Words of a Poet

“So, girl, put down your phone and pick up your pen. Take a piece of the dark and put it on a page. “

Laurie Uttich, from TO MY STUDENT WITH THE DIME-SIZED BRUISES ON THE BACK OF HER ARMS WHO’S STILL ON HER CELLPHONE

Pandemic Poem


The wind is howling outside,
You can hear the treetops
respond,the window creak
and if you look
the world is in motion, swaying

Humanity and our days change
But nature is relatively constant
Now, green and verdant
Bursting past spring to a Northern California summer
like it has for thousands of years
before we settled here, along the river.

The birds and the grass don’t know
that we no longer congregate in groups
we no longer sit together in halls
or ball parks or concerts or theaters.
We no longer wander museums, scratching 
our heads at modern art
and we don’t ride the train or the subway or
the metro anymore

We haven’t gotten close enough to
someone strange
to sniff their hair
or to observe the color of their eyes and how the
rim around the light caramel brown is darker
and how there are chips of color
scattered on the iris

The squirrels, the geese, the fish don’t know
and they don’t hardly care
even if they could put a name on it.

But the wind still blows, pushing clouds
across a wide western sky.
The trees continue to lean and sway.
The river water continues its rushing journey.

They are older than us. Here before. Here after.
How small our discomfort is
when viewed against this backdrop.
A backdrop of sky and stars
clouds, wind, sun setting
where it always has.

How small we are.
How big everything else.
How big.

It will endure.

Teaching Nine Eleven

Yesterday the Russian Hockey team
took a dive bomb
and were pulled from the
wreckage, still
strapped in their seats,
waiting to see God.

Today, blue carpet and black
chairs point towards oversized
CNN Headlines:
“TEACHING 9/11.”

I’ve already scoped
the room for brown people,
identified two.
Headgear? Male? Female?
It’s a ritual now.

Ten years ago, almost,
waiting for United,
a turbaned stranger triggered
a facial tic.

I wasn’t the only one looking.

Today, the plane’s brakes screech and groan,
scratch the runway,
drown out my whispered prayers
and chanted mantras
to keep the tic from taking over.

Today, when landing, we tip
left to right, leaning sideways,
seatbelts straining to keep us in our seats.

We wait for God,
murmur sighs and gasps of relief
when God overlooks us,
this time.

There’s no need to teach Nine Eleven.

We’ve already learned.

Ursula Stuter
September 9, 2011


Deer Crossing

The deer wait for us in the early summer evening, several young ones with the mother doe and her Bambi. They carefully step down to our flower garden and sample the smorgasbord of bright flowers and foliage. A nip of the bright red Verbena, that the gardener says is deer resistant but if you ask me it looks more irresistible. A careful cut of every wine-colored flower off of the bush they call Wine and Roses. The pretty blue perennials also mislabeled deer resistant because every last happy flower has been unceremoniously consumed.

The only saving grace is the Spanish lavender, strong, tall and untouched, the lilac and violet Salvia, leaning in the wind – these flowers remain, untouched. They’ve crossed the deer who have crossed us.

I see more Spanish lavender in the future on the hill. The Spanish will retake these gardens and cross the deer. I watch a hummingbird duck in and out; a bee float into the fragrant Salvia nearby.

These are the survivors. These are those the deer can’t cross.


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