Wednesday, March 16, 2022

CSPS Announces its 35th Annual Poetry Contest with Frank Iosue, Contest Judge

The California State Poetry Society is pleased to announce its 35th Annual Poetry Contest. 

Submissions Accepted March 1st – June 30th, 2022 

$100, $50, $25 Cash for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Prizes, 

Plus Publication in the California Quarterly, Vol. 48, No. 4 (2022 Winter) 

Reading fees: Members, $3.00/poem; Non-members, $6.00/poem 

Winners will be announced in September 2022. Submissions are now welcome of original poems with 80-line (two-page) limit per poem. Submissions are only accepted by mail. 

Send a cover letter with all poet information  (mailing address, email address, name, phone) and a list of the submitted poems, as well as one copy of each poem with no poet identification, and a check for the reading fees to: 

CSPS Annual Contest Chair

P.O. Box 4288 Sunland, CA 91041-4288 



Frank Iosue is a poet and a member of the Arizona State Poetry Society and The Tucson Poetry Society. In April 2021, it was his pleasure and privilege to be a judge for the National Federation Of State Poetry Society's Annual Contest, judging over 150 submissions for The Poetry Society of Texas Award. He holds a B.A. in English from California State University, Los Angeles, and an MFA in Creative Writing / Poetry from The University of Iowa / Writer's Workshop. 

Iosue is the author of 11 chapbooks of poetry, and a volume of Collected Poems: The Au Revoir Of An Enormous Us, published in 2017. He has conducted a number of writing workshops, and has been a featured reader at venues around Southern Arizona for over 20 years. 


Iosue writes: "A poem is an arena of apprehensions and associations; a "psychic ecosystem" unto itself, bounded, artificed and amplified through craft and language. Experience, emotion, imagination, intellect and artistry -- in a unique, uneasy marriage between what's thought and what's felt -- cohabitate on the page, expressly for the end of approximating (and, hopefully, achieving) the most resonant and illimitable expression of a poetic "reality." In my poems, I seek to create experiences that destabilize and scavenge ordinary perception, and transform the "apparent" into epiphanies of revelation and realization. 

"This collection contains the inventory of my life's poetic journey. The joys, sorrows, memories, and reveries; the people and places, the histories, and the voyages of imagination that populate these pages, form my testament to a world, whose presences, and absences, have accompanied me, and formed the fragile scaffolding for the little empire of my existence -- an intensely-felt world of a self, of an I, intimately environed and occupied by a brilliant otherness of those, and them, and it and you . . . An Enormous Us!"


Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Contents of the California Quarterly 48, No. 1, Spring 2022, edited by Maja Trochimczyk

California Quarterly vol. 48, no. 1, Spring 2022, ed. Maja Trochimczyk
Cover image: "Surrender" by Diane Lee Moomey, 2014, watercolor on paper, 18"x24"


river of gold

flows through charcoal valley –

Water Tiger Year

       The year 2022 is supposed to be of turmoil, transformation, trauma – the tiger showing its stripes, as it were. At least it is a “Water Tiger” so its fierce energy is cooled off with waves of tranquility. I live near the coast of the Pacific and love watching the gentle waves relentlessly caressing the sand. Their gentleness is an illusion – an enormous power is hidden within the mass of water that is all a part of one united ocean encircling our globe. Jeff Graham celebrates the sea while reflecting on what it means “to live in a sea of light” in his poem, “The sea only gives.” Like the oceans, we are all united, even if we do not know it, and spiral into loneliness and despair.      

       Submissions to this issue of the California Quarterly included many traumatic or post-traumatic experiences captured in words.       Old circus horses go “round and round” under the whip of merciless Ring Master (Lynn White); ghost towns disappear (Stephen Benz), grief becomes a black hole “from which nothing escapes…not one particle of hope” (Lynn Domina). We miss those who left us (Terry Olivi). But then we look up and see that “anchoring night sky / kite holds moon” (Jeffrey L. Taylor). Then, we start to think “of what is fleeting / of what touches the heart / and makes it vibrate” (Paolo Staglianò). Healing begins. We are so delighted as we realize that “Earth was made for breathing” that we too may look up and “become/ blue/ and cloudless” (Frederick Livingston). 

       We notice the living things that grow, sprout, and flourish. It is Spring, after all. Suddenly, as snow melts, we want to “wake crocuses, make snowdrops unfurl” (Holly Day). We plant seeds in the garden waiting for “the tiniest sprouts opening with the light” (Charlene Langfur). We admire “every inch of matter / a filament of light / gasping to the sun” (Brittany Nohra). Poets also celebrate their ancestors, both poetic (Horace, Wallace Stevens) and actual, elders reminding youth that “The Gift Inherited / That is our Life” (Sean McGee Brown of the Bishop Paiute/Shoshone Tribe). I am truly grateful for the riches of poetic expression I encountered while seeking these gems to share. 

~ Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President

Moon Kites in Blue, by Diane Lee Moomey, Watercolor


California Quarterly, Vol 48, Number 1, Spring 2022

Reception — Charles Grosel  7

The Mime — Jane Stuart 7

Stationary Hobo  Dana Stamps II 8

anchoring night sky  Jeffrey L. Taylor 8

Christmas Tree Aftermath  —  Richard Schiffman 9

Round and Round   Lynn White 10

Early  Holly Day   11

Letter to Taylor Swift  A. Dearborn Goldsmith 12

anachronistic  Scott Moss 12

Mountain March  Bertha Rogers 13

On the Bridge Across the Stream —  Harris Coverley              13

Tahquitz Peak Lookout 1999 —  Terry Wilhelm 14

Ghost Towns Out West —  Stephen Benz  16

Ruins  Keith Gorman 17

[alla mia madre morta:]   Terry Olivi 18

[To My Dead Mother:] —  Margaret Saine, tr. 19

Will tomorrow be another day?  Charlie Brice 20

Shavasana  Ida Marie Beck 21

loud waterfall rush Connie Tettenborn  21

Thirty White Horses  Angie Nam 22

Wyvern —  Holly Day 23

the nearness —   Gregory Cecil 23

Mixed Media: Grief  Lynn Domina 24

Lessons of the Pomegranate  Tammy C. Greenwood 25

Sea Shanties Angelika Quirk 26

Bullfrog Pond —   Pamela Stone Singer 27

King Tide  Ron Renspie 28

Waterfall Symphony   Dana Stamps II 29

The Sea Only Gives —  Jeff Graham 30

Crossing the Causeway   Julia Park Tracey 31

Unsolid State Connie Tettenborn  31

Daphne —    Brittany Nohra 32

Anemophilous  Holly Day 33

Looking Up at the Sky  John McKernan     33

Unbridled  Tammy C. Greenwood 34

We All Lie  Annie Schumacher 34

Purpose   Cathy Porter 35

Centering  Charlene Langfur  36

Curriculum Vitae  Margaret Saine 37

Puzzle      Claire Scott 38

Loneliness —  Edward Curtis 38

Rectius Vives, Licini, Neque Altum     Andrew Miller 39

Green Grass  Alice Pero 40

From Minium Chronicles  Maja Trochimczyk 41

[Ciò che fugge]    Paolo Staglianò 42

[What Is Fleeting]  Margaret Saine, tr. 43

Simple Things  Charlene Langfur 44

Santa Cruz  Annie Schumacher 45

Anna Livia  Jonathan Cannon 46

When Two is Greater than Home  Ida Marie Beck 47

Still Blue  Loise Moisess 48

Unfurling Seasons  Hedy Habra 49

Immigrant  Angie Nam 50

Varanasi —   Laine Derr 50

My Prayers —  Carlo diOrio 51

Beyond Silence  —  Jeffrey L. Taylor  51

Assopirmi ora — Rita Stanzione 52

getting drowsy now —   Margaret Saine, tr. 52

The Phoenix Oliver Egger  53

Generational Waves  Sean McGee Brown 54

Practical Advice for a Frazzled Passer-by  Maja Trochimczyk 56

Existence by Origin by Existence   —  Jeff Graham 57

Light  —   Frederick Livingston  58

Seeker  Beverly M. Collins 59

Contributors in Alphabetical Order 60

CSPS Contest Opportunities 61

CSPS Newsbriefs 2022, No. 1 62

Publishing Opportunities with CSPS 65

2022 CSPS Donors, Patrons, and Membership 66

CSPS Membership Form 68


Summer Surf, Watercolor by Diane Lee Moomey

NEWSBRIEFS 2022, No.1,  Spring 2021

 We are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the California State Poetry Society in 2022. While the date of founding the organization falls into 2021, the first volume of the California Quarterly was published in 1972. We are now in Volume 48 because in the past some volumes were published over the course of two years. Just to make things more confusing, I guess. Over these five decades, the CSPS and CQ thrived thanks to the dedicated work of many volunteers who  have considered investing their time in poetry instead of money-making ventures a worthwhile endeavor. In several community organizations that I volunteer for the average age of these selfless volunteers is typically well over sixty – retired people have time to contribute. It is much harder to interest younger generations in hard, unpaid labor. Perhaps, they too will join, once they retire. Meanwhile, our volunteers are working very hard.

      Alice Pero read hundreds of poems through the year to select Monthly Contest Winners, published together in Poetry Letter No. 1, 2022 and including the following winners:

January 2021 - Theme: Nature, Seasons, Landscape

·        First Prize: Dr. Emory D. Jones,  "Sanctuary"

·        Second Prize: Marlene Hitt, "Summer of Fire"

·        Third Prize: David Anderson, "The Coming Snow"

February 2021 - Theme: Love

·        First Prize: Claire J. Baker, "Speculation"

March 2021 - Theme: Open, Free Subject

·        First Prize: Julia Park Tracey - "Just One Thing"

April 2021 - Theme: Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes

·        First Prize: Jerry Smith "Aboriginal Americans"

·        Second Prize: Teresa Bullock "Plain Air, Oxford"

·        Third Prize: Ruth Berman "Praxilla's Folly"

May 2021 - Theme: Personification, Characters, Portraits

·        First Prize; Louise Kantro "Is That a Bird?"

·        Second Prize: Elaine Westheimer "Mending Its Own Business"

·        Third Prize: Elizabeth Kuelbs "The House Knows"

June 2021 - Theme: The Supernatural

·        First Prize: Gail White, "The Ghost in the Restaurant"

July 2021 - Theme: Childhood, Memoirs

·        First Prize: Corey Weinstein "Mezzrow's Mistake"

·        Second Prize: Keala Rusher "On Butterflies"

·        Third Prize: Chryss Yost "Canid"

August 2021 - Theme: Places, Poems of Location

·        First Prize:  Ahmad Aamir Malik (from Pakistan) "Montreal from a Departing Plane's Window"

·        Second Prize: Eileen Carole "Caribbean Dreams 1 & 2"

·        Third Prize: Lynn M. Hansen  "Anacapa, Island of Mirage"

September 2021 - Theme: Colors, Music, Dance

·        1st prize: Catherine McCraw, "Blue Plate Special"

·        2nd prize: Carla Schick,  "Other Miracles I Failed to Notice.(Remembering Coltrane's Dear Lord)"

·        3rd prize: Jonathan Ansley Ward, "Are Islands Alive"

October 2021 - Theme: Humor, Satire

·        First Prize: Joan Gerstein, "A Day of Races"

November 2021 - Theme: Family, Friendship, Relationships

·        First prize: Marilyn Robertson, "Cannery Row Mural, 1946"

·        Second prize: Cathy Porter, "Insatiable"

·        Third prize: Jeff Graham, "Ode: the 2020's"

December 2021 - Theme: Best of Your Best (award-winning or published poems)

·        First prize:  Lynn M. Hansen, "Storm Spiders"

·        Second prize   Elizabeth Kuelbs,  "Flower Moon"

·        Third prize    Louise Kantro, "By the Campfire, Borrego Desert"

The prize winning poems are published in three posts on our blog; there is a search box on the right,

We already announced the Annual Contest Winners for 2021 in CQ 47:4, and thanked the Contest Judge, Georgia Jones-Davis and Contest Chair, Joyce Snyder. For the 2022 Contest, we invited Frank Iosue of Arizona to adjudicate the submissions, while the position of the Contest Chair is still vacant.  We welcome enthusiastic and hard-working volunteers!

The California Quarterly 47:4, Winter 2021, took a while to print and when it finally appeared, with a cheerful cover by Vera Campion, it turned out that a draft was sent to the printer and the issue was numbered 47:3, Autumn. We are now reprinting the contributors’ copies that will be mailed soon. It is such a beautiful issue, edited by William Scott Galasso, that we want poets to have the right cover in their personal archives. Apart from the printing error, the issue was very well received.  Russell Rowland send his congratulations, noting “many riches here, as always, much hard work on [the editor’s] your part in evidence, and an honor to be included.” Diane Lee Moomey, a poet and artist noted “such a fresh, joyful look, as always! Like a piece of fresh, ripe fruit…” Ellyn Maybe wrote: “Thank you both so very much, the California Poetry Quarterly issue is truly beautiful!” Finally, Jane Hilary observed:  “I received a copy of California Quarterly a couple of days ago and have had the pleasure of reading it from front to back then back to front.  You've done a truly brilliant job with it.  I love your Jim Volvano quote, how true. Volume 47 ably affords the opportunities for a ‘full day’ with the (sometimes not so) simple effort of sitting down to read it!  So many wonderful poems and what joy to actually have them in a book!  The whole thing is an absolute feast!”

       The lovely cover image of the current issue, entitled “Surrender” was designed by Diane Lee Moomey, a poet and artist from northern California. She is also among our contest winners, and poets included in the California Quarterly. I selected an image of kites above gently rolling hills, because I survived the last two years by spending afternoons with my kites either on the Oxnard beach or in the local hills (having to brave the chaparral at times to retrieve the fallen kites, since the winds are so unstable in the canyon). It is a relaxing activity to be alone with the sun and wind, and look up at the sky, where hawks circle around the colorful invaders. I took some videos of my kites, and wrote a longish poem, with the following stanza: “Flying kites is defying gravity. Flying kites is pure joy. / This is freedom itself, soaring towards the Sun, /circling around the Moon, tracing patterns among clouds.” Indeed, sometimes it is really good to “go, fly the kite” – and find joy in the simples of things.

~ Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President


Note Card by Diane Lee Moomey


Maja Trochimczyk is a Californian poet, scholar, translator, photographer, and non-profit director from Poland. She studied musicology at the University of Warsaw, Poland (M.A. 1986) and sound engineering at the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw (M.A. 1987). In 1988 she emigrated to Canada and in 1994 she earned her Ph.D. in musicology from McGill University in Montreal. She held Postdoctoral Fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (1994-1996),and the American Council of Learned Societies (2001-2002). Dr. Trochimczyk has been giving public readings and publishing her poetry since 2007. She published five books of poetry: Rose Always - A Love Story, 2008, rev. 2020; Miriam's Iris, or Angels in the Garden, 2008, both from Moonrise Press; Slicing the Bread, Finishing Line Press 2014, Into Light, and The Rainy Bread (Moonrise Press, 2016). She also edited four poetry anthologies: Chopin with Cherries: A Tribute in Verse (2010); Meditations on Divine Names (2012), Grateful Conversations (2018, co-edited with Kathi Stafford), and We Are Here: Village Poets Anthology (2020, co-edited with Marlene Hitt).  Her poetry and photographs appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, such as: Clockwise Cat, California Quarterly, Cosmopolitan Review, Magnapoets, Quill and Parchment, Ekphrasis Journal, Edgar Allan Poet Journal, Epiphany Magazine, Lily Literary Review, Loch Raven Review, Lummox Journal, OccuPoetry, Quill and Parchment, Phantom Seed, Pirene's Fountain, poeticdiversity, Poezja Dzisiaj, The Sage Trail, The Scream Online, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, Spectrum and anthologies by Poets on Site, Southern California Haiku Study Group, and other collections. She edited CQ 44:4, 45:3, 46:4, 47:2 and 48:1.

She published seven books of music studies, including: Gorecki in Context: Essays on Music (2017),  Frederic Chopin: A Reserch and Information Guide (Routledge, 2015, co-edited with William Smialek), Lutoslawski: Music and Legacy (Polish Institute of Art and Sciences in Canada, 2014, co-edited with Stanislaw Latek), and Polish Dance in Southern California (East European Monographs, Columbia University Press, 2008). Her articles appeared in American Music, Contemporary Music Review, Musical Quarterly, Computer Music Journal, Muzyka, Studia Musicologica, Leonardo, Polish American Studies, Polin, Polish Review, The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians II (Macmillan), Women Composers: Music Through the Ages (G.K. Hall), Lutoslawski Studies (Oxford University Press),  The Age of Chopin (Indiana University Press), 100 Lat Muzycznej Emigracji (MEA Kultura 2018), and Homage to Tansman (Wroclaw, 2019). Her musicology work was translated into Polish, German, French, Swedish, Chinese and Japanese. Dr. Trochimczyk is a recipient of PAHA's Creative Arts Prize (2016) for her two poetry books about WWII experience of Polish civilians, including her family under German and Soviet occupation (Slicing the Bread, 2014 and The Rainy Bread: Poems from Exile, 2016). She was also honored with PAHA's Distinguished Service Award (2014), and the 2007 Swastek Prize for her article about Polish folk dance groups in Southern California published in the Polish American Studies. In 2012 she was presented with a medal for the promotion of Polish culture "Zasluzony dla Kultury Polskiej" from the Minister of Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Poland. She also received numerous city and county honors celebrating her years of volunteering for the Polish-American community. 


Diane Lee Moomey is a sculptor, watercolorist and collage artist who’s lived and wandered around the US and Canada —she now dips her gardener’s hands in California dirt. She also writes poetry, an experience that both seeds and is seeded by, her visual imagery. Recent watercolors include a series of "everyday goddesses" -- female figures engaged in the ordinary activities of life. Earlier work has explored the five Elements and their interactions. Forty of her watercolors may be seen in the set of Journey Cards entitled "Paths, Portals, Elements", available through her website,

Aquifer, watercolor by Diane Lee Moomey

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Winners of 12 CSPS Monthly Poetry Contests in 2021

Pam Coulter, "Still Life with Oranges" 

California State Poetry Society is pleased to publish the prize-winning poems for the year 2021 in its blog and the Poetry Letter No. 1 of 2022.  Below is the list of winners with links to the blog posts where the poems are published. January through March winners appeared on the blog twice and April through May once in the blog posts linked below. The poems for July through December are posted below the list of all 2021 winners. Congratulations to the poets and many thanks to Alice Pero, our Monthly Contests Judge.

As illustrations on this blog, we are presenting the artwork of Pam Coulter Blehert, still life paintings and landscapes. The artist who died in 2021 was born in Evanston, Illinois and lived in Northern Virginia, the subject of many of her landscapes. She completed various Postgraduate courses in art: American University, Corcoran School, Odeon Art School (LA), Paris and holds a B.A. degree from Antioch College in Humanities/Studio Arts (1965). She participated in 17 solo exhibition in 1988-2007 and in 34 group exhibitions in 1999-2011.  She also received 25 grants and awards over the course of her career that included teaching art at various institutions  and  having her artwork represented by several noted galleries. You can find more information on her website at

Pam Coulter, "Hanover Avenue, Richmond, Virginia"


January 2021 - Theme: Nature, Seasons, Landscape

First Prize: Dr. Emory D. Jones,  "Sanctuary" 

Second Prize: Marlene Hitt, "Summer of Fire" 

Third Prize: David Anderson, "The Coming Snow"

February 2021 - Theme: Love

First Prize: Claire J. Baker, "Speculation"

March 2021 - Theme: Open, Free Subject

First Prize: Julia Park Tracey - "Just One Thing"

April 2021 - Theme: Mythology, Dreams, Other Universes

First Prize: Jerry Smith "Aboriginal Americans"

Second Prize: Teresa Bullock "Plain Air, Oxford"

Third Prize: Ruth Berman "Praxilla's Folly"

May 2021 - Theme: Personification, Characters, Portraits

First Prize; Louise Kantro "Is That a Bird?"

Second Prize: Elaine Westheimer "Mending Its Own Business"

Third Prize: Elizabeth Kuelbs "The House Knows"

June 2021 - Theme: The Supernatural

First Prize: Gail White, "The Ghost in the Restaurant"

July 2021 - Theme: Childhood, Memoirs

First Prize: Corey Weinstein "Mezzrow's Mistake"

Second Prize: Keala Rusher "On Butterflies"

Third Prize: Chryss Yost "Canid"

August 2021 - Theme: Places, Poems of Location

First Prize:  Ahmad Aamir Malik (from Pakistan) "Montreal from a Departing Plane's Window"

Second Prize: Eileen Carole "Caribbean Dreams 1 & 2"

Third Prize: Lynn M. Hansen  "Anacapa, Island of Mirage"

September 2021 - Theme: Colors, Music, Dance

1st prize: Catherine McCraw, "Blue Plate Special"

2nd prize: Carla Schick,  "Other Miracles I Failed to Notice.(Remembering Coltrane's Dear Lord)"

3rd prize: Jonathan Ansley Ward, "Are Islands Alive"

October 2021 - Theme: Humor, Satire

First Prize: Joan Gerstein, "A Day of Races"

November 2021 - Theme: Family, Friendship, Relationships

First prize: Marilyn Robertson, "Cannery Row Mural, 1946"

Second prize: Cathy Porter, "Insatiable"

Third prize: Jeff Graham, "Ode: the 2020's"

December 2021 - Theme: Best of Your Best (award-winning or published poems)

First prize:  Lynn M. Hansen, "Storm Spiders"

Second prize   Elizabeth Kuelbs,  "Flower Moon"

Third prize    Louise Kantro, "By the Campfire, Borrego Desert"

Pam Coulter, "Sunflowers and Pears"


Mezzrow's Mistake

What was I thinking,
what was thinking anyway?
In high school I thought a lot
about who was doing what to whom,
And how did I fit in or out.

A jock, yes  that barn door right  tackle,
The pride of Little Warsaw, Polsky Tech,
Lumbered dumbly right up to us stoners,
Da ya know where I ken get sum, y a know, sum.
A doobie lookin' for a doob, yes,
Dope, dank, bud, boo, giggle stick, weed,
Joy by many names,
Herb, cabbage, reefer, shake, In so many ways,
Ganja, da kine, Cheech and Chong, skunk.
His Jay Tokenstein to my Mezz Mezzrow,
My 420 every day to his can't name the day.

Dare I on a dare, I did dare, I swear.
In the hall, swivel eyes, arms at sides,
palms fast and smooth, cash and goods,
A dime bag, he'd never know it was Oregano.

Let's just say, He Knew.
What was I thinking!


On Butterflies

One day, I woke up
Just like every other
But this day, I was no longer
Sixteen or seventeen or eighteen.

Instead, the lettuce in the planterbox
had bittered and bolted
Shooting up flowering stalks,

While the air smelled of soil
And warm tomatoes
 Fresh off their vines in mid July.

If I spoke to my past self
And she asked me if true love exists
I would tell her yes,
Because I know it myself.

Though, it doesn't feel like
heartracing and insects,
however beautiful,
The way people say it does.

More so a letter with good news
You were not expecting,
Sweet tea, and a fleeting breeze
That carries scents you can't begin to place,

But recall all the same.



This story begins with low sun and low tide.
The shadows pulled across on the sand,
rolled out like butchers' paper.
        The blue-grey brush strokes evening.

Tbis is the story my dog tells himself,
of shadow wolf in the wilderness,
running with his fierce jaws and arch
        of feathered tail projected onto sand.

And the shadow of me, long-limbed
giant wobbling south, with the tide
and the darkness snarling over
           who will get us first.

Pam Coulter, "Great Falls in Autumn"


Montreal from a Departing Plane’s Window

The buildings and bridges that were so bright and so towering yesterday
               with a thousand lambent flickers receding like an irreversible lament.

City lights that often spoke of home, of her, of tears hidden no longer
               breathing in fragile shimmers the way teardrops do.

Somehow, I know the wistful agonies that vacillate in the city air
        after an hour of rain; somehow, I know the petrichor of moist yellow leaves
               rising from the street sides around St. Denis tomorrow morning.

In a few hours,  
         I’ll be a line of burning frost in the sky,
                a contrail of wonder for a child lying in the dying November grass.

                                                    And now I can see all the streets I never saw,
                                                                                all the people I never knew,
                                                                                                     all the lives I never lived.


Caribbean Dreams 1 & 2

I have felt no tropical breezes
Blowing through my sister locks
Have sipped no Caribbean concoction
With coconut and tiny umbrella
Have eaten no plantain, much less rice and curried goat
I have walked no sandy white beaches
Whether by day or moonlight eve
I have shopped no marketplace for baskets and shells and such
No tall, dark and handsome island man
Has whispered sweet nothings in my ear
I’ve not the money to have the travel agent book the fare
I sit landlocked and stateside I fear
So, my Caribbean fantasy is just that, a dream
St. Lucia, Antigua, Jamaica… all too far away it seems

This is my equinox, my season of content
A Spring, eternal on my horizon
The onset of sunshine, warm days and Caribbean nights
My season of glory and community with earth and sea
Barefoot in the sand and skipping along the shore
Basking in Spring and longing for Summer
Spring is my opportunity to reinvent myself
To evolve into my higher destiny
In this place is my time to come alive again
Leaving Winter’s discontent
And the cold, synonymous with closure
I have come to the island to retire, yet live again
I've come into my equinox, my Spring, if only in my dream!


Anacapa, Island of Mirage 

Emerging from coastal fog
Anacapa, known by the Chumash
as Anypakh, Island of Mirage,
appears as one island
but is actually three
separated by water.

Wind-swept and volcanic,
Anacapa grows golden
with a unique floral display
each Spring - giant coreopsis.
At the East end of the island chain,
Arch Rock bends over the sea,
forms a frame for reflection
of our solar flame as it slides into the next day -
its last beams glittering
on the writhing water that slaps
steep cliffs along island sides.

Without fresh water or trees,
western gulls form pairs,
join the largest breeding colony
of their species in the world.
Safe from predators, surrounded
by abundance of food, they build nests
in sheltered depressions of vegetation,
forage in the rich waters off shore,
feed and defend their spotted chicks,
circle overhead keening,
dive bomb human visitors,
appear out of the fog
like ghosts. 

Pam Coulter, "Shack in the Foothills"


Blue Plate Special 

Flying home to Hot Springs
for Christmas

I closed my eyes and recalled
the old Bluebell Cafe, long closed,

which was a few blocks
from my parent's home.

and served "blue plate specials".
I tried to remember the distinct color

of the sturdy china dinnerware ...
at first I thought cornflower

but my memory twisted
to a darker tint, more a deep royal blue,

like a winter evening in Paris,
the time of day the French call l 'heure bleue.

Then my mind segued to the Club Cafe downtown
that served homemade custard or fruit pies

and the waitress who was always there
with the blueblack beehive hair,

wearing the mustard gold uniform
with the cream ruffled apron.

What was her name -
Edith, Evelyn, Esther, Estelle?

I refuse to believe she retired or died,
She was too essential.

I prefer to imagine she slipped through
a lattice-work square in time

and now resides in a black-and-white
Twilight Zone-esque diner

where she doles out slices of blueberry pie
and thick mugs of hot coffee

while she daydreams of sneaking out
back for a Marlboro break.

Then I revert to trying to conjure
the shade of those plates -

cheerful afternoon blue,
or a deep twilight hue?

It's not really true you can't go home again, 
but it is true you can't get home again.


Other Miracles I Failed to Notice.
(Remembering Coltrane's Dear Lord)

Coltrane's sax breaks sound
Each note yearns for the next    

            Walk these hot humid days
            Walk although your body just drifts  

            Who watches?

Strange to view everyone turn in
tears centered in their eyes
clouds drift in and  out
no direct path      of light

           Each note ascends to the next
           unpredictable sequence of chords
           a key no one heard before shudders

I move looking out a window
catch my reflection
yet cannot see

            Each  note turns
             Each note trails above

Unbroken clouds desert lupine
blossoms as though resting
in opened palms-

          Alone and not  I listen again
          did I hear him  crying  or just
          myself shedding skin
          I thought I knew


Are Islands Alive?

Sunrise over Kauai
Blue/Green + Golden sand
The night loses its magic
The day begins to dance

Are islands alive?
Do they breathe in
The warm tropical breezes
Do they exhale turquoise surf?

Is Love like an island—
A warm embrace of wonder
A surrender of the heart
Into a peaceful sea of Light?

Sunset over Kauai
Golden Fire into Green/Blue
The day enfolds into twilight
The stars begin to dance

Pam Coulter, "Autumn Apples"


 Day of Races 

With briefcase in hand and sharpened pencils,
I traverse streets of this coastal town.
In evenings, mornings and afternoons,
I wear sturdy shoes, walk up and down.

I enumerate for the US Census,
going to non-response follow-up homes.
I record the answers they give me,
though I'd rather be penning a poem.

The questions of name, sex, age are easy.
"Are you of Hispanic origin?" is OK,
but I know when I voice the next question,
perplexed people will stare with dismay.

We're almost done, it's the fifth question,
I smile sweetly as I gaze at their faces.
Please look at list D, I say, with dread,
Choose one or more of the following races.

There's Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean,
African American, Negro, Black,
American or Asian Indian,
maybe White if a name starts with Mac.

There's Filipino or Other Asian,
Native Hawaiian or perhaps Samoan.
You could be Other Pacific Islander.
Tell me which ones you have chosen.

I don't really understand, they reply,
I think of myself as Canadian.
With a weary smile and patience of Job,
I say Look and show them List D again.

Where is Estonia,? they inquire.
I'm sorry but I fail to understand.
Using examples I learned in training,
I cite some groups, give a helping hand.

Pacific Island groups include Tongans.
Other Asian groups are Laotian or Thai.
I say, Aha, there's another category:
Some Other Race, in desperation I cry.

Tell me what you want to call yourself.
I'll write whatever you want me to.
You can be French, Nubian or Russian.
I just want this interview to be through.

Finally they decide what race to pick.
At this address, the Census I complete.
But I bet you dollars to donuts,
at the next home, this farce, I repeat. 

Pam Coulter, "James River Railway Bridge"


Cannery Row Mural, 1946 

Before the factory whistle blows at noon, a blue
lunch wagon pulls into a parking spot beside the tracks.

A passing engine trails its banner of black smoke,
but cannot put a damper on the scene -

all greens and yellows drifting
toward a peach-colored horizon.

Nobody looks anxious here,
wondering what might come next.

The woman in the back of the wagon
slices bologna as usual.

The man on the bicycle steers his loaves
of sourdough to their destinations.

The blonde on the porch railing leans forward
as a soldier lights her cigarette -

his strong arm holding up a weathered post,
his sturdy boots just waiting for instructions. 



ten too many, and the night

just started

as if there are better options

and if you cross me,

don't let the door...

tried to quit -

but daylight kicks that idea

 back with a shot

I won't hold your coat

if you want to dance

the couple in the corner

look ready to fight

they remind me of us 

when faces were young

every party a jet 

ready for take-off

those good days 

line my face

and I swallow 

what's left of the years


Ode: The 2020's 

Sometimes, people enter your life -

what I thought 

of what I thought there was, 

of what I thought there was to say. 

Strand of hay in a needle stack, 

broken by the camel. 

Hat pulled out from the rabbit. 

White mask hoisted atop the mizzenmast - 

sometimes, people. 

Pam Coulter, "Lemons in White Bowl"


Storm Spiders 

Prickly like puncture vine seeds
speckled brown, spiny-backed,
storm spiders undulate
as they ride harmonics
of tropical breezes.

Throwing, running, cutting,
throwing running cutting,
they craft geometry of delicate threads,
communities of silk made visible
in back lighting, or soft mist

Tethered to grass, leaf, balcony,
crouching centrally in their silvery plane,
imitating dead leaves, directing
yellow mammary-like bumps toward
the light, Gasteracantha await prey.

Suddenly, dashed like Hawaii
during hurricane winds of Hele ulu ulu,
a mower slashes gossamer webs,
casts spiders adrift clinging to silken balloons
riding pulses of wild warm air.

Fortunate filaments snag on a shrub,
anchor arachnids who begin again,
throwing, running, cutting,
throwing, running, cutting,
a delicate geometry of thread. 

                           ~ 1st Prize in Nature, Ina Coolbrith Annual Poetry Contest, Oct 15, 2004


Flower Moon

Before dawn breaks, catch the palms:
those dutiful guards, who shade

their little daytime queendoms,
feeding bees and woodpeckers,

in the windy dark, when the jacarandas
lavish blossoms at their feet, and

the roses exhale honey and clove,
and the jasmine trembles like a bride.

Their lush plumes, sequined with stars,
ravish the flower moon.

                              ~published in Black Bough Poetry: Freedom-Rapture Edition, June 2021


By the Campfire, Borrego Desert 

Tonight she writes in lantern light 
apart from the circle of others, in small, tight,
cursive, of how this desert day began 
sunrise-cold and windy, with the smell 
of bacon scrambled into a swirl of 
eggs, potatoes, and onions. 
Clean-up of skillets took a while 
with only sand to scrub and 
a pot of rinse water boiled 
on the Coleman stove. 

She has learned that there is poetry 
in such tasks. In the zero hour 
of the night, well before midnight 
since little brightens the blackness 
she remembers how, when she was young, 
sun, clouds, and black-tailed jack rabbits 
made her giggle and her heart 
puffed up with the dough 
of childhood's promise 
soft with joy. 

                           ~  Third Prize for Northern California Women's Music Festival Contest

Pam Coulter, "Great Falls, Early Spring"