Five Poets Laureate: 500 Words

ReleaseReading5Local Inhabitants, (L-R) Nils Peterson, Erica Goss, Parthenia M.
Hicks, Dave Denny, Sally Ashton. Photo courtesy Gwen Mitchell.

Here we are, smirky and perky after our June 15th release reading of Local Habitations, an anthology of poems of the Poets Laureate from Santa Clara County to date.

As part of our release celebration, each poet laureate was asked to write a poem of exactly 100 words, title included, using the theme, “Local Habitations.” None of us knew what the others wrote. After our individual readings we came up front, drew numbers, and read our contributions in that order as one single poem.

What follows is the text, as read, of our collaboration. Strange how it seems to come together as an intentional whole! In case you missed our reading, we do hope to read together again in the near future, so stay tuned. If you attended, we invite your comments below.

Local Habitations

Jacaranda is the tree for us, twice-blooming
in our region, a bold and fragrant purple in spring,
a paler but somehow richer blue in autumn.

Turn any corner in our neighborhood and see them
lined along the parkway in a conspiracy of beauty.
So we, in our youth, were given to the brave pose

or the startling proclamation. And now we have,
how shall I say it, deepened, taken on a subtle
complexity we could not in spring have imagined.

How strange and lovely to find ourselves in
this changing light. We pull the car over to the curb
to gawk in silence. The tree for us is Jacaranda.            


They say we have no seasons
in California. Fall, for instance,

fails to please.
They want our trees

decked out
in garish tones

and frost to grow
on pumpkins like mold

on bread. Perhaps it seems
that summer will never end

as heat swells the Pacific
and small clouds collect

in the uncertain sky.
The land, a little shabby

from summer’s long
dormancy, will never look

like the soft green hills they
left, thinking

that they wanted this much sun.
Now it’s old news

and they long to know
that change is coming

impatient to dig out
their woolen sweaters.


Local Habitations

The old tree in Willow Glen
cracks across the sky
the sound so loud and close
everyone looks up
but no one moves

It takes a visitor
a quiet shy voice
to speak the word

Branches we love to call arms
always heavier than we think
Fall everywhere

Reach for people, dogs
bits of food, benches
corners of blankets
and finally rest
dangling like slings between cars and high wires

Why not now? She thinks.
Now, when the people are so close
And the sky is so blue
And a lovely visitor
With a soft voice
Has recognized me?


A Small Bang.

Syllables pour into a hundred word universe shocked as the first hydrogen atoms. Each has a music. They circle, join, suddenly – word-sounds – “Crew went the curlew as it flew in a curlicue.” They rhyme. “Ache did,” pairs with “naked.” They gather into galaxies, “He did not know who he was until she taught him desire, then he did not know who he was,” until here, in Cupertino, at the end of the Dictionary of the Milky Way, we dangle from a participle, aware of dark matter, what has not yet been seen, so not yet said.



My grandfather would have sized up this crowd with two words: local yokels.

When a stranger moves to town we call him immigrant.

If we move to a foreign country we call ourselves ex-pats instead.

To travel from one place to another we lock our houses first.

To dream, the mind throws the doors open wide.

Either way we leave what we know behind.

To know ourselves better we’ve unlocked the genome.

We discover we’re related to everyone everywhere.

We are also made of star stuff blown from the corners of the cosmos.

Therefore wherever we wander, we’re home.

# # #

1.  including title, Dave Denny, Current Cupertino Poet Laureate
2. Erica Goss
, Current Los Gatos Poet Laureate
3. Parthenia M. Hicks
, First Los Gatos Poet Laureate
4. Nils Peterson
, First Santa Clara County Poet Laureate
5. Sally Ashton, Second Santa Clara County Poet Laureate



Filed under Laureate's News, On Poetry

4 responses to “Five Poets Laureate: 500 Words

  1. Jim Mehl

    Thanks Sally. I was hoping someone got those 500 words down. That was great stuff.

  2. Jennifer Brown

    It was a great reading. Five great voices and one long and heartfelt song.

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