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Poets S

Stanton - Steckel - Strongin (3) - SUNdog - Schmidt - Sweet (4) - Strauss (4)

Alameda in the Shutter-Click
By Jan Steckel

From Ballena Bay to Crab Cove, pilings, tide lines,
orange-eyed night heron, cluster of sandpipers.
Every picture laid with transparency over
an older island, when the naval base boomed, or earlier,
when beaches swarmed like Coney Island or Roman baths.
Sepia-toned beribboned hats, ankle-length skirts for the surf.
1918. 1908. 1905. Long-dead bathing beauties balance,
boating and swimming. Neptune Beach, Surf Beach Park,
Sunny Cove Baths, Terrace Bath. New-built Painted Ladies
stand house-proud. Nineteenth century: Tall ships
at Grand Street’s foot, masts poking out of the palimpsest.

Just like place-names, pure sound now, hide Spanish meanings:
“Tree-lined Avenue.” “Bay of the Whales.” Surely it’s more
than poppies, snapdragons, marinas, sunset over San Francisco.
These names: “Yacht Club,” “Mariners Square,”
“The South Shore Beach and Tennis Club,” conceal
ascending aspirations, wavelet after rising wave of immigrants
lacquering over squalid beginnings. (We’ll be Americans too,
and rich, when we live in such place names as these.)

Duck and hooded merganser, coot and grebe.
Each bird only the part you can see.
How much is underwater, paddling madly,
just to look serene for one snap of the camera?
Do they lie high or low in the water, like tall ships,
barnacled bottoms silently scraping the pier?

From South Shore lagoon to the Alameda Estuary:
gulls descend on mussel-bound rocks, seaweed-sheathed,
just as slippery before tide-tables were printed here.
Species introduced, species extinct. Landscape changes:
landfills, dredging, tunnels. Posey Tube and Webster Tube.
Park Street Bridge and High Street Bridge.
Hello and goodbye: to draw a bridge
or to photograph a drawbridge.
The poet is a camera, click, click, click.
Get shutter speed right, correct focal length,
and what was hazy leaps into the clear.

First appeared in the Alameda Sun. Winner of the 2007 Jewel
of the Bay Poetry Award. Copyright © 2007 Jan Steckel

by Joseph Stanton

Mejiro — a deft green stroke,
or hopping from branch to branch,
tail upstruck —
is the moment's punctuation,
a comma
flickering so quick
the rest of the bright green syntax
                     can only wheel after,
a lost clause trying to catch up.

From A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban O’ahu by Joseph Stanton. Copyright © 2006 by Time Being Books. Reprinted courtesy of Time Being Press.

Flax & Brick
by Lynn Strongin

I miss backstage, being with you, the wires we nearly tripped over
The dusty
Hot light swirling

You were a racer
I was a racer:
Straight up, no chaser.

Lynn Strongin © 2007 with permission from Lynn Strongin

by Lynn Strongin

Looked across at flax & brick

Wasn’t it at the hospital I first looked across at flax & brick
The shovel of coal light into the incinerator.
Time as slow as bloom on old copper?

For half a year
I bore it there then bore thru darkness when above, below stairs.
Alto. The Arno: A small brace of partridge upsky, in cornices a wedge of

Magnesium dawn.
Sweetheart went on a shoot
My niece worked on her abs

I thought of Greek statues
Thought how the young and the old are always in competition.
The album of dawn turned over & over, speaking goodbye. Pax, Lux
vobiscum. You go. I die.

Lynn Strongin © 2007 with permission from Lynn Strongin

The Catholic in love with suffering
by Lynn Strongin

unwind the bolt of silk
winners of poetry prizes are given in Japan. Brake the sun. The galaxies

Sends her children to “Our Lady of the Sorrows”
School. She opens & closes their days like an ivory fan.

She could broach our mother’s Sketch Diary::
Reading “I would not want a prolonged death.” For approaching the Lord:
& go in a slow gondola toward God, that bright bead:

          I am like the Catholic loving extremes—I am a Jew
          Who knows there is no clear getting thru:
          Chiaroscuoro :
                    Now we see Lux now God is hidden behind milk clouds.
                    If we row toward afterlife it is a flight
                    Wearing: boxing gloves put on the shelf to gather chalk
                    We walk

                    Limelight blazing

                    Heated mist
                    Circles our heads & is round our feet at
                    The mundane wondrous glow without Absolution or Amen.

Lynn Strongin © 2007 with permission from Lynn Strongin

Moon Shadows
by SUNdog

Moon shadows on a tarred road
Muled miner's memories erode
Desert rats blink and hoard
Wait for the coming of the Lord

Moon shadows on white rock
Imagined faces look back and mock
Wolves howl their hunger's shock
As planets trace Heaven's Lock

Moon shadows divide a naught
Time cast upon a vacant lot
Warplanes force the tying of the knot
As Gods fester and rot

Moon shadows fall across city streets
Meaning fixed in time leaks
Monet silent in his grave weeps
As Harrods’s machine marks and seeks

Between the lowering sun and the rising moon
Lounge lizards invest the gloom
Real time churns culture's swoon
As men play tic-tac-toe to mark their doom

Fall out of shadow

SUNdog © 2008 with permission

by Heather Ann Schmidt

We bathed
in jasmine oil

and I put on new silk,
the color of satsumas.

Homes filled with diyas-
firecrackers inside
our eyes.

There were drops of stars
all around you on this street
in Delhi.

We dance between
Asvina and Kartka

half love, half passion
this October morning.

Heather Ann Schmidt © 2009 with permission

and pleasure and suffering
by John Sweet

and we are not de chirico and these

passing days are only small

acts of desperation


this brilliant late afternoon sunlight down

empty october streets,

over empty october parking lots and

without warmth,

without illusion,

and all distances heavy with silence


all silence weighted down with meaning


run from one burning

building to another, from your

childhood to your future, and forget

all the reasons you had for being afraid


forget the bleeding horse dying by

his pool of water


forget magritte


gave us questions when all we

wanted was the truth


offered nothing but uncertainty

when we knew that beauty was the

only drug worth crawling for


left us air to breathe when

nothing but gold would save us


Recent collections include Appoximate Wilderness (Flutter Press),

and Bastard Faith (Scars Publications). A limited edition chapbook, Heathen Tongue,

should be out soon from Kendra Steiner Editions.

John Sweett © 2018 with permission



by John Sweet


woke up sweating from a

dream i couldn't



woke up paralyzed w/ fear

on a dead-end street


heard the rain and

smelled the approach of spring and

couldn't move beyond the

obvious greed of crucifixion


knew at the moment that there was

nothing in this life but to

hurt others berfore getting hurt myself


knew it to be true for

all of us


listened w/out comfort to

the steady grind of my heart


Recent collections include Appoximate Wilderness (Flutter Press),

and Bastard Faith (Scars Publications). A limited edition chapbook, Heathen Tongue,

should be out soon from Kendra Steiner Editions.

John Sweett © 2018 with permission


the image but not the idea

by John Sweet


moving east through six a.m.

tunnels of rain, november, december,

age of desperate ghosts, this woman w/

the pale scars keeps slipping pills

between yr lips, keeps speaking in a

language he doesn't quite understand


only 10,000 miles to the coast


only the ghost of frida kahlo

to light the way


sister asleep in the back seat and he

misses the exit and then the

one after that, and these faded plastic

wreaths w/ their tilted wooden crosses

on the side of the highway


this first grey light of day


thinks let me keep my name


thinks let the suicides all

take someone else's


starts with love and then

burns his way down to the

ghostwhite bones


Recent collections include Appoximate Wilderness (Flutter Press),

and Bastard Faith (Scars Publications). A limited edition chapbook, Heathen Tongue,

should be out soon from Kendra Steiner Editions.

John Sweett © 2018 with permission


or beauty, which i would only ever offer to the queen of open wounds

by John Sweet


river choked with ice in the dark and

all of the stars left nameless


venus low over the hills, brilliant and sinking and

it's true that nothing you or i say will ever matter and

it's true that nothing you or i do will ever

change the world


it's the taste of blood as we whisper in

curtained rooms, and it's the futility of defiance as we

scream ourselves hoarse against frozen windows


it's the end of january in the last year we will

be together, and we stand naked at the water's edge


hold tight to each other like the future depends on it

and it does of course but

whatever future there is will arrive with or without us


whatever past we had will be remembered by no one


after all the lies i've told you, here we are

suddenly at the truth


Recent collections include Appoximate Wilderness (Flutter Press),

and Bastard Faith (Scars Publications). A limited edition chapbook, Heathen Tongue,

should be out soon from Kendra Steiner Editions.

John Sweett © 2018 with permission



On Patrol
By Emily Strauss

at 0200 he still patrols the perimeter

of the back yard along the fence line

still watches for movement in the shadows-

a stray form, a dog, the neighbor's light

suddenly shining from their bathroom

onto the lawn, he creeps past the hedge

feet placed so as not to crack any twigs,

his eyes roving over the cold grill,

overturned deck chairs, he keeps moving

alert for small noises, catching

a scent of skunk or a late-night dryer-

the field clear now he slides in the patio

door, across the carpet, back upstairs

to their bed, the night light comforting

as he slips under the worn camo blanket

stiff-kneed, white hairs on the pillow.

With Permission from Emily Staruss 2019


A Slice of Heaven
By Emily Strauss

A sliver of heaven like a thin moon

poised over the sea, the view

back down the canyon, a fraction

of glistening blue ocean thousands

of feet below as the road labors up.

I glimpse a slice of blue water

as the road twists back on itself

climbing to the top and at the crest

the sea now hidden below the folds

of mountains, I only think I

remember waves, cliffs, brilliant sun

with pelicans. Up here under calm

madrone trees the green air seems

close, not some distant white fog and

surf, a pure view of the round earth

on a horizon uncluttered by leaves.

Up here the wind is tangled in branches

but down there it blew free across

the whole Pacific, touching my cheek

in a way no other being ever does.

With Permission from Emily Staruss 2019


The Coiled Serpent
By Emily Strauss

A coiled serpent's hood in a Cairo street market,

black and gold, sways with the toneless flute

of an old man as it hisses out of a rush

basket that crackles as its scales rub past-

the captive snake a pity to watch, more pathetic

than the seller of fake scrolls to tourists

who step carefully through the narrow path

between piles of shriveled dates, Chinese urns

cheap cotton shirts, grilled goat innards

their eyes avoiding the snake charmer

with his wispy white beard and his serpent,

fed mice dangled in front of it after the flute

falls silent, after the tourists turn their heads.

With Permission from Emily Staruss 2019


Tone Poem
Jean Sibelius: Kullervo (1892): based on the Finnish Epic Kalevala
By Emily Strauss

The music: a single long movement:

the listener imagines a romantic sequence

or a scene from an epic myth.

It explores a state of mind, a mood

suggested by water colors in the notes,

not the music itself but impressions:

as if into a core of tears, a winter

storm with a ship entering port- tones

painted in sepia, pictures drawn in notes

pulling us into ancient Finland

full of strong sea men, and women

with cold hands smelling of fish. We can

feel the wind blowing, freezing salt spray

off the ocean, hear oars piercing

the waves while the music

rises and falls. We recall this primeval tale

of longing and hard work as the orchestra

grows silent.

Walking home we draw our capes close

on the boulevard.


With Permission from Emily Staruss 2019



© copyright 2008 - Last Updated: 09/19/2021