—Jeanine Stevens, Sacramento
When I feel we’ve made a mess
of things and what is lovely seems
far away as a black hole, I remember
the hike up Hatcher Pass, Alaska,
the abandoned bunkhouse, corrugated
metal roof bright, but soft to the eye,
in clouds. We sat in grass, woven tight,
fine as green wires tucked along
the slope, midst clover and pine,
studded with fairy colored flowers,
artful as any Axminster carpet.
In my breath’s memory, I hear highest
notes—Samson and Delilah, the voice,
the heartbeat thrust through delicate
paper-thin layers where paints,
pastels, ink, and parchment wait
to sketch the other world we know exists.
Thanks to Jeanine Stevens for these poems from her new book from Finishing Line Press, Caught in Clouds. We'll be celebrating the release of this book next Wednesday, Jan. 12 at 7:30pm at The Book Collector, 1008 24th St., Sacramento, along with a littlesnake broadside from Rattlesnake Press, Cormorant in the Desert by Trina Drotar, also of Sacramento.
Jeanine's book will be available at the reading, but for more information about how to order, go to www.finishinglinepress.com/NewReleasesandForthcomingTitles.htm/. About herself, Jeanine says:
For a number of years before retiring in 2003, I was an instructor in Anthropology, Sociology, and Psychology at American River College and Cosumnes River College. I also worked for the State and edited newsletters for the California Postsecondary Education Commission and The Department of Transportation “Caltrans,” where I wrote the script for a Division of Equipment promotional video.
Raised in Indiana and Southern California “the valley,” and a resident of Sacramento since 1960, I have a varied sense of place. My poems reflect an interest in nature, ritual, myth, and origins. My work has been published locally—Rattlesnake Review, Tule Review, Ekphrasis, Poetry Now—and elsewhere, in Poesy, Trestle Creek Review, Valparaiso Review, and Pegasus. Besides writing I enjoy the Sierras and Balkan folk dancing.
I find the Sacramento area truly inspiring for poets—the containment of the valley intercepted by constant movement of rivers and streams, delta breezes, the Pacific flyway, and then we have the mountains and the ocean nearby. And, what a great place for trees—we have planted over 50 in our yard in the past few years, mostly Japanese maple, pine, and holly.
Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179
I warn of misused privilege, careless
prune to penetrate and wither roots,
noxious banks that taste of salty wine.
The Rhine runs clear with flowers,
I paint the cosmic egg. I thought
the earth was aqua, but now,
furthest planets report a sandy hue.
The Rhine runs clear with flowers.
Scientists from Munich examine
me, say my room is magnetized,
morning stars playing tricks
on cobbled walls. Verdant air-charged
streams pour phosphorescent petals
through cloistered windows, plaster
my cell, fireflies ignite oxygen.
Through sleepless nights, I continue
painting, writing. Soundless eyelids flutter,
fluorescent moss blankets my shoulders,
my robe hangs gritty as stone, brine sears
my lips, my feet sweat and burn. The Rhine
runs—I sit…. drenched in greenest light.
THE BLUE NUN
I buy her at a roadside café
in Bakersfield—folded hands
curve upward, arms drop
white clouds—a waterfall drips
golden leaves down her garment.
Warm, and smelling of cedar,
she is blue as veins in a dusty pink
Rose of Sharon. She is blue
because Russia is cold,
and that’s where she comes from
holding a dime size charm—
a porcelain saint in a brown robe.
I don’t know her faith, maybe
an icon or a holiday ornament?
I fasten her rusty hook to my saddle,
ride out and show her Nevada,
where blue is wide, white
is high, hills run yellow,
and a brown crust covers the earth.
THIS AND MORE
A mountain, and below
plains, early spring
pallor, one person on foot
leaving with a vision,
the facts only clear
last thaw, the first rain
begins. A thought
—fear, then legs stride
in rough cadence,
prairie grass bends
but stones are still,
In the arroyo, she sees
gaunt cattle, doubts
they are starved
for her company.
Twists in the landscape
disappear. Then, four
roan, black, and cream,
come to her gingerly,
careful hoof placement
on tender rocks.
DISNEY V. THE PENAL SYSTEM,
WITH NO MENTION AS TO WHY
DONALD DUCK DOESN'T WEAR PANTS
—Kevin Jones, Fair Oaks
If you can dream it
You can do it
Said Old Uncle Walt
Actually, you can’t
They put you
For most of it.
—Medusa (with thanks to Kevin for the LN and to Janet Pantoja for her kind offering below)
Thinking about gratitude . . .
That it is so important
To appreciate all gifts—
These gems, opportunities
Taken, given by others'
Teamwork, vision, toil, goodness—
Thanks to you Rattlesnake Press!