M. Williams 11

drops of morning dew     Nancy Marie Fernandez 11

Rain Slippers — Thomas Belton 12

Cassandra as Climate Scientist  — Jeannine Hall Gailey      13

[Sombra] — Carla Pravisani 14

[Shadow]  —  Margaret Saine, tr.  14

salt and pepper — Cynthia Anderson 14

The Fortuneteller’s Bad Day   George J. Searles 15

Void  — Michael Potter 15

Mockingbird — Jeffrey Kingman 16

Questions for a Lodgepole Pine     Paul Willis  17

An Evening Flock — Matthew J. Spireng 17

Blood Moon — Basil Rouskas 18

The Photo  — Margaret Brinton 19

New Moon’s Old Tale — Raphael Block 20

A Stranger —  Ruth Holzer 21

Sheltering on the Coast — Rosemary Ybarra 22

The Big Bang — Georgia San Li 23

A Fading Band — Claire Scott 24

Rain Regiment  Dr. Emory D. Jones 25

what’s left of the night…     Gregory Longenecker  25

Morning at Moore’s Lake, Again — Kimberly Nunes 26

Droplet — Michael Kleis 27

[Receta] — Carla Pravisani 28

[Prescription]  Margaret Saine, tr.  28

golden years — Lee Hudspeth 28

Reconciled — Cynthia Anderson              29

Morning — Nancy Marie Fernandez 29

Phoenix Hairpins —  Margaret Chula 30

Mona Lisa in Hell — Andrew Miller 31

passing time —  Gregory Longenecker 31

Goodnight —  Greg Bell                32

Orange County Roots — Sabrina Skye 34

Ode to an Old Nature Pilgrim — C.L. Hoang 35

October winds  — Gregory Longenecker 35

Spider — Carla Schwartz 36

When I begin — Patricia J. Machmiller 37

my mind emerging — Margaret Saine 37

She Learns to Become Fire  Jeannine Hall Gailey       38

oak leaves  William Scott Galasso 38

With Determination — A.J. Hoffman 15

Corsage, Eight Grade Dance, 1960 — Matthew J. Spireng 39

The Queen Mary — Deborah P Kolodji & Mariko Kitakubo 40

Waiting for the Light — Beverland, Terry, etc. 41

Cranberry Fields Forever — Jim Tilley 42

The Gargoyle, Time  S.T. Brant 43

You Are Eating Oatmeal  Betsy Martin 44

In the Snow — David Sapp 45

Karaoke — Jackie Chou & Genie Nakano 46

March  Henry Stimpson  47

Flies Circling Light Bulbs — Cary Bogart Ziter            48

Mothlight  Lynn Axelrod 49

The Last Small Town — Robert H. Guard  50

Jazz Hat  Bj Cotton-Jeffords 51

The House on Green Street — Michaela Chairez 52

2022 Annual Contest Winners  53

Dolores Street  Jeanne Wagner 56

After —  Susan Wolbarst  56

Ariadne Auf Naxos — Claire Scott 58

Cover art: Tiffany Shaw-Diaz, "You Push and You Pull" Watercolor on Paper, 2020


Guest editing California Quarterly has been an honor. As I read through submissions, I found myself entranced by many of the nature-infused images I discovered, reminding me of a quote by Mary Oliver from A Poetry Handbook: “I must make a complete poem—a river-swimming poem, a mountain-climbing poem.   Not my poem, if it’s well-done, but a deeply breathing, bounding, self-sufficient poem.”

There are many river-swimming, mountain-climbing, deeply breathing, bounding, self-sufficient poems in this issue, and I found myself walking by a lake and watching a cormorant, sunlight break through pine boughs, a moose on a hiking trail, seeing crocuses emerge from dirty snow, and floating in a cranberry bog.

Poems about aging, caretaking, and mortality also grabbed my editorial heartstrings as it is winter again, both in the seasonal sense with a poet’s wish to see egrets in the snow and with the thought of the approaching winter of our lives, as time becomes a gargoyle, we say goodnight to our mothers, are isolated in the last small town in Ohio, and ponder our own mortality.

  the cuff cold as I check

  morning blood pressure

                     potted amaryllis

It’s a short leap from nature poetry and natural science to science and I was entranced by images of the Big Bang and a climate scientist who wishes she were a mermaid or selkie, along with a fairy dust sprinkle of fantasy in a couple poems. 

As you settle down with your favorite beverage and start perusing through this issue, I hope you will enjoy reading the poems as much as I enjoyed selecting them.

                  Deborah P Kolodji                                                                  Temple City, California                                                                                           



Deborah P Kolodji is the California regional coordinator for the Haiku Society of America and moderator of the Southern California Haiku Study Group. The former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, Kolodji is also is a member of the Haiku Poets of Northern California, the Yuki Teikei Haiku Society, Haiku Canada, and the California State Poetry Society. She also serves on the Board of Directors for Haiku North America.

Author of four chapbooks of poetry, her first full-length book of haiku and senryu is Highway of Sleeping Towns, from Shabda Press, which won a Touchstone Distinguished Book Award from the Haiku Foundation.  Her e-chapbook of scifaiku, tug of a black hole, won 2nd place in the Elgin Awards by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association, and is available as a free download (

Kolodji has published more than 1100 haiku in publications such as Frogpond, Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, Bottle Rockets, A Hundred Gourds, Acorn, Rattle, and Mayfly, as well as speculative poetry in Strange Horizons, Star*Line, Grievous Angel, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Tales of the Unanticipated, Tales of the Talisman, and Dreams and Nightmares. She has also published short stories in Thema and Tales of the Talisman and a short memoir in Chicken Soup for the Dieter’s Soul. Her work has been anthologized in such publications as The Rhysling Anthology, Red Moon Anthology, Dwarf Stars, Aftershocks: Poetry of Recovery, New Resonance 4, and The Nebula Awards Showcase: 2015.



Tiffany Shaw-Diaz is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and two-time Dwarf Stars Award nominee who also works as a professional visual artist. She was shortlisted for The Haiku Foundation’s Touchstone Award for Individual Poem in 2020 and won in 2021. Her poetry has been featured in Modern Haiku, The Heron’s Nest, Bones, NHK World Haiku Masters, The Mainichi, and more than 100 other publications. Her chapbooks include: says the rose (Yavanika Press 2019), filth (Proletaria 2020), and tyranny of the familiar (Yavanika Press 2020). Her poems have been translated into French, German, Italian, and Mandarin. To learn more, please visit her website:

California State Poetry Society

NEWSBRIEFS 2022, NO. 4,  WINTER 2022

 CPSP is pleased to announce the winners of the 2022 ANNUAL POETRY CONTEST, adjudicated by Frank Iosue of Arizona. The three prize-winning poems and the judge’s comments are included in this issue of the CQ. There is no need to repeat the same information in the same journal, however, for the record, the winners' names should be posted here:

FIRST PRIZE:  Jeanne Wagner – “Dolores Street”

SECOND PRIZE: Susan Wolbarst – “After”

THIRD PRIZE: Claire Scott – “Ariadne Auf Naxos”


1. Claire Scott – “S&H Green Stamps”

2. Claire Scott – “Motel Rooms of Last Resort”

3. Claire Scott – “The Sea Squirt Loses its Mind”

4. Susan Wolbarst – “Where’s Ginny?”

5. Claire Scott – “In the Revised Version: A Different Mother”

6.  Sunny Yim Alperson – “Husband’s Urn”

JUDGE’S STATEMENT: “I am proud, honored and humbled to have been selected as the judge for the 2022 California State Poetry Society Annual Contest. The poems submitted reflected an amazing diversity of subjects and styles, and the caliber of the work submitted, overall, was outstanding. I congratulate all the Winners and Honorable Mentions, and thank and commend everyone who entered. I wish you all continuing success in your poetic endeavors.”  ~Frank losue, 2022 Annual Contest Judge

Mr. Iosue also commented about the winners: “The mark of a truly outstanding poem is its capacity to elicit sensations, emotions and intuitive associations that grow richer and more inexhaustible every time it is read. To my mind, these three winning poems all share that quality.” He was also quite surprised that he awarded the third prize and as many as four out of six honorary mentions to the same poet, Claire Scott.  The contest was judged anonymously and Mr. Iosue had no way of knowing that these poems were penned by one author; in fact, he selected them because they were so different from each other! On behalf of the CSPS, I’d like to express my gratitude for his insights, hard work and dedication. He reviewed over 120 poems, reading through anonymous submissions multiple times.

We are happy to announce CSPS nominations to the Pushcart Prize selected from among poems published in 2022 in four issues of the California Quarterly, Vol. 48: No. 1 (edited by Maja Trochimczyk), No. 2 (guest-edited by Margaret Saine), No. 3 (edited by Bory Thach) and No. 4 (guest-edited by Deborah P Kolodji). The nominated poems may be read on this blog:

1. From Vol. 48 No. 1. “Waterfall Symphony” by Dana Stamps II

2. From Vol. 48 No. 1.  “Light” by Frederick Livingston

3. From Vol. 48 No. 2. “The Land I Long For” by Michael Fraley

4. From Vol. 48 No. 3. “The Calling” by Ella Czajkowska

5. From Vol. 48 No. 3.  “Tule Elk Preserve in March” by Vivian Underhill

6. From Vol. 48. No. 4. “Morning at Moore's Lake, Again” by Kimberly Nunes

CSPS POETRY LETTERS continue to be published online, with PDF versions emailed to about 440 poets and poetry lovers; and the online posts divided into two, book reviews and poems. The Poetry Letter No. 3 presented two book reviews by Michael Escoubas, of In January, The Geese By B.J. Buckley, and Dearest Water by Nancy Takacs. William Scott Galasso reviewed Bright Skies by Maja Trochimczyk. The poetry section included work by featured poet Jeff Graham, a frequent CQ contributor, the author of the chapbook The Eye of Morning (Zeugma Impress) and one of 12 poets featured in Crystal Fire. Poems of Joy and Wisdom. As for the Monthly Contest Winners, selected by Alice Pero, in April,  the 1st Prize was awarded to “Awaken” by Debra Darby. in May (Personifications, Characters, Portraits) the 1st Prize went to Carol L. Hatfield  "Cloud on the Ground" and the 2nd Prize to Joan Gerstein "White on White."  In June (the Supernatural), the 1st Prize wineer was, "Buffaloes Escape" by Pamela Stone Singer.  The Poetry Letter No. 3 was illustrated with photographs of delightful and highly decorative fruit paintings on antique porcelain plates from Bavaria, a disappearing art in the era of sterile Swedish design and very appropriate for the time of harvest.

We are very grateful that our list of supporters and generous benefactors, that is members of Gold Circle, Silver Circle, Patrons and Donors (names listed in this CQ) has increased this year. The CSPS is deeply grateful for a generous anonymous gift of $2,500, sent with the following note: "This donation is made with special appreciation for the dedication of Maja Trochimczyk, the Board of Editors and guest editors who all work tirelessly to bring diverse poetry to the wider world. Happy Holidays and thank you!"


Terry Ehret reported about her book reading last summer after the Fall issue of the CQ was sent to the printer. Here’s her report: “On Wednesday, August 17, Heal the Bay Aquarium at the foot of the Santa Monica Pier hosted the Southern California book launch for Plagios/Plagiarisms, Volumes One and Two, by Mexican poet Ulalume González de León; and Beyond the Time of Words/Más allá del tiempo de las palabras, by Chilean poet Marjorie Agosín. Both books were published by Sixteen Rivers Press as part of their ongoing translations project. After a lively reception with refreshments in the courtyard, author Marjorie Agosin, along with translators Celeste Kostopulos-Cooperman, Terry Ehret, and Nancy Morales presented the poems to a standing room only crowd in the aquarium. The special guest was Los Angeles Poet Laureate Lynne Thompson, who opened the reading with her inspirational poems. This was a first for Heal the Bay, a nonoprofit environmental organization, which has hosted many events at their aquarium, but never a poetry reading. It's our hope that this is the first of many more!”

In the last couple of months Alice Pero, 10th Poet Laureate of Sunland/Tujunga,has had poems accepted in Vilas Avenue, Dodging the Rain, Southern Arizona Press, Wonders of Winter and the San Diego annual anthology. Five of her students' poems from Fair Oaks School in Altadena were published in Fly Like the Clouds of Time - 2022 California Poets in the Schools State Anthology, as well as one of her own. Alice was also proud to be one of the 12 poets published in the beautiful new anthology Crystal Fire. Poems of Joy and Wisdom (Moonrise Press, 2022).

The 12 poets in this volume included four members of the CSPS Board and 11 contributors the CQ. The volume contains 144 poems by 12 poets: Elżbieta Czajkowska, Joe DeCenzo, Mary Elliott, Jeff Graham, Marlene Hitt, Frederick Livingston, Alice Pero,  Allegra Silberstein, Jane Stuart, Ambika Talwar, Bory Thach, and Maja Trochimczyk. I edited this anthology of “positive poetry” and it is illustrated with 14 paintings by Ambika Talwar. Initial two readings were associated with Sky Garden, an exhibition presenting artwork by Ambika and my photographs. It was curated by gallery owner Hungarian American painter, Susan Dobay and held from 16 October to 20 November 2022 at the Scenic Drive Gallery in Monrovia.

We are grateful for the hard work of our Editors this year, including two guest editors, Margaret Saine for issue no. 2 and Deborah P Kolodji for issue no. 4. Deborah also selected cover art, a vibrant watercolor by Tiffany Shaw-Diaz called “You Push and You Pull” (2020).  You can see more art at Celebrating creativity with more creativity… not such a bad idea, after all. So let’s celebrate poetry selected for this issue by eminent haiku author and editor, Deborah P Kolodji by creating more poems!

 ~ Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President 

You, by Tiffany Shaw-Diaz, watercolor on paper, 2022

Friday, December 2, 2022

Pushcart Prize 2022 Nominations from the California Quarterly vol. 48, No. 1-4

A Question Mark in Flight by Maja Trochimczyk

California State Poetry Society is pleased to announce the following nominations to Pushcart Prize from the California Quarterly, vol. 48, issues no. 1 (edited by Maja Trochimczyk), 2 (guest-edited by Margaret Saine), 3 (edited by Bory Thach) and 4 (guest-edited by Deborah P Kolodji), published by the California State Poetry Society in 2022. Copies of honored poems are posted below.

1. Vol. 48 No. 1. “Waterfall Symphony” by Dana Stamps II

2. Vol. 48 No. 1.  “Light” by Frederick Livingston

3. Vol. 48 No. 2. “The Land I Long For” by Michael Fraley

4. Vol. 48 No. 3. “The Calling” by Ella Czajkowska 

5. Vol. 48 No. 3.  “Tule Elk Preserve in March” by Vivian Underhill

6. Vol. 48. No. 4. “Morning at Moore's Lake, Again” by Kimberly Nunes

Winner of High Honors from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Pushcart Prize XLVII includes over 60 stories, poems and essays from dozens of small literary presses published in the calendar year 2022. The Pushcart Prize won the NBCC Sandroff Lifetime Achievement award, The Poets & Writers/ Barnes and Noble Writers for Writers citation and was named by Publishers Weekly as one of the seminal publications in American publishing history.

In last year’s Pushcart Prize, editor Bill Henderson noted that the Pushcart Prize, “the small good thing, has evolved into an international prize drawing nominations from small presses around the globe.” As always, the selections are made by a distinguished panel of Guest Editors and hundreds of Contributing Editors. The list of authors selected and encouraged over the decades, is immense. (An index to previous volumes is included in each edition.)

While I do not believe in poetry prizes, as comparing apples to oranges to mountains to seas is a futile operation, our nominations are fantastic, so enjoy reading them

California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 1, edited by Maja Trochimczyk
Cover Art by Diane Lee Moomey



                                           Droplets drum against

             rocks, a blue dragonfly’s 

                                   enchantment dances,

                              lilies perfume the amphitheater sky, 

                                          coconut sun —

                      screen slathered on,

                                   and nude sunbathers splash

               as they surface,

                                 then dive


                                        underneath. Echoes  

                   from a chorus of jumpers, 

                                  the jagged cliff’s ledge a stage

                      as summer mist—an ovation 

                                           as happening wetness hits— 

           croons its steamy scores.


            Dana Stamps II

  Riverside, California


Going Somewhere... by Maja Trochimczyk


Mendocino, California

sunbeam alone
               is a poem
but on this fallen log
              with you

everything is
              tongue tip

who was I?
              sweating brick 
by brick
             in gilded cities

as if 
     to impress 
the heavens
     with my cleverness

as if
     to invent 
             as alive

as this urgent
melting into
             our veins

             pine-steeped air
Earth was made 
             for breathing

     I become
             and cloudless

Frederick Livingston
Mendocino, California

California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 2, edited by Margaret Saine
Cover Art by Michael Kostiuk



The world I want lies under the waves,

Under many chilling leagues of water,

Beyond the reach of common daylight.


Pale stars illuminate its deep blue sky

And trees of giant girth cover the ground

They’ve occupied for countless years.


The land I long for is wakened at dawn

By the clear notes of flowing birdsong

From the leafy crowns of the trees.


The story was never told to me in school,

I only know it to be true because...

My blood and bones have taught me so.


         Somehow I will find a way

              To reach the forest floor

         Through a door I cannot say

              Is made of gravestone or of wood,

         But which is no less real to me

              Than any ordinary day. 


Michael Fraley

San Francisco, California


California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 3, Edited by Bory Thach
Cover Art by Ambika Talwar



Take my hand, we shall drink golden starlight

from the brass chalice of curiosity,

adorn our hair with stars' glittering light.

We shall clothe ourselves in silver moonlight

and blush our faces with sunlight’s kiss,

and dance through the dust of time unmeasured,

whirl till we are dizzy with awe

and drunk on the songs of the universe.


I have not truly known freedom until

I have shaken off the chains of attachments

to this world, this low-land

—of biological, mechanical, electric—

of static, of moving,

till I felt the seductive

beckoning of the ephemeral,

the limitless melody of cosmos.


I measure myself in dawns and twilights,

in inhales and exhales, breathless moments,

in dreams and daydreams and nightmares

as I unravel into blooming.

I am a flower eternal, floating,

drifting soundless in space on the waves

of the darkly enchanting oceans

of nebulae in purples and pinks.


And I dare you to not heed my calling,

and I dare you to resist the pulling,

the fire, the resonance in the bones

which leaves the traitorous flesh a-trembling.

And I hail to you: Come! We shall walk down,

down to the center, down to the core,

down to the end of all, down till it’s up,

until it becomes the beginning.


                                                                      Ella Czajkowska  

                                                                      Beverly Hills, California

The Spiral by Maja Trochimczyk



Here it is midmorning and the valley is singing to itself.

Listen to the bees

thrumming to the trees in bloom like a hum in the chest

for comfort. The hawk unfolds from the cottonwood

a mosaic of pottery shards and the ravens

croak like stones dropped in water, down the back

of the throat. Feel the earth pulling you close.


It is not nostalgia, to cling to the marshy ghosts

of a parched lake, the water snakes who swarmed

through the rattling reeds.


The breeze picks up and the hawk returns.

The heat rises and the plains begin to wave.

One shell-white egret sits in the shush

of leaves still translating wind into sound.


Someday all this will have silted away, the halo of song

arcing above this small pond, the calf chasing the birds.

The birds translucent below the sun.

Once this was underwater

And is

And will be again.


                                                             Vivian Underhill                                                                                                                                            Allston, Massachusetts

Gold Waves by Maja Trochimczyk

California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 4, edited by Deborah P Kolodji
In Production - Artwork not selected yet


By eight a.m., the mist, like ghosts exiting, bustles and fades
in every direction, spheres barely there,
until they aren’t.
            Quickly, slowly, the sun casts in.
The lake turns dark mirror, speckled with night dust
and featherings—the occasional dragonfly
stringing along morning’s heat. Reflections of trees—
and clumps of trees, borders
            onto other realms, all the same as this one.
Sudden sounds—a cormorant propels
the surface like an engine. At the floating dock, hops
to join another, then settles, observes the air, the sky,
            all the nothingness of the world before them.
Black from beak to tail, to webbed toe, yellowish dob
on the other one’s head, he has not moved, but to nibble a wing.
The wet one holds her wings aloft, waggles tight,
steady beats in eastern sun, diaphanous, melting to brown,
            she continues, thus—I know so little—
have gendered them to my own pleasure.
With pen and notebook, sun hat, and poncho
over my pajamas, shoes
            I slide on and off in cool sand.
The birds contemplate—an avian thought matrix, untouched.
            One steps a quarter turn, intent, drying her body.
So much patience here. And time.
And yet—I can see the watermark on the shore reeds, the lake
            is lower than last year, that much dangerously
lower. There’s a flash of red
on one cormorant’s bill, somewhere, the same bullfrog sounds
at a depth that matters, somewhere out of sight.

Kimberly Nunes
Ross, CA

Autumn Lakeshore by Maja Trochimczyk





Sunday, October 2, 2022

CSPS Poetry Letter No. 3, 2022 - Part 2. Review of Books by Buckley, Takacs, and Trochimczyk

The third issue of the Poetry Letter in 2022 features monthly Contest winners for March-June, Jeff Graham as Featured Poet and three book reviews. The poetry have been posted earlier: The illustrations, as above, were anonymous paintings of fruit on delicate Bavarian china fruit plates I found in a California thrift store and use daily, for these are so pretty and such a pleasure to look at while eating my pomegranates fresh off the tree... In the past, artisans adorned many items of daily use, somehow since Bauhaus these are replaced by straight, geometric, white, and hospital-sterile plates that are completely unappealing visually and make one think of illnesses and the sterility of a lab. So enjoy the explorations of thrift stores, following your hunter-gatherer instinct, and bring home the most delightful discoveries that graced someone else's home before coming to yours. 


26 poems, 48 pages, published by The Comstock Review, Inc. ISBN 978-1-7337051-3-4

It was in the summer of 1994 that my family and I were driving through Montana enroute from Illinois to Seattle. We got an early start out of Bozeman. As we approached an outcropping of boulders surrounded by a stand of pines, we beheld a partial arc of rainbow presenting just above the rocks, slicing through the spruces. This scene, a kind of spiritual awakening, planted seeds of desire to return.

        B.J. Buckley’s latest collection, In January, the Geese, centers me in the environs of Montana. (Without having to go there!) Winner of the prestigious Comstock Poetry Review’s 35th Anniversary Poetry Chapbook Contest, this thin volume reads as big as Montana’s azure-cyan sky.

        While we live in the seemingly technologically advanced 21st century, there is little hint of this in Buckley’s treatment of life in Montana. This is a poet who loves the life she lives. She doesn’t depend on cell phones with all the attendant gadgetry. She is close to the land. I can think of no better trait for a poet. Absent such closeness, poets are bereft to write with insight and truth.

        As I read these poems Buckley’s “big-shouldered,” earth-bound brogue lassoed me. Her diction is precise and burley. She has lived her poems.  She opens with “Upthrust;” which describes a coulee (gully or ravine) belching out what lies beneath. Note her vivid terms in this excerpt:

Frost heaves itself from the ground: everything

buried begins its slow swim to the surface.

Fields sprout stones, small hills of barbed wire

and baling twine lift overnight from plowed


Not a word is wasted as the poet paints a word-picture better than any artist. Readers need this lead-poem for context. The coulee provides a snapshot of life and sets the collection’s tone: “Deep in coulees / where the dead have long buried the dead—/ mare with her colt caught breech half born, / gutshot deer, lost lamb—the soft earth/ that swallowed them opens its mouth, / spits back their bones like pearls.”


The title poem, “In January, the Geese,” inaugurates Buckley’s telescoping of seasons. Like the Big Sky region itself, transitions are subtle and signaled by familiar things:

in their long strings every morning

in the pastel sky twining

south and west and east,

towards the fields of stubbled barley

and dry grasses and withering

winter wheat, every evening returning 

all degrees of north

to the shallowing stock ponds

As the poem continues for a total of 49 lines, the line breaks suggest the familiar shape of fowl in flight. In gorgeously descriptive language Buckley treats her readers to scenes observed from on high: the shallowing stock ponds, the little flows in the coulees, crowds of playground children, the quiet of Montana sunsets. I have never encountered a richer depiction of landscape, of wildlife . . . the way things are to a poet who soars within the long string of geese.


Late afternoon is the setting for “At Sun River,” where we find “two old men cleaning their catch . . . their knives quick and sure / as they slit shining bellies from anus to jaw.” Buckley places me at the scene. I inhale the cold spring air, smell the fishermen’s bodies in need of a bath and deodorant. I’m with them on muddy slopes and in the shadows of pine trees . . . I feel their contentment . . . their inner peace. I wish the same for myself.

        In “Seed” Buckley explores the “fragile boat of time: death, rebirth, / each infant kernel coded by its mother / plant with the hour of life’s return.” Continuing, the poem takes on a unique religious flavor that surprised me at the end.

        In Illinois, we see “Boxelder Bugs” every spring. Believe me, you’ve never seen them in the way Buckley describes these unique creatures.


Transitioning into summer, I would be remiss if I failed to call attention to Buckley’s world of birds, animals (wild and domestic), trees, flowers, and insects. I quit counting after about three dozen mentions! B.J. Buckley cares about the environment. Her poems are filled with pathos for the land and the life it breathes. That said, she is no one’s political pawn. She tells the truth as she sees it. 

         “Pronghorn Elegy” describes these lovely creatures who, by nature, need “the openness of space.” They often find themselves hopelessly entangled in man-made obstacles of barbed wire. Their antlers become their prisons. In response:

“ . . . some of us break locks

on head gates. Some of us cut wire in the dark.”


“Infinite Haze, September” describes the natural phenomenon of a forest burn. Through the device of personification, Buckley has me choking in smoke rolling in “like fog, restless [italics mine] across the fields of shorn hay.” The haze disrupts the life of pheasants in courtship. A fox is caught by hot embers when the wind suddenly shifts. Buckley’s language is palpable in describing grasshoppers leaping frantically “from the stiff shards of iris and peony. There is so much more.

        For B.J. Buckley, In January, the Geese, comes full circle from “Upthrust,” to the last line of the last poem, “Last Rites.” In this poem, a widower, weathered by the misfortunes of life, finds strength and value listening for the voices he once knew, life spreads out before him, the wild geese flying home.

~ Michael Escoubas

first published in Quill and Parchment


85 Poems, 184 pp, Moonrise, 2022,  ISBN 978-49-8, color paperback,  978-1-945938-52-8, e-book

In these uncertain times when the world wobbles on its axis between pandemics, climate change and war, taxing our ability to cope; Maja Trochimczyk (editor of the California Quarterly), presents us with her antidote, Bright Skies, Selected Poems. The book is divided in to five sections: Spring, Summer, Babie Lato (Indian Summer in Polish), Autumn and Winter. She created this generous volume (her ninth) as a gift to her children, grandchildren and for those of readers fortunate to read it. Every poem celebrates the incomparable beauty, diversity and healing power of nature--giving us reason for hope. In her first poem, A Spring Revelation, she declares

 “I love my mountains

blue and spring green, still

under clear azure expanse.

Their velvet pleats pile up

in layers above the valley rocks, 

pathways in empty riverbed.”

In the second poem, Only in California, “the desert is rich with the noise of our ghost river.” In Spring Cleaning, our avid gardener reveals:

This morning, I declawed the cactus […]

I cleaned out the pantry, sorted out 

one bookshelf and my past

carefully discarding useless fears

and fading disappointments […]

I arranged my thoughts 

into a singular clarity of purpose.[…]

Now, I only have to breathe in 

hot noon light, to set old pain, 

anger and resentment on fire,

expel the ashes in a shower of sparks

with diamond rays so brilliant, 

they make me into a supernova

a revelation, cosmic, bright—"

That’s healing.  In addition, she compliments her literary art with a visual artist’s eye for light, color, shape in the exquisite detail of her photography. The photographs on glossy paper present in minute detail every subject she turns her attention to. Further, her knowledge of local flora and fauna verges on the encyclopaedic, presenting us with an abundance of riches, which inform her life and work, writing poetry is like growing artichokes from a seed of invention. 

       Whether one perceives dewdrops on a rose, the wind swirl of a kite in cerulean skies or, an incoming wave bursting from a turquoise sea, one is moved and that’s the point. She presents all five senses and dares you to fully engage—and to be moved. “Look ahead—Look up— Look / inside—we are alive” for these are Diamond Days in Crystal Gardens

In addition, Ms. Trochimczyk makes clear that all we treasure is in danger. She admonishes us to recognize that in man’s pursuit of short-term profit, we may likely lose the Eden we cherish.  Not by the will of God but by our own reckless behavior towards the mother that bore us. In the Tale of the Hare…, “his presence tames my heart—a gift from Gaia / for theses hard times of the plague of hatred and distress,” and from Drink of Water, “I don’t want my resident raccoon to be shot /with the black, dead-looking gun.“   

No, what Maja clearly wants is the taste of honey from bees, the song of birds and the inspiration of their flight, the colors of fall in full regalia and the quiet of winter in its dreaming sleep. What she depicts in every poem is a desire for harmony and light, unity of purpose. 

Yet, Maja’s celebration of life is not confined to nature alone, but to the love of one human being for another whether that person is one’s spouse, son, daughter or grandchild, or simply a dear friend—a member of her chosen family. She celebrates with equal joy the gifts of body and spirit, rejoicing in the holidays that bring people together. One of my favorite poems is Your Rainbow, which I see is both a collection of images and a metaphor for gratitude. Here are a few lines addressing that rainbow, 

         “You are a rainbow of endless Light

                 You are a fountain of boundless Love

                       You are a red ruby of life

                           You are a pure amber of creation

                               You are a new gold of strength

                               You are a green emerald of affection

                           You are a blue sapphire of truth

                      You are a clear amethyst of perception”

Finally, and I won’t give it away, there is a coda…don’t miss a page. This work is a feast for mind and spirit as close as your garden, eternal as stars. Recommended!

~ William Scott Galasso


44 poems, 79 pages, Mayapple Press

In one of Wallace Stevens’ lesser known and underappreciated poems, “Poetry is a Destructive Force,” we find these lines:

That’s what misery is

Nothing to have at heart.

It is to have or nothing.

It is a thing to have,

A lion, an ox in his breast,

To feel it breathing there.

After reading Nancy Takacs’ latest collection, Dearest Water, I’m struck by the force and wisdom in her work. Poetry is a lion, an ox in her breast.      Dearest Water is structured in four divisions: 1) Poems for Women Only, 2) Wildness, 3) Invisible Jewels, and 4) Notes to God from County Road H. 

A Word About Style. Nancy Takacs writes in free verse. Her poems are structured in couplets, tercets, quatrains, and logical paragraph breaks. A nice variety of presentation. She does not force-rhyme. When rhymes or half-rhymes occur, they are occasional enhancements applied to what she is doing.

Takacs is a student of the natural world. Flora and fauna inhabit her work. Within this broad category, I found animals, birds, bees, trees, canyons, colors, fishes, and ghosts. Her poems are replete with emotional resonance born from an abundant storehouse of memories and experiences.

Poems for Women Only. Dare I say that the poems in this section are vitamins and minerals for men? Take for example her short poem, “Making Up”:

is like the first pickle from a mason jar,

raspberry jam in the tapioca. My husband

speaks to me for the first time after our

argument that shimmered with hooves.

Now his voice is all hallowed and velour.

Now my voice is hazy and mango. We halt

our sorrows for now. We go out to the tulips

and have a cookie. I put on my magenta

sweatshirt. Her dusky sky has one tamp of bitter.

Holding a hand can be like a hornet in a balloon.

It takes two hours for our toes to get drowsy.

Wildness. This section illumines the poet’s concern for animals, the environment and social justice. Love is pervasive within her environmental concerns.  “Wolverine” is a case in point:

I’m kind of a loner like you, skunk-bear,

but way too soft, lounging

on my futon with a paperback

on my breast, digesting tasty

memories of Proust.

. . . . . . 

Wolverine, I’ve leaned

into creeks for watercress,

picked the raspberries

bears have been in, 

looked into the eyes

of great horned owls,

glimpsed the bear, the fox.

. . . . . .

Humans call you terrible,

caribou-hound, bone-crusher,

tooth-eater. Trappers wait for you,

snowmobilers spin across your space.

I hope you’re still running and running,

hunting and hunting somewhere

wide and cold enough for you.

In the same poem she avers, I should have let the wild be wild. This after making friends with and even feeding several wild creatures. Indeed, “wild” is pervasive in Takacs’ work. Her advocacy is multiplied through poetic craftsmanship. She is able to take a step back, harness her emotions weaving high art into environmental concerns.

Invisible Jewels. Upon encountering this section, I asked myself: What is the meaning of this section title? How can a jewel (something palpable) be invisible?       As I pondered this, I noticed a tonal change within the poems themselves; a loosening of the poet’s diction. The poems took on an aura of simplicity. They became like well-seasoned entrées. “What My Dog Knows,” begins to pull the curtain back on how “ordinary things” become “invisible jewels”:

is how the smell of shampoo

means I’m going out,

and the blow dryer

means without her. 

She still asks

with her butterfly ears

wide open.

She is pine-scented

from yesterday’s bath,

brushed, ready

to go if I want her,

trot to the lake and roll

in something rotten

as soon as I turn my back.

She’s small but loves to bark

at all the big dogs in the park,

slip her collar

and lunge for their throats.

If I would only

take her,

And let her.

Notes to God from County Road H. The lead poem, “Drought” is akin to prayer. In 16 poems of varying length, Takacs lifts her voice to God about the way things are in life. I’ve done the same thing myself. This poet raises her voice much better than I, however!

She invites her readers to walk with her “where oceans of stars / once fell into orbit, / and rolled up on the shore / of the skies, . . .” This wide-ranging series serves as catharsis for Takacs. The outer visible world speaks to that which is invisible within her heart . . . hope within the reality of drought. Look for signs that drought may be multi-dimensional in the poet’s mind.

I led with a reference to a poem by Wallace Stevens. These lines from the same poem, seem a fitting closure to this excellent collection:

He [poetry] is like a man

In the body of a violent beast.

Its muscles are his own . . .

The lion sleeps in the sun.

Its nose is on its paws.

It can kill a man.

~ Michael Escoubas, 

first published in Quill & Parchment