Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Dust Devils & Crayon Suns

Driftwood Giraffes
—Poems by Jennifer Fenn, Fresno, CA
—Photos by Carol Louise Moon, Placerville, CA


Mid-afternoon sun heats Sacramento,
casting its rays into the windows
of the activity room at Shriners Hospital.
It beams on children drawing at a table,
sharing a rainbow of crayons
spread all over it.

One boy with a prosthetic leg
makes a yellow sun shine
in the corner of his picture
of a square-and-triangle house
with four windows, an orange tree,
dog, cat, and a stick figure family.
There are Mom, Dad, and two boys
all with red smiles.
Which boy is him?
Both brothers’ legs look alike.

A little girl learns to use
a prosthetic right arm.
She moves her back muscles
to make the metal hand open,
picking up a blue crayon.
She draws a pool full of children,
herself with her missing arm.
Yet an orange sun still shines
on her as she hits a beach ball
with her left arm to her friends.

What will other children here draw?
Their families at birthday parties?
Playing miniature golf?
On water slides? Walking their dogs?
Flying their own planes?
Whatever they draw,
crayon suns will still shine.

 Burl Stump


With its searing fingers,
the sun lifts the night
like a matchbox lid,
revealing millions
of brittle, yellow grass blades
along the San Joaquin River
like matches waiting to be lit.



To make something with a lot of money is easy, but to make something out of nothing, —that, now, is really something.
            —Baldassare Forestiere

My friends and I descend the stairs
of Forestiere Underground Gardens
to the stony chambers of hardpan bricks,
carved by pickax and shovel.
Our guide begins the story,
leading our imaginations back to 1905,
where we watch Baldassare rushing out,
despite the seering San Joaquin Valley heat
to the fields he just bought,
shovel over his shoulder,
eagerly smiling to plant his first seeds
for his vision of orange orchards.

We gasp with him
as his shovel bangs on hardpan,
expecting his vision to vanish.
Yet our minds spin along with his,
moving the trees of his vision
to underground planters,
rising through skylights to the sun.

We forget our bitterness,
ignoring the perpetual muscle aches
from digging and cutting for forty years,
triumphing with Baldassare
as each room gets carved,
as each tree pushes past skylights,
bearing armfuls of oranges, lemons,
grapefruits, and citrons.

We relax in the coolness by his fishpond,
his chapel with the picture of Virgin Mary,
the walls with climbing grapevines.
We’re away from the heat above the ground,
basking in his hardpan fortune.

(first pub. in a 2018 Daughters of the Nile newsletter)


Some sunflowers rise
from hard, sun-scorched highway ground
in dense, dusty air,
ignored by all passing cars,
surviving drought together.


I step outside into heat
left over from yesterday’s triple digits.
My yellowing lawn crunches
under my feet as I make my way to my car.

7:30 A.M. on my car clock
and already eighty-seven degrees.

I arrive at the office parking lot,
the green glass of our building
towering over the San Joaquin River
like a magnifying glass
capturing the sun’s white-hot glare.
It’s ready to set fire
to the parched banks,
the flames spreading to the water.
I already fear the steam’s hiss,
see fire trucks barely able to squirt water
at our charring office.

Escaping to the cool inside our building,
I try to forget this imagined scene.

I go to the refrigerator for water.
Due to a bad filter, none comes out.


Yellow hill looks soft,
like baby chicks’ down feathers.
How scratchy up close!

 Old-fashioned Cart


...try to invade heaven,
rising from ashy soil,
spinning, spinning
around and around
the same old place,
reaching, reaching
’til their own dirt falls
back on the ground.
They’re left behind
in their own torment
of a Hades-hot valley.

Today’s LittleNip:

—Jennifer Fenn

We pass the last veil
of Ferguson fire’s ashes.
What? The sky is blue?


Thanks, Jennifer Fenn, for today’s sizzling poems about valley heat, and welcome back! Jennifer was featured in the Kitchen on Jan. 11, 2017. She says that, as a native of Fresno, California, she has had lots of experience with heat waves!

And another thank-you to Carol Louise Moon for these phine photos from her series called, “All Things Wooden”. Carol Louise and Jennifer are both members of these long-distance poetry groups: Pantoja Espinella Circle, Pantoja Sonnet Circle, and Pantoja Pleiades Circle, all named for former Sacramentan Janet Pantoja, now of Woodinville, WA. You may have seen work from these groups posted in the Kitchen in the past.

Poetry Off-the-Shelves poetry read-around meets in El Dorado Hills tonight, 5-7pm, at the El Dorado Hills Library. Scroll down to the blue column (under the green column at the right) for info about this and other upcoming poetry events in our area—and note that more may be added at the last minute.

—Medusa, celebrating poetry!

 Jennifer Fenn

Photos in this column can be enlarged by
clicking on them once, then clicking on the x
in the top right corner to come back to Medusa.