Thursday, January 27, 2022

CSPS Poetry Letter No. 1, 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"

Monday, January 24, 2022

Winners of 2021 Annual Poetry Contest - Robert Spich, Bruce Gallie and David Anderson

The 34th Annual Poetry Contest of the California State Poetry Society was managed by Joyce Snyder and adjudicated by Georgia Jones Davis. The contest results are as follows and the prize-winning poems are posted below. Congratulations to all winners! And thank you for the gift of your words.

1st Prize: “Three Men in a Boat” by Robert S. Spich, Los Angeles 
2nd Prize: “Snow” by Bruce Gallie, Rancho Cucamonga, California
3rd Prize: “Rub-a-Dub-Dub, Three Men in a Tub” by David Anderson, Lincoln, California

o “Winged Sandals”  by Claire Scott, Oakland, CA 
o “A Snake in Pajamas”  by Louise Moises, Richmond, CA
o “I Don’t Know Why” by Livingston Rossmoor, Modesto, CA
o “Wish” by Susanne Wiley, Hot Springs, AR  


FIRST PRIZE: “THREE MEN IN A BOAT” – a dream, a memory/a sighting? The poet takes us right into the scene with the clarity of reportage- three men sitting in what one imagines is a rotting, old rowboat – in the middle of the grassy Kansas prairie… The sail the grassy, waterless sea, the prairie, that is their world. Observing this brash kind of insanity, the poet reveals how we all navigate the strange oceans that are our lives. Are these landbound sailors tacking toward some harbor of religion, mythology, the ancient stories that offer solace or meaning in the area of no answers? No, the poet sees how they seem fine acting out this crazy thing, singing badly, tossing beer cans, waving meaning shreds of cloths like flags, celebrating in a macho, primitive way the endlessness of sky, of waterless prairie, of life in its largess offering no simple answers.

SECOND PRIZE: “SNOW” (a tanka) – a missed moment, a haunted sense of loss and the beautiful blindness of a snowy world – the dimness of a figure we encounter – her beauty like a ghost in the white world – the narrator’s small yet huge moment of regret, of fear – captured in such grace in this tanka. Lovely. 
THIRD PRIZE: “RUB-A-DUB-DUB, THREE MEN IN A TUB” – three men-hahha—again! This time something mysterious and Welsh? – a rough ride at sea and rhymed language rising in our stomachs like waves in this splendid, musical, storm-ridden wild ride of a poem – sea spray, damp roar and soar of water, the churning in our ears and guts – it is all in these nine wildly alive lines. I’m reminded of Dylan Thomas – loving the bell-ringing, soaking, salty ride of this very unique poem. Well done.



   Three men in a boat on a hot Saturday
   In an open field in Kansas, near Freeway 117.
   Their presence suggests a strange hope floats in their grassy harbor,
   Hope that perhaps some new anxious sea will rise to save them,
   Help them to escape from the immensity of this endless dry land!
   Maybe a return of the Great Flood to this cloudless, blue sky place,
   And they, rescued in that strange old boat, chosen to reseed lost humanity! 

    But probably not…see all those shiny beer cans scattered about?
    Hear the whistles and yells at the passing cars,
    Listen to the shouting laughter and hugely bad singing!
    And those flaunted flags waving of no nations anyone knows!
    This is not an Armageddon Moment to fear!
    Not that Final Judgment to fear!
    Not that Final Judgment that seeks to separate, condemn and punish!

    No, just three men in a boat in a field on a hot Saturday afternoon,
    In the middle of endless Kansas, drinking beer and raising no particular hell!
   Why should we expect anything else? After all this is Dorothy’s country!

                                            Robert S. Spich                                                                                                                          Los Angeles, California


Robert submitted his first poem to his college magazine in 1966. It was turned down with a nice note from the head of the English Department at Lafayette College where Rob was an International Relations major. Apart from sharing poems with like -minded poetic souls over the years, submissions have been here and there over the next 50 years!  But that did not stop the writing of poetry which takes place still about 3-4 X a week between the hours of 4-6 a.m. when the night is still sleeping,the morning is still dreaming and his head is buzzing with ideas. Thus a whole shelf of dawn inspired notebooks has been accumulating in his “poets corner” over the years.

As a reader of other poets, a whole bookcase of poetry books demonstrates an eclectic interest in many writers, including the newbies, supporting new people by buying their books!  A perusal of those books will show perhaps a sacrilegious disregard for the printed page as many of his poems are actually written in the borders and blank pages of those books. He has favorites of course. Of the modern classics he reads Frost, Larkin, Milosz, Dylan T, Jeffries, Roethke and more. Of the contemporaries he reads  Gluck, C. Dennis, Kooser,  K.Ryan, Hoagland, Bishop and Seamus. There is so much to read and write and so little time!

Robert’s international experience, especially his Peace Corps venture and teaching in South America (Chile mainly) improved his 4 years of college Spanish to a degree that he also writes poems in Spanish, a language that facilitates rhythm and rhyming in poems. In closing we should note that Robert is now a retired professor from UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management where he taught courses in international management and ran a grant program.

                           (a tanka)

                           Recall my cold feet
                           in a foot of snow, walking
                           by her that time, not
                           saying "Hi", heart skipped a beat
                           then my sadness, my cold feet.

                                       Bruce Gallie
                                       Rancho Cucamonga, California


Bruce Gallie is a retired electrician, having worked for the City of Hope Hospital, SP Railroad and for 30 years for Rio Hondo college. He started writing poetry in the early 60's, right after he graduated from La Puente High School. Mr. Gallie served in the Army for 3 years in the mess hall in Germany in the late 60's. He has been married since '72 with 3 adult children and two grandchildren. Over the years he has had several hiatuses from writing, especially 80's, 90's, plus, but he has always returned. The poem "Snow" was actually written as a Haiku in the mid 60's. He recently dug it out of an old box and rewrote it for a poetry group of seniors that he participates in. His poetry has often been published in the California Quarterly and, recently, in the CSPS Poetry Letter.


A cyrch a chwta (pronounced kirch a chootah)

                      Every tenth wave swells and lifts
                      them high, drops them deeper, sifts
                      their guts, dizzies their brains, shifts
                      speed, empties the guts of the biffed, 
                      rocks sightlines, horizons, gifts
                      those emptied stomachs with sniffs
                      of food for the crew, and drifts
                      the skiff toward shore, to tumble
                      the seasick off, humbled, stiffed.

                                                                  David Anderson
                                                                  Lincoln, California


David Anderson was raised on Rocky Dell, a fruit orchard in the Loomis Basin of Placer County, California. Beginning in the 1870s and until the Great Depression, orchardists in the Loomis Basin shipped plums, pears, and peaches across the nation. That heritage, a sense of the divine, and an appreciation of the arts inspired many of the poems in his forthcoming book, What Was Within.
He attended the University of California, Berkeley, and obtained bachelor degrees in liberal arts and librarianship. When he retired from the Loren D. Carlson Health Sciences Library, University of California, Davis, a librarian emeritus, he was self-publishing Humans & Other Species, a bibliographic journal compiled for scholars and practitioners of human-animal interactions. After he sold that journal and moved from his rural childhood home to town, he began writing poetry in earnest. 
He self-published the chapbook, Not Made by Hand: Selected Poems, now out of print. A poetic paraphrase of selections from the Odes of Solomon, a first-century Christian songbook, titled The Odes: from Solomon’s Songbook, is available from him. He emails a poem a month in David Anderson’s Poetry Letter. He presently hosts the Zoom successor to the Lincoln Poets Club monthly open mic. 


A Cento for D.H. Lawrence, The Snake

A snake in pyjamas came down the steps
down from the earth-wall
trailed soft-bellied over stone
his straight mouth
mused a moment, gold venomous voice,
I like him
drunken god, length curving round
the broken bank
snake easing, withdrawing
into a clumsy log
like lightning, gone into a fissure
At noon, I stared, 
regretted human education
wished he would come back
king of the underworld in diamond-back pyjamas.

                                                                                Louise Moises
San Francisco, California


Louise Moises was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she still resides. She has been published by High Shelf Press, California Poetry Society, Wingless Dreamer, the Ina Coolbrith Circle, Unlimited Literature, Pinole Writers among others. Reading her poetry on Zoom events has become an important part of her poetry experience. Additionally, Louise enjoys traveling the country in her motor home with her cat, where she absorbs the magnificence of the landscape to inspire her poetry.

I Don’t Know Why

I don’t know why it came in search of me.

I don’t know when or how it came.

It came in the light or dark, I couldn’t see.

Dust in the wind, breezes rustle in the tree.

A speck in the universe, it has no name.

I don’t know why it came in search of me.

It sails in a canoe on the wild sea,

in and out of waves, don’t know where to aim.

It came in the light or dark, I couldn’t see.

I know it is there, still coming, it seems.

Nothing to latch on, nothing to claim.

I don’t know why it came in search of me.

A small bird, a nest, it’s real, not a dream.

It’s neither words nor voices, it is calm.

It came in the light or dark, I couldn’t see.

It is not a summons, it carries no theme.

It was cold, I can feel it now, it is warm.

I don’t know why it came in search of me.

It came in the light or dark, I couldn't see.

                                                           Livingston Rossmoor



Livingston Rossmoor has written and published 17 volumes of poetry. He is an Associate Member of the Academy of American Poets and a member of the California State Poetry Society. Livingston currently lives in California with his dear wife of 49 years. He has 3 children and 8 grandchildren.


He played tennis, soccer, softball
sailing on the back of an easy wind
a Hermes in winged sandals

until that Sunday when he was seventeen
and the sharp edge of luck tossed him
twenty feet, and he hard hit on
the asphalt of Fuller Street

his dreams defaced by a distracted driver 
running late or texting her boss
or putting on pale pink lipstick 
future plans wobbling on spindly legs

hobbling, listing, stumbling, lurching
dystonia said the doctor no cure
and she looked away

now only in hope’s distorting light
do I see him running down the field
scoring goal after goal, a great grin on his face

I want to fly back on winged sandals 
touch him on the shoulder and say
leave home a little later today

I know there is a wider world
where some slow shuffle, some curl over
walkers or canes, some settle in wheel chairs
pushed by attendants from the Philippines
Diwa, Althea, Mahalia

sometimes I get a glimpse of this world where 
not everyone needs winged sandals to soar
then my son scuffs into the room, wincing,
his left foot dragging

                                                           Claire Scott
                                                           Oakland, California


Claire Scott is an award winning poet who has received multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Her work has appeared in the Atlanta Review, Bellevue Literary Review, New Ohio Review, Enizagam and The Healing Muse among others. Claire is the author of Waiting to be Called and  Until I Couldn’t. 


I zip up my favorite jacket - the one with the frayed cuffs
grab a scarf and Hannah’s leash, and we slip into the dark night -
like voyeurs in someone’s deepest dream
Her white tail dances before me as we navigate
thru night sprinklers and fallen branches to our favorite hill
Constellations scribbled on a backboard sky sparkle like 
tiny flashlights held by travelers on their way 
to the other side of midnight

I worship Orion and his god-like stance
as if his stars were my own private cluster of magic
He grows weary of my constant adoration
We sit in our own velvet silence and watch for falling stars
Hannah and I - shoulder to shoulder - keeping each other warm
She lays her nose against my cheek, and I weave my fingers thru her fur
like fat worms burrowing themselves in the warm dirt

I lean in and whisper in her ear 
“Lets pick the brightest star and make a wish”
My wish is always that she will be with me
for as long as I live

The nights grow shorter and the path harder to navigate
and when the sun has scorched our grassy hill
we take our last walk

I look to Orion to reach out his sword
and stay this moment with his magic
But he slips away  beyond the horizon 
to a greener hill  - and Hannah follows

I think back to that night of falling stars
and I believe Hannah’s last wish was 
that I would be with her for as long as she lived.

Lucky girl 
She got her wish

Susanne Wiley
Hot Springs, Arkansas 



Susanne Wiley is a retired film and theater teacher who escaped the flat plains of Texas for the tall pines of Arkansas, where she loves hiking the mountain trails with her beloved Husky, Sky. The move to Hot Springs has given her the time and inspiration to rekindle her creative interests in writing and painting. She prefers to write in the mornings with a coffee and croissant and paints in her new art studio in the afternoon. She has been the guest artist for poetry groups in Arkansas and is currently working on an illustrated journal of her work. 


Joyce Snyder, after retiring from a career as a nurse clinical specialist in mental health, now has more time to pursue her interest in poetry—taking an adult education class, joining a weekly poetry salon and attending workshops with Ellen Bass in Santa Cruz. She’s a docent at Tor House in Carmel, the home of Robinson Jeffers. She likes nature hikes and watching her grandchildren grow. She enjoys reading the California Quarterly and appreciates their publication of a few of her poems. Joyce joined the CQ Editorial Board and began serving as the CSPS Annual Contest Chair in 2016. The 2021 Contest was the last one she decided to work on. The CSPS is grateful for her years of selfless service.

Georgia Jones-Davis grew up in Northern New Mexico and Southern California. A former free-lance journalist and Los Angeles Times Assistant Book editor, her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals including “West Wind,” “the California Quarterly,” “Brevities,” “The Bicycle Review,” “Nebo,” “Eclipse,” “poetic diversity,” “Ascent Aspirations,” and “South Bank Poetry, London.”  She is the author of two chapbooks, “Blue Poodle” (2011) and “Night School” (2015) both published by the Finishing Line Press. Georgia lives and writes in New Mexico.

Photos of California skies by Maja Trochimczyk

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Poetry Letter No. 4, 2021 - Poems by Judy Barrat, Dave Malone, Pamela Stone Singer, Bruce Gallie and Jeanie Greensfelder

From Ulysses's Journey by Toti O'Brien.

The winter edition of the Poetry Letter, No. 4 of 2021 started with an editorial and "Rules for Happy Holy Days" by the editor, Maja Trochimczyk, CSPS President. 

It is a wonderful custom to wish everyone all the best for the coming year at least once a year. I also do it for Happy Birthdays. What’s the point of a one-day happiness? It is the whole year that must be blessed with joy, creativity, gratitude, generosity, health and all the good things one can dream of.  With the wishes, I’m sharing with the Poetry Letters’ readers wonderful poems by Judy Barrat, Pamela Stone Singer, Dave Malone, Bruce Gallie, & Jeanie Greensfelder. Previously published, these poetic gems surely deserve to be read again. In one case, we are fixing our own error, with apologies to the poet: “I’m Sorry, Mr. Webster” was published in the California Quarterly 47:3 without its last line. Here it is in its entirety. Daniel E. Blackston whose work was included in the California Quarterly 47:2 analyzed a poem by Marilyn Robertson, “Low Tide,” published in the same issue. We reprinted his reflections in the emailed Poetry Letter, but for the online version, it is not necessary. Poetry is a conversation and this is an excellent example of poets talking to each other. 

~ Maja Trochimczyk, Editor

Half of the issue was dedicated to book reviews, published on this blog on January 1, 2022, and the other half to poems by Judy Barrat, Pamela Stone Singer, Dave Mallone, Bruce Gallie, and Jeanie Greensfelder.

Poems  by Judy Barrat

Judy Barrat has been a writer of poetry and fiction most of her life as a hobby and began presenting her work publicly in Los Angeles several years ago at open readings, as well as at music venues, sometimes with a vocalist weaving a song around one of her poems. She has been a featured poet at several Los Angeles poetry venues and has performed three very well reviewed one-woman shows of her poetry and stories, with musical accompaniment, at The Gardenia Club in Hollywood. Her work has been published in several anthologies, magazines and on-line journals. Her poem “I’m sorry, Mr. Webster…” was  accidentally printed in CQ 47:3 without the last line ,so  it is reprinted here in its entirety.



but I must take issue with your 

authority as to two words you 

deem synonymous which, in my 

view, are not as inter-changeable 

as your famous book professes:

The words I refer to, if your please,

are “naked” and “nude.  At the risk 

of appearing argumentative sir, no 

one visits art houses to view 

famous Nakeds.  

It is the “Nudes” -- those entrancing 

figures of women and men, unclothed, 

baring their bodies that we seek. 

So you see “Nude” is art -- in the proper 

setting and in an improper setting 

which I will leave to your imagination 

“nude” may still be art though it may 

simply be embarrassing or even criminal.

“Naked” on the other hand I think 

is more synonymous with “exposed” 

for “naked” is so much more than 

baring the body.  Naked is devoid 

of the mythic mask one might wear 

to hide the truth of oneself from 

the world -- the pain, fear, shame 

or insecurity.

Oh, Mr. Webster, I have never seen 

some of my friends unclothed and 

may never, but I have seen them 

naked, stripped of the armor and shield 

which enable them through each day. 

I have seen in their eyes unshed tears 

which bespeak hearts that ache with 

the pain of caring too much or, perhaps, 

not enough.

However, sir, I concede that in personal 

relationships, nude is so much more 

delightful when both parties are naked.

~ Judy Barrat

Published in the California Quarterly 47 No. 3, Autumn 2021, 

with last line missing, here added.


The waves rise and fall 

in undulating swirls.  

I sit in the sand on this 

familiar expanse of beach.

This sand knows all my secrets, 

my past, my now.

I remember how, as children 

we played, you and I; 

laughing, crying, 

growing, changing.  

Only this beach 

does not change.

I see your blue eyes, 

dimpled grin, wild dark hair, 

muscles of your bronzed 

body rippling in the sun, 

as, unaware of your magnificence 

you run into the sea.

The waves roar 

reminding me 

they have taken you; 

I shout to them: 

“I’m here – Take me too”  

as I walk to the water’s edge 

and into the sea.    

The sun is bright;  

icy wetness bites 

my ankles, legs, hips. 

I dive deep into a wave.  

In the turbulent darkness 

I feel you near.

Your voice 

permeates the abyss:   

It implores me

“Reach for the sun, for life”.   

Tossed by the current, 

I reach out in panic 

and break the surface 

gasping in the sun.

~ Judy Barrat  


I left behind the street of childhood 

to navigate the highway of life,

exchanged dirt of backyard and joy of

sandbox for dust of the open road.

In a haze of youthful exuberance, I 

searched for adventure described in books.

I climbed mountains, crossed deserts,

sailed seas to cities and streets in lands 

far and near; encountered life, both sweet 

and simple, and also shockingly brutal and 

barbaric and stood impotent, in my naivete 

to do more than extend a hand.  But some-

times, only sometimes, that was enough.  

I found joy and generosity in places of dire 

need and deprivation, sadness and 

selfishness in the midst opulence and plenty.   

No longer do I walk carefree, inhaling 

nature’s bounty, but run, frantic, in an 

endless quest for-- HOME, as I mourn

the death of innocence and damn the 

dawn of disillusion.  

On this narrow track of time every now 

becomes then in the blur of contemplation 

of tomorrow.  And while each impediment 

on this path may proclaim: this Road 

Leads Nowhere, I find the fortune 

I believed this trip would provide when 

I or anyone extends a hand because 

sometimes, that’s enough.

~ Judy Barrat


Once I was a cloud 

afloat in the space 

between there and here; 

I faded into nothingness.

Once I was the earth, 

a blue spec in the universe

orbiting an uncaring sun;

it lost its grip and let go.

And once I was snail on the 

ocean shore, enticed into a 

wave to ride the tides into 

a thousand tomorrows.

Today I am drawn from forest’s

edge into its depths by whisper 

of breeze through boughs, 

a language of rippling grace.

The clean green scent of the air, 

solitude of sunlight through

treetops, splendiferous silence, 

speak karmically to my heart.

I am free simply to be; 

we breathe life to one another, 

the trees and me, and for these 

moments, as never before

       I am,   

             I am,  

                    I AM. 

~ Judy Barrat

From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.

ME ME ME – A Poem By Pamela Stone Singer


Tell the King; the fair wrought house has fallen.

No shelter has Apollo, nor sacred laurel leaves;

The fountains are now silent; the voice is stilled.

It is finished.

Oracle of Delphi, 393 A.D.*

rain outside the high school

where I teach students to write poetry

at 3:00 p.m. they pour out of the building as though it were ablaze texting 

friends a few feet away, light years away, in a foreign country

some text over a hundred times a day

sleep with phones beside them as if the phones

were going to plant kisses on their lips

overhead, flocks of geese fly through downpours

a few students take pictures of the rainbow appearing

no one else notices

and there are 300 kids on smartphones, twitter, facebook, taking selfies

who rush from the building as though it were ablaze

i don’t understand this communication that negates 

the soft enunciation of vowels, the closed sound 

of consonants, the origins of I in our alphabet: 

Phoenicians used a backwards z called yod, meaning hand.

Greeks used angular versions of I, changed its name to iota.

Medieval times i became a line with a curl.

Today I stands boldly on a page.

eye, window of clarity in bony sockets of skulls

omniscient, like the Pythia of Delphi

Selli at Dodona who spoke through rustling leaves

imagine life with words only on screens

not feeling pages of books

not reading ancient texts for clarity

when life comes alive with words

I becomes we, me becomes us 

myself becomes the earth

* NOTE:  In 389 A.D., under the reign of Theodosius I, Christian attacks against pagan temples continued. The Emperor ordered all pagan temples closed. Within 20 years the Western Roman Empire fell. For the first time in 800 years no oracular statements were given.

~ Pamela Stone Singer

From Ulysses’ Journey  by Toti O’Brien.

Four Poems by Dave Malone

Dave Malone is a poet and filmmaker from the Missouri Ozarks. These poems are from his seventh volume, Tornado Drill, forthcoming from Aldrich Press in March and available for preorder. Dave can be found online in the usual haunts, particularly Instagram @davemalone. 


         At once whatever happened starts receding.

                                   —Philip Larkin

Last night I walked the woods

lit by the final moon of the month.

Days don’t count here

beneath the centuries-old pines

where my grandmother took her solace

on hard farm days, passing up 

the washboard or jam-making

for the eternal whooshing 

of the forest as much serenity 

as yearning. 

~ originally published in Spindrift


During my morning meditation, the neighbor

begins her leaf-blowing. She’s precise

the way she slides from side to side,

the way she forms right angles

as if acing high school math.

Her noise travels into the hollow

louder than semi-trucks howling

from the bypass. She blows

into blowing into blowing

until a vortex of leaves

half-eaten by mower and storm 

form in the narrows. 

Here is a full sound. Here is

the aum I must have been waiting for.

~ Dave Mallone,

originally published in Midwest Review


I startled the great blue heron

when my kayak scratched stones

in the river’s low summer water.

With little effort, like the way

one takes off shoes, the grand bird

flapped long arms, held steady,

until she found the shore opposite me

and slipped into the sycamores

below the bluff. She stayed there

a long time, longer than my life. 

~ Dave Malone

originally published  in Right Hand Pointing  

From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.



It is the light I think 

I recall. Was it church

or vacation Bible school,

the desks like pews,

when the sun’s morning rays 

ached to rest on shoulders

while the teacher dimmed

at the front, barely perceptible

like God. I remember now

the gospel the instructor ignored—

how the cypress floor danced

with golden dust in its hair.

~ Dave Malone, 

originally published in Right Hand Pointing

From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.

A Poem by Jeanie Greensfelder

Jeanie Greensfelder’s poems have been published at American Life in Poetry, Writer’s Almanac, and Poetry Foundation’s Poem of the Day; in anthologies: Paris, Etc., Pushing the Envelope: Epistolary Poems; and in journals: Miramar, Thema, Askew, Persimmon Tree, and others. She served as the San Luis Obispo County poet laureate, 2017,18. Jeanie’s books are: Biting the Apple, Marriage and Other Leaps of Faith and I Got What I Came For.  Website:



The sky solid blue, your gallery

disappoints. I await the next show. 


Give me a full circle exhibit,

a different artist in each direction, 


a cumulus haven where sun-lit gods

and harp-playing angels lounge.


Surprise me with a Mount Shasta mirage,

a Disney display of dragons and dinosaurs,


or the drama of an El Greco storm, one that

reduces me, puts me in my place. 


Let me study the brush strokes and guess

artists from baroque to surreal.


Show me an orange, yellow, blood-red sunset,

invoking nature’s Edward Munch scream.              


Bring on Georgia O’Keefe puffballs,

Van Gogh swirls over grassland,


even a Rothko mist, but please no grey washes,

those ho-hum shows that go on and on.


~ Jeanie Greensfelder

 published in Birdland Journal 2019

From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.

Three Poems by Bruce Gallie

Bruce Gallie started writing poetry right after high school and has continued to do so with several long and short hiatus.  He has been in the army, a cook, and an electrician throughout his career. He retired in 2010.  He published many poems in the California Quarterly since its genesis.


Evergreen last seems long ago

been Christmas scent and scene -

Lucky, old sweetheart, old friend passed

the grains aligned well before the end

                I knew what would be... 

                You softened the roar             

               salvaged the moods,

               when lost in the woods

                your timbre was with

                mine —

                pine, Lucky


 ~ Bruce Gallie         


Ol' Sol will rule the roost

in his own steady way

he beams through the evening window

turns the wall gold from gray

the shadow line climbing

to a sepia toned portrait —

an old baby picture

hanging less than straight

the dresser in the corner

lost a knob, a trophy sits on top —

batter at the plate.  There's a vase

with a paper daisy, a Baby Ben stopped

on a bed, a dusty quilt

and old magazines strewn

some Elvis 45's with worn jackets

there's the title: "Blue Moon"

as evening falls, the shadow

crosses that chromatic display

the child's flushed cheeks fade

to the background, hair to gray.

~ Bruce Gallie


From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.


     ~ thanks to Sir Thomas Moore


"Tis the last rose of summer" Mom would sing to me

"all her lovely companions are left faded and gone"

when I was but five felt kindred to this song

as the years bore me up in a see saw sea.  

With weakness and strength, full of folly and free

spent time in kinship if not more alone.

"Tis the last rose of summer" sing to me

"all her lovely companions are left faded and gone."

With the years wisdom waxed slowly

sure as time erodes the bone.

We fall alone but stand as one -

this is the law that lets us be.

"Tis the last rose of summer "-

sing, last rose, sing to me.

~ Bruce Gallie

From Ulysses’ Journey by Toti O’Brien, 2002.


Toti O’Brien’s mixed media have been exhibited in group and solo shows, in Europe and the US, since 1995. She has illustrated several children books and two memoirs. Her artwork is on the cover of several books and it was most recently featured in pethricor, Two Hawks, Arkana and Argo. More about her work can be found at

O'Brien is also an award-winning and critically-acclaimed poet and writer of short stories. She published many books in English and in her native Italian. A list of her publications may be found on her website: