Friday, January 27, 2023

CSPS Poetry Letter No. 4, 2022, Part 1 - Featured Poets Kathi Stafford and Susan Rogers

Ladybug Luminous by Susan Rogers

 The CSPS Poetry Letter No. 4 of 2022 included six poems nominated for Pushcart Prizes (published here in December), as well as two featured poets, Kathi Stafford and Susan Rogers.  The book reviews published in the Poetry Letter 4/2022 will be posted separately.


Kathi Stafford is the author of Blank Check, a poetry collection, and co-editor and contributing author of Grateful Conversations, an anthology of Los Angeles poets. She previously served as Poetry Editor and Senior Editor for Southern California Review for many years. Her poetry, reviews and interviews have been published in many journals, such as Rattle, Hiram Poetry Review, Connecticut River Review, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, and Southern California Review. Her poetry has been anthologized in Chopin and Cherries and Sea of Alone: Poems for Hitchcock. Stafford is a corporate attorney who is also a  violinist with Brookwood Strings and a banjo player and alto for the Staffords, a bluegrass band.


March 1st     Rabbit rabbit 
Rabbit doesn’t help this time      In a hospital
Room I’m on the floor      Day of my disaster
Cancer in gut     Foundations of earth and my
Life laid bare       Bible on the nightstand
Cords of death pull tight at 2 am       I am so
Alone       the disease my powerful enemy
I am on a fine line in the dirt      I’m only mud
In this moment    on an edge between being and
   Nothing left and yet
Supreme love     reaches down  rescues me
Cords loosened   I still breathe air mixes with
Dust      He brings me into a spacious place of
Beauty    Ferns orchids lantana spring up under
These feet     the day of rescue and
Clean hands lifted in praise for eternity


On the edge of sleep, here sits the yes
In the magic space between now and maybe
Between the star and its implosion   I find 
Joy too much    Music the bridge between
Galaxy’s edge and this mild heart of mind
Opposite sides of the glass
I wish for a tiny denouement
I kiss the raccoon and he turns into a
Fish     Or a ruddy prince
He sniffs the air     On his hind legs
He wants in    He thinks he wants to be tamed
If he only knew 

Waiting for Us by Maja Trochimczyk 


One year ago today: My first go 
At radiation. The tech with his arms
Flu of blue tattoos and scars eases me 
Into place. The quiet clicking

Machine drones on as I hold still
In its shadow. A thin red light razors
Below my skin, down to an ocean of
Cells and fear. In a few weeks, my skin will

Scale off—each strip delicate
And lacy. So individual, each layer
With its sheer story of my past. Some women
Much stronger than I am

Thirty-three times I go home after and burrow
Into sleep, so hard and final.

I win the lottery. One year come
And gone
With no new lumps. This is a gift 
And a wonder yo me. Will there always be
A blank check
Made out 
To future scars?

May I never ask the right questions.
There’s a tale for every traveler.

The tech guy talks about his newborn,
Jimmy, three months old, while shines
With joy. Jimmy almost in the room with us
Talcum powdered and fresh
The man is trying to distract me.

I laugh and
Take it all in.

My pain held up on all four corners
By the prayers lifted by my saints, my friends, toward
Gentle sky, oh Metta, oh peace of my Lord.   


I drive toward the airport   3 am in a hot
Bengalaru night          I drive past a park
Full of banyan trees     where one man 
Sits beneath the         Strangler fig
Shared with a        swarm of wasps

No fruit without the sting     He is wrapped in
White robes       His sweat precious as he achieves
Nirvana        The columns of the trunk ricketed and
Etched with        Many rivers of joy in this
National tree of India 
Elliptical leaves  with seeds spread 
By birds  frugivores soaring through 
Branches and with mutual bliss
Move the fruit         Far from the parent
The man leaves behind his robes
For his next ascension

Hill Clouds by Maja Trochimczyk


Thou has lifted me
Thou has lifted me
And my foes have not rejoiced over me
Thou has lifted

I cried unto you
Cried unto you
Thou hast healed me
Pulled out the cancer cells
By surgeon hands
Thou hast healed me

You brought my soul out 
You brought this soul
Out from the grave  kept me from the pit
At 2 am on the March morning when my soul 
Almost slid away     I felt it going

Sing Give thanks at the remembrance 
Of His holiness
His gift of life
Weeping lasts a night
But with morning comes joy

I cried to Thee Lord
And in the morning you gave
Joy. Peace. My soul.

You turned my mourning into dancing and    
Thank you forever for this extra day to see 
The precious granddaughter faces you gave me.


I am on the edge of old and older
My land pushes up to his land
In the field     three horses   sisters
And one pony.        In the land next door they
Wait next to the gathered trees     In sacred shade
One kneels to me     Do they remember apples
I brought them last spring?  I forget their names
Except for Bear       The little one black and
Impetuous.      One suffers from the pain that
Will not end while       Three witches stir their
Cauldron in the borderland  Six geese float at pond’s edge
Under Oaks and slash pines and two crows
Fly to them         for no known purpose.
Jasmine on the gate      Still blooms 
Its scent and whiteness        Bring me home
Help me find level ground
I’m dizzy these days
Ground beside the blue red roses  a cliche of beauty


A tablespoon of honey and Aunt Ruth makes me
Swallow the comb  my throat 
Tickles.    Tiny wings scratch me close
Spit out the wax when she’s not looking
My little bee might miss his sisters     Or not
Let’s call him Fred for now      From Glad Hive
Next day Auntie steers the station wagon
Halfway across Oklahoma  encased in teak
Over to Glass Mountains. Though they are barely a
Mesa but we don’t argue    Free buzzes around
And my toe hurts
But I keep still
Auntie glows on the crest transformed
We scoot down the hill on our butts all the way
My cousins and I build an altar    One stone for each
Tribe    Near Rattlesnake Lake
Plains   Spread out every which way in a
Season of tall grass     
And barley rustling in the vicious
Wind where I am simply myself.   
 A very small girl in a big prairie.

Fuji Suddenly by Susan Rogers


Susan Rogers considers poetry vehicles for light. She’s a practitioner of Sukyo Mahikari—a spiritual practice promoting positivity. In 2013, 2017 she received nominations for Pushcart Prizes. She’s co editor of A Sonic Boom of Stars and was one of four international judges for the 8th Rabindranath Tagore Award. Publication Credits:Numbers,” Kyoto Journal, Issue 92; “Longing for October,” Kyoto Journal, Issue 81; “A Field of Winter Grass,” Interlitq: California Poets Part 2; “The Origin is One,” Saint Julian Press, 2012; “Grass” and “Grateful Conversations,”  Grateful Conversations, 2018; “Return to Muir Woods,” Altadena Poetry Review, 2019; “Sunflowers in Your Hand,” Quill & Parchment, May 2019.


Everything we have we’re given
in love to use in love, in grace.
There is nothing we alone have written.

We are but a conversation
of light, through this exchange we trace
everything we have. We’re given

sour and sweet, lemon, raisin
and grain to bind them into place—
there is nothing we alone have written.

We eat cakes but have forgotten
their origin. We have erased
everything. We have, we’re given

we look, we laugh, we love, we listen.
We welcome gifts we embrace.
Yet there is nothing we alone have written.

Watch sunset turn to a ribbon.
Remember honey and its taste.
Everything we have we’re given.
There is nothing we alone have written.


  ~ after a photograph by Peter Sheffler
      “Winter Field Grasses, Far Away Point, Maryland”

To be still in the middle of chaos
to be singular in the midst of multiplicity
to be a line in a series of lines
a note in a chorus, a voice in the marsh
a reed in a tangle of stalks
to be woven in a field of complexity
yet still a thread, an arrow, a direction
an intention, a clear heart, a hidden blade
a crisscross of here and there, a slender
reaching strand of light, an intersection
of possibility a dance of detail, a piece of
the weave, a pattern of everything,
a field of winter grass.

Raindrops and Reflections by Susan Rogers


                      for Kotama Okada

The dove knows the way
follow her.

Your heart knows the way
listen well.
Within your deepest self
are wings of light.

They cover the earth
with waves of love.
Do you remember?
You once knew.
Stand in the warmth
of sunlight and recall.

 The origin of the world
is one.
The origin of religions
is one.
The origin of all
humankind is one.
Circle back.
Imagine the great will
of all things
stirring in your fingers.
Reach out your arms
and open your palms
to the sky.
It is time.

Paradise Sky by Susan Rogers

When she thinks of her husband,
she thinks of a half-moon carrying a shadow half behind.
The moon never loses fullness,
even if it is draped by night.
Once she could see the moon's unsevered disc,
no matter what portion lit the sky, and in its one, cool light 
complete herself. Now she finds only broken shapes, 
sees semi-circles separated.  She does not know how
to live in two places at a time. For three or four months 
she thought she could be the sky 
suspended in space above their cities. 
But it has been five or six years; he has not appeared.
She feels hollowed like air inside a weightless cloud. 
Seven days a week, she composes letters in her head, 
but cannot find eight lines to explain emptiness. 
Her nine koi fish swim in bright scaled circles in the pond 
They cannot distract her. She thinks again about walking
ten miles to the pavilion, but has walked this road 
a hundred times before, envisioned him returning 
a thousand times and more. Today, it seems 
ten thousand miles separate them.

If she knew the words, the numbers, she would write a poem.
She thinks of ancient China, of Zou Wenjun
who waited for her husband at a pavilion
when he was sent to the capitol for months which spun
into years. Zou Wenjun waited spinning words and tears 
into a numbered verse and when her husband sought divorce
showed him the poem. Greatly moved, he changed his mind.

Where in this ordered universe can she find
the words to fill a heart? She will have to start again,
relearn the edges of a circle, reclaim the white light
     of her first moon.


Yesterday, someone I know
Looked through me
like I wasn’t there,
as if I were a field of air,
insubstantial and invisible.
Today, I think of my great teacher
who said,
 “Become a practitioner of genuine humility,”
and a modern saint who said,
 “A cyclone can destroy the mightiest of trees,
but even a cyclone cannot touch the grass.
This is the greatness of humility.”
So today I have decided to become like grass,
which needs no encouragement
but water, sun and sky,
which is invisible, often, as we walk by,
a genuine practitioner of humility.
It is true the grass is sometimes mowed;
but that just keeps it safe from storms,
close to the ground, close to you.
Oh God of all things great and small,
cyclone, trees, dirt,
let me strive to always be like grass,
cool comfort for the earth.
So that children may run through me,
barefoot on a summer day
and I may greet them, or catch them if they fall,
soft and green and sweet, with no resistance        
         to their play,
almost invisible, pure reason for their joy

Japanese Maples by Susan Rogers


In the cathedral of trees
sunlight christens moss-grown branches—
a sacrament.

I breathe in 
air of clear intention
purified, re-written.

In the cathedral of trees
I smile at each person I pass
sharing the wisdom of woods.

So many voices mingle:
English, French, Italian, Farsi.
Each harmonized in hope.

I caress a broken trunk on its side
a moment of camaraderie
thanking it for pointing me to sky.

In the cathedral of trees
I walk with you 
each tree 

a testament I read now
and save for later.
I do not know

if the path through
is straight or a loop
that circles back to myself.

Either way I return.

Muir Woods by Susan Rogers


I wonder if I will recognize you
when you return
in a different form.
I like to think your breath
so intimately part of mine
that when you are reborn
even if you wear
white organza as a bride,
or the black habit of a nun,
if you appear much younger
than you were
in a sweater striped in cyan blue
with wild sunflowers in your hand
I will remember you,
just as I remember the shine
of a sun dazzled stream
after it’s gone dry, the rhythm
of staccato rain when I swing
my hammock under cloudless skies,
or the sound of laughter
in a dream of exquisite joy.
Even if you choose to be my cat,
a hummingbird, a bright scaled koi.
And if you are born in another country,
don’t speak words I understand
if you are not female this time
but instead a boy, I hope there will be
some note of you that sings,
your music indisputably
through the differences of then and now,
so I will know you are the one
that it’s you come back
in whatever form you come.

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