Thursday, June 22, 2023

Cries From The Cottonwood

—Poetry by Patricia Wentzel, Sacramento, CA
—Public Domain Photos and Art 
Courtesy of Joe Nolan, Stockton, CA

I am considered cured these days

a relief to leave behind the false alarms, invasive

decades of living with the vise-like threat of

throat choked with fear, heart racing

each time it had to be ruled out
eventually I grew a new skin

thick, rough, disbelieving

the gears of my adrenal glands stripped

my fight-or-flight mechanism warped, wobbly

unreliable in an emergency
perhaps that explains it,

explains my response to the man with the semi-
automatic pistol

who threatened me in my yard

broad daylight, 9 am on a Wednesday morning

pointed the thing at me

as if that would compel my submission
perhaps it explains why my response was defiance

to match my will against his
get out of my yard, I said
my glare, stiff shoulders, the timbre of my voice
spoke too 

you don’t scare me, they said


we went fishing that one time

Dad and I

used these little strips of lead
you could twist them into all kinds of shapes

compress them

weigh down the line

so it didn’t float on the surface in the sun
innocuous, commonplace

toxicity dismissed out of hand

After W. S. Merwin

rainlight falls across furrowed fields

casts shadowed lines upon fertile futures

silent, still

marring the expectation of plentiful harvests

to feed the furtive mouse

the keen-eyed hawk

crying from the cottonwood down by the creek

and the child within me

My brain is oxidized—

rusted, eroded, damaged.

Disconcerted by street signs,

undone by crowded spaces,

my hands shake too hard to hold a fork.
I fight a dry, distant despair,

utterly unlike the terrifying rollercoaster 

of anguish and exultation

that came before.
Doctors prescribe medication

to bludgeon my illness into submission;

therapists offer group sessions,

cognitive strategies, affirmations—

as if these tools could banish 

the enormous swoops and swings of my moods.
Play the game or be labeled non-compliant (sinful).

So I take my meds,

reframe my life,

carry popsicle sticks inscribed with handy sayings.

Act as if, It is what it is, Feelings are not facts.
Like Pollyanna worshipping at the altar of false

I am certain my future will be bright.


behind closed lids

visions stir
chocolates and petite fours

laid in a decadent spiral

on an elegant cloth
the banquet swarms with fist-sized buzzing bees

the table salted with plate-sized jaundiced jellied

pulsing in slow motion

snowmen, rictus black smiles wide

knowing black coal eyes staring

gesture, invite me to dine
I am psychotic again
I start up in bed, gasping

punish the darkness with white-eyed stares
as familiar objects emerge from the gloom

I rub my face, arms, drop my shoulders

seek reassurance that I am substance

not disordered thought

streaming through holes in my skull

brutal trepanning having laid me open once again

to despair

and venom-splashed nightmare
I get up, afraid to sleep, dream

wander the house seeking sacred ground
the picture of the twins in their true red shirts

vivid light of childhood streaming from their

calls me, promises respite
my finger outlines the curve of each face

I drink in the green of the grass

the innocent shade of the pecan tree

the tousled hair and plump cheeks
testing, I close my eyes

the bees stir

eyes open

I choose a photo album

settle in for the night


Today’s LittleNip:

When I began to listen to poetry, it’s when I began to listen to the stones, and I began to listen to what the clouds had to say, and I began to listen to others. And I think, most importantly for all of us, then you begin to learn to listen to the soul, the soul of yourself in here, which is also the soul of everyone else.

—Joy Harjo


Welcome back to Patricia Wentzel, who started visiting the Kitchen in 12/26/14, and who has had many challenges in her life since then. Thanks to Patricia for today’s poetry about those challenges.  
My apologies to M.J. Arcangelini for my misspelling of his name in yesterday’s post. I added an “h” where there is none. 

The Summer Solstice 2023 issue of Canary is now available online at 
Joe Montoya’s Poetry Unplugged at Luna’s Café and Juice Bar takes place tonight in Sacramento, 8pm. But before that, Lara Gularte will facilitate an Ekphrastic workshop at 6pm in Rancho Cordova in anticipation of the art show coming up in October. You must register for this workshop, but it’s probably not too late. You must also register for the Community of Writers Benefit Poetry Reading which will take place online and in-person in Tahoe tomorrow night, 7:30pm, with its outstanding line-up of poets. Click on Medusa's UPCOMING NORCAL EVENTS ( for details about these and other future poetry events in the NorCal area—and keep an eye on this link and on the Kitchen for happenings that might pop up during the week.
Lastly, earlier this week, Art Luna announced that, after 40 years (1983), he will be selling Luna’s Cafe in Sacramento, and that the new owners are committed to providing space for readings and other art forms. WHAT??? SOLD??? Luna’s has been operating since August 8, 1983, and Joe Montoya’s Poetry Unplugged has been hosted there for a big part of that time (including readers from Rattlesnake Press, back in the day). Art is a great encourager of all forms of expression, and Luna's will be sorely missed! Readings will continue through the first week in August, with closing tentatively scheduled for Sat. 8/5, so one and all are encouraged to come out and get one more taste of Poetry Unplugged at Luna's Cafe and Juice Bar. See for more information.

Patricia Wentzel

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