Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Lure of the Land, Call of the Sea

Joe Tetro
—Poems by Joe Tetro, Stockton, CA


Gentle footsteps of sunshine
fall on the gray shingles
of the south-facing roof
of the old barn
where mice play hide and seek
in the oats bin,
and the tame old bull snake
grows fat on them.

In the cow barn,
thirteen cats gather
around their evening pan
of separated milk, as we
turn the three milk cows
back out to pasture
on rye grass.

At the hog trough, pigs
snort, grunt and jostle
their snouts into the swill
of sour milk and barley.

In the feed lot, steers
gorge on the ground corn
in their feed bunks and
put on a tasty three pounds
of fat a day, which
with any luck
will turn the buyers’ heads,
to triggers higher bids
and make it all pay.

By dark, we trudge
into the kitchen, wash up
and sit down to supper,
and wonder—while
half believing in,
and half doubting, the
Great American Dream—
whether or not our labor
will ever bring in enough
to buy back our lives
from the rural banks.

 Mustard Calls, Live Oak, CA
—Photo by Stacie Sherman, Orangevale, CA


When songs turn to idyllic love,
I recall her who once stopped a
giant after he'd beat me
half to death. And
how she sometimes shivered
and moaned like rusty
old windmills in sudden
gusts of wind—gusts
that carried her off
to sanitariums—so very
far away from us. 

I remember her
scented scarves, her wool skirts,
her veiled vanity,
how she held my head on her lap
on the way to the village,
and knew all the things I liked
when I was just a small child.

Oh dusty roads,
better to sing of the mysteries
hidden in the
eyes of a cat than of
those that burned
in the blue eyes of a
small boy's first love!

Oh dusty roads leading me
to the final shedding
of my blood red leaves.

 King of the Mardi Gras
—Photo by Stacie Sherman


the leaning axis
of the earth as it
circles the sun,
the snow-blinded madness
of winter,
the shifting masks
of the gods,
the lack of serious
weeping in the streets,
the toys that grown men
scramble after and
fawn over in the
slaughterhouses of status,
the hearts of the children
already cut out
and bleeding
on the altars of profit’s
polished promises
for and endless sequence
of richer tomorrows.



I reach up
with stunned hands
for the scribbled fashioning
of my face,
and there—
among the ruins—
I fumble
for the scraps
of a lost child
buried in the bedrooms
of my bones . . .
who cries out
in the empty darkness
for words
of approval
I've never spoken.
For such favors missed
I fumble . . . as if such
fumbling had a meaning
all its own.

(first pub. in Poetry 2000 by the Stockton Arts Commission)

Upper Folsom Lake
—Photo by Stacie Sherman


Swishing sounds of circling hulls
dancing and snapping like dice,
the tick-tock-tapping
of the bone-dry clicking
and clacking
rises in pitch,
and the rich aroma
wafts its
subliminal magic
in the grottos
of my pelagic longing
for the open seas.

As I sip the finished brew,
my eyes trace
the pink edges of clouds
flushed with wine,
dancing the high ridge line
running seaward against the sky,
and on out
to the vast solitude
of the sea’s salt-scented wilderness
where neither sham nor pretense  

has ever drawn a breath.



Should my life come to
little more than
idle reflections
of a dreamer who—
while running from
the worn-out boots soldiers
leave propped up
in the dust of the damned—once
had his heart stolen
by the sea, then I—
by the ashes of my remains—
shall return to her
even as I came from her—
ever aching with
newborn breath for roots,
for a place, for acceptance, but,
always hearing in my dreams
the crashing, melting
waves of the sea
dying on
the wild pagan coasts
of forever . . . each being
part of the sea . . . yet,
separate and detached
from her . . . and, oddly,
each wave seemingly
is an echoing
of my own destiny. 


Today's LittleNip:


The blue butterfly
that sustained my soul
lies dead
      on its back
           within me.

But even the wild berry bushes
we pulled up
by their roots
      will survive
             the death
                that bad faith
                  has dealt me . . . for
     closing my eyes
      to the flowers
       that were feeding my soul.   


Our thanks to today's contributors! Joe Tetro, who returns to the Kitchen today after a protracted absence, was a contributor to Rattlesnake Review back in the 'oughts, and he was featured on Medusa's Kitchen on August 11, 2008. After a rural Nebraska childhood, the military, and getting a B.A. in German, Joe Tetro led a restless, travel-stained life, learned four languages and moved to Mexico at age 65, where he wrote poetry on scraps of lumber about "...herring-gutted village dogs abandoning the gravesides of dusty memories," and " weeping into the lap of the ocean's ruffled skirts". He has published several books, including A New York Bestiary and Lost in America: Memoirs of a Maverick. Don't be a stranger, Joe!

Yesterday we mentioned that the new issue of convergence is out; see Since our new Seed of the Week is Green, I've taken the liberty of posting Christopher Moon's striking cover below. Speaking of green......!! (And thanks, Christopher!)

Spring 2015 convergence cover by
Christopher Kidlow Moon