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Letter Box On Line (LBOL) Files #31

  • Section A: July 15, 2010
  • Section B: August 15, 2010
  • Section C: September 15, 2010
  • Section D: October 15, 2010
  • Section E: November 15, 2010
  • Section F: .................................................................. December 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA


      the shiny silver shoe
      lost its little girl

      decided to sit down
      in the gutter
      by the library
      to figure it out

      what to do

      laying in the litter
      beside the road
      far from home

      and little girls
      with fancy dresses
      that always made
      the two
      look so nice

      at the parties
      with friends
      playing pin the tail
      on the donkey
      and drinking cool aid
      till it came out of their noses

      oh little shoe
      I hope you find
      your little girl

      and dance away
      till a new dawn

    Stephen Brown

    Carmel Valley, CA


      Shorebirds gather and disperse.
      Congregations of gulls stand together
      on one knoll of the beach.
      One after another, a squadron of pelicans
      glides close to the water,
      then rises up the side of a bluff,
      using the slightest thermal
      to support their outspread wings.

      The gulls have no schedule,
      while waves roll up the low slope
      and slip back again, or so it seems to me.
      They behave like cousins,
      all with some family resemblance
      but varied shapes of gray patches on wings
      or a dark stripe near the tail feathers,
      all bony webbed feet and yellow hooked beaks,
      a different story in each eye.

      I walk the shore, come across a gull's head,
      white boned with large circular eye sockets,
      intricate linkage of jaw and open beak
      that seems to still sing
      its shrill call over the sea.
      Only a bit of muscle and ligament remains,
      the basic form of its cranium a skeletal sculpture.

      Tucking it carefully into my pocket,
      I bring it home, soak the skull in clean water,
      wash away the clinging sand and place a stone
      between the upper and lower mandibles,
      discover dignity beneath its familiar face.


      Make visible what, without you, might perhaps never have been seen.
      —Robert Bresson, French film director

      An August morning in what has been a cool summer
      even here in my inland valley.
      On first awakening the fog surrounds the house.
      I need a flashlight to go up to retrieve the newspaper,
      startle a skunk who scuttles away.

      I sip my tea and read, look up from the news
      to see the sky has cleared, become
      a delicate mauve color, and the mist floats
      like a white sea in the narrow vale below.

      Soon it will disappear, but for now
      I am above the vapor, as if sitting on a cloud,
      some sort of mysterious heaven
      with only the top of a pine tree piercing
      my cloudbank magic carpet.

      I like the feeling of being contained
      in a soft world all my own.
      At these times I don't long for a companion,
      glad of the silence.

      Other times, when the setting sun lends
      its honey-glow to the evening
      and later when the night sky glitters
      with its millennium of stars,
      I want to share it all with another,
      one who sighs along with me
      as we stand in each other's arms
      and stare out at all that beauty.

    Laura Bayless

    Little River, CA


      In gratitude...
      for this moment,
      the breath,
      The spark that ignites passion...
      the first movement,
      the curve of your neck;
      the song we sing together...
      unrestrained joyfulness,
      children laughing,
      mindless, unreasonable gestures of kindness,
      seeing myself through your eyes,
      the silence before the word...
           and YOU.

    Gary Ibsen

    Monterey, CA

      SUNDAY, NOV. 7, 2010

      The end of Daylight Savings Time.
      What is it that we saved?
      The Sun rose in the East and set in the West.
      Night came with its gift of rest
      And its procession of stars.

      The Great Wheel is forever turning,
      Ever changing, never the same.
      What is it that we saved?
      And what is it that we lost
      By stepping out of time
      In our dance with the Divine?

      I cherish the change,
      Being back in rhythm and time,
      Dancing the Great Mystery's dance.

      I embrace the gift of Darkness
      With its calling to be still.
      Time to be still and listen
      To the change that's churning inside.
      Time to be still
      And let old ways that aren't mine die.

    Patrick Maiorana

    Carmel, CA


      Today we spoke
      The two of us
      After the long passing of years
      Each of us I suspect editing
      From the sounds inside telephone wires
      The out-of-date portraits
      We had stored up in our minds
      What new lines in the face
      What new colors in the hair
      What new etchings in the heart
      What new protrusions of the imagination
      Who is he now
      After his newest daughter's birth
      Though she is thirteen
      How is he faring now
      He wonders about me
      Four years since the president
      Began gutting the country
      Who is he three months after
      His wife's last radiation
      Who are we
      After years of spoken absence

      Is there a boat
      A small isthmus
      We can paddle together
      Just long enough to share
      A view of gulls landing
      On a limb above our heads
      Or storm clouds forming
      Or the singing of an old song
      Is there a boat
      Somewhere in this world
      In which to sit and
      A friendship

    Wayne Martin

    Monterey, CA


      Clouds appear and grow mysteriously,
      Seem to be created from nothing at all,
      Seem to choose their venues at random,
      Create speckled cotton sky or serious summer squall.

      Hiding dark interiors with their own bright white light,
      They shadow red desert monolith and distant mountain range.
      Moving and changing in their own inevitable ways,
      They conceal what's familiar, and reveal what's strange.

      Smaller clouds die into the larger collective space,
      Combine to produce rolling roiling rising white towers.
      With roots that are buried in the dark anima mystery of earth,
      The bright animus mystery grows heavenward and flowers.

      Balance animus with anima, balance anima with animus,
      No light without darkness and no darkness without light.
      Revel in darkness,, revel in light, and reveal your insight.
      Eagerly—and fearfully—soar into the light, dive into the night.

    Ray Cyr

    Tucson, AZ


      in back yard swing,
      a swinging lounge really
      how long back yard
      long enough to run a year in?

      I will be gone soon
      That is for certain
      This is as good as
      My last chance
      To annoy the discordant bird
      Singing a monotonous song
      Or to listen to the
      traffic on Campbell

      Well, I'll miss it
      my rock garden
      mostly from my parents'
      rock collection
      some my father "mined", as it were
      ourselves camping out in the desert
      near the mineral deposits
      in the fifties and sixties

      the pigeons flying overhead
      I will miss them too
      the mulberry trees
      the sideways mesquite
      that still lives
      though toppled by
      a monsoon tempest

      changes and changes
      behind and ahead


      yesterdays perigrinations
      took me to the University
      of Arizona where
      I spotted people gathered
      at the entrance to a large campus building

      thinking free food
      I headed that way:
      better than dumpster diving

      so I go flirt with all the women
      as usual
      getting four tacquitos
      provided by El Charro
      an old restaurant in Tucson

      I ate, then began dancing
      to the Spanish guitarist

      up on the balls of my feet
      the way I love to dance
      I do the fandango

        Later, outside,
      the bad boy
      wearing a cowboy hat
      salt sweat stains on its brown oilskin
      Stands in front of the hall
      to howl at the moon
      doing his best coyote imitation

    Chris Lovette

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    Section E: .................................................................. November 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA

      OCTOBER 14, 2010, 7:14 AM

      The miners came
      raised up on the prayers
      of human kind
      around the world
      having become
      the symbol
      of workers

      from deep in the earth
      having slain the devil
      in his lair
      they ascended
      among us.
      to share the light
      once more.
      so many doubts
      and fears
           put to rest

      OCTOBER 17, 2010, 6:28 PM

      one more mouse
      on its way to Valhalla
      in the talons of
      Red hawk
      winging over the freeway
      in the rain
      while I am on my way
      to San Francisco Airport
      to pickup the bankers
      from their flying tubes

    Stephen Brown

    Carmel Valley, CA


      A light drizzle waters
      the potted plants on my deck
      and the weather report promises sun
      the remainder of the week.
      My horoscope has five stars,
      says I might awe someone with my intellect
      without even intending to.

      A break in the clouds has lit up
      the white fluff and a patch of blue
      I can see through the glass door
      from my glider chair.
      Shimmering light reflects
      in shallow pools of water
      and drops of rain still drum down
      from the edge of the roof.

      Chickadees and house wrens
      hop around the seed bowl.
      Yesterday I had a visit
      from a stellar jay in addition
      to the usual scrubs.
      Birds are entertaining,
      but they are not affectionate,
      can't pay their share of travel expenses
      or count for double occupancy discounts.

      Dissolving clouds move east
      as the last of the small rainstorm
      drifts through my valley.
      April is dense with green foliage.
      The fire tower atop Sid Ormsby Peak
      glows like a white candle.

      I love the way the rising sun
      tips the ridges with its beams
      and how the wisps of vapor gather,
      then disperse as the minutes pass.
      I am looking for signs of life
      in my little universe.

      ON MY OWN

      I start out on the steep trail
      to Maple Canyon
      in search of trillium.
      Sunlight streams through
      dense green leaf stars.
      Songbirds prevail over
      the muted rumble
      on a distant road.
      A legion of tree trunks
      troops up the mountainside.
      Valley oaks grow
      tattered lichen beards,
      shadow fuchsia-flowered gooseberry vines
      and woodmint in color-muted pools.

      Short of breath,
      heartbeat rapid,
      footsteps faltering uphill,
      I choose the Live Oak Trail,
      head across the ridge,
      whisper names to myself,
      Buckwheat, sage, blue-eyed grass,
      detect the vanilla scent
      of white torch blooms
      on buckeye boughs,
      arrive eventually
      at the open meadow,
      pick a blossom of owl's clover
      to tuck behind my ear,
      consult no one about
      where to go next.

    Laura Bayless

    Monterey, CA


      Words appear out of a thin mist
      Velvet black, cloudy grey
      Birthing a line of thought
      My Soul awakened.

      Words form a lyric for tunes
      As yet unheard
      A fragrance, a bouquet
      To touch a heart with delight
      A heady scent of roses

      Words wait in secret
      Where sacred seeds are planted.
      I try not to know
      More than this breath,
      This joining of living words,
      Truly a banquet of bounty.

    Shirley Tofte

    Carmel, CA


      In her life she had been
      Lying awake for years
      Waiting like when she had been
      Dropped off too early for church.
      Waiting for one of the kids to arrive
      Home, for another to fall asleep
      In a book or a prayer, for a
      Dream not ready to start, for the
      Moon to rise to the place where
      It can finally see everything, for
      Fatigue to smudge out the
      Mistakes of the day.

      As it all gets collected in
      The soft bowl at the top of the neck;
      It's like, she thinks, the collection
      Basket at church being passed
      Through the hands of each half-
      Awake parishioner

      Until Smirched with fingerprints,
      Longings, and a few clinking
      Pennies of guilt, it is
      Placed upon the altar
      And sits there alone

      Like all the rest of her mingled
      For the peace to be passed
      And the benediction said.

    Wayne Martin

    Tucson, AZ


      Beautiful is not a word
      I would use for Zoe
      Angel is closer
      Shining with
           inner light
      From a place
           so far beyond
      This mundane
           and sometimes ugly
      That when I am near her
      I am in awe
      Of that which
           when shared
      Ever increases

      Other men may woo thee
      Perhaps women, too
      Their desires tinged with
                your body
      And of course
                your unique soul

      Perhaps one day you will wed
      Be a Mother and a Wife
      And Zoe, I your friend
      Wish you all the blessings
                of your life

      I love to hold you and
                hold you
      And be one
           in the contentment
                of your arms

      I know it cannot be
      What is my love
                But fantasy?

           For a dream
      Who is you
      Who smiles at me
           with almost a laugh

      Encouraging me on
      Scarred and old knight
      Who's taken too many
           wrong turns . . .

      I will find that secret
                of your smile
      Which must be
      Which I know
           without knowing
      Is Yes
      Is that which awaits
      When my soul shall find
      My attachment for you will cease
      But my love always remain

    Chris Lovette

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    Section D: .................................................................. October 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA


      in the light of dawn
      the sacred bound
      of earth and sky
      ripples above the sea
      pale the greying
      moving on
      bring the north wind
      telling of autumn
      changing color
      pulling down
      into cloisters
      gathering together the
      last supplies

    Stephen Brown

    Berkeley, CA


      After the cappuccino, reading
      a section of the newspaper, look
      over, I've been sitting a long time,
      neatly folded Friday afternoon, mine
      to walk away from Weekend Arts
      away from the table, south, down
      College Avenue, summer daydream
      to Milestone Basin, Sequoia and hike,
      two blocks to the car, more, going
      to the fire road in the hills, muse
      about that conversation at the next
      table and at the corner, wait
      for the signal, think about music
      tonight, Coleman Barks
      reading Rumi and more, tablas
      flutes, bliss and blues, Sufis,
      summer is here, love, live a little
      revival, green light, go east, step up
      step off the curb, speeds by

      that first car, driver cuts the corner
      too close, step back, nick of time,
      but not far enough, there're two cars,
      the second, burnt orange box Honda,
      driver not looking at us, looking south,
      the opposite direction, front of the car
      right here, engine revs, soft tire treads
      on my toes, wheels roll and backward
      I go, somersaulting over and away,
      end on the asphalt, sitting on my butt,
      dazed, my foot tingling, numbs out just
      before five, quitting time, next to me Sammy
      says "Are you..." I don't respond, so he tries
      a different tack: "Do you want me to call,"
      I tell him no, I need to get my bearings,
      follow Annelise and her friend back to Strada

      No second cappuccino, sit for a bit, but they
      want 911, no pressure, we talk, I call my doctor,
      the office is closed, "in the event of a medical emergency,
      please dial 9-1-1." I don't but don't move either, until
      the world slows down. Bruise on thigh, walk to the car (an enemy...
      I wonder), get in drive home, and pressure, realize my head
      hurts, end up at Alta Bates Hospital, place where I was born.
      Funny, though, the toe seems pretty much unaffected.
      CT scan shows head, no fractures. Bob says "Get out of here."
      Jessie reminds me not to ignore the bruises. Ice and rest,
      more ice and you are definitely going to be sore. And stiff.

      Next morning, I'm still in my bathrobe, figuring out what
      works and trying to get started, a police officer comes by,
      someone I know, Lyle Ledward, star of the Seventh Grade class,
      fastest runner, six hundred yard dash, big smile, he wants to talk
      After he gathers "just the facts," he reaches out, takes my hand
      and shakes it. Via e-mail, my friend Arpita recommends Rescue
      Remedy— "helps after shocky-scary things." At Whole Foods
      or Berkeley Bowl. And Arnica pills, she writes, "for the stiffness."
      All this— no music— no walk in the hills— no revel— all happens.

      Friday, Saturday, Sunday— not bliss but not bad either
      Sunday night at my desk, healing as writing, blessed
      are the words before they are written
      Monday morning
      flies past.


      Out of Livermore, cycling
      past farms and fields boom!
      a blowout, rear tire, darn,
      had just replaced both tires.
      Reach down, tire doesn't feel flat
      check the front. It's fine
      and strange, the blue
      bike is still rolling,
      Pull over, stop, thumb
      both the tires, no problem,
      summer afternoon, cool breeze,
      can't figure it out until
      twenty yards to my right
      flash of color, bright
      wing and shadow
      slowly lifts body
      long tail feathers
      into flight

      for once I'm glad
      I guess
      someone was shooting
      at a bird

      and ride north
      toward home.

    Larry Ruth

    Piedmont, CA


      On that warm summer's eve
      We circled our chairs on the lawn;
      Some spoke of retirement, some of moving
      Some spoke of grandchildren, some of traveling.
      On that warm summer's eve
      We shared the happenings of our lives;
      Some talked about recent gatherings, some of personal problems
      Some talked about work, some of wishes for the future.

      A laziness floated on the air
      We were comfortable in our chatter;
      Some made us laugh, some made us ponder
      Some encouraged us to share our thoughts, some chose to quietly listen.
      A laziness floated on the air
      We were content in our friendship;
      Some rested from a hectic work day, some from volunteering
      Some enjoyed the contentment shared by friends, some the fun of gatherings.

      The Band of Women

    Pam Quesnoy

    Carmel Valley, CA

      In a sacred manner, they are sending voices.
      —Black Elk

      It's almost midnight.
      Stars rise and fall,
      flicker Morse code
      in the sacred hours of darkness.
      Restless earth spins its body
      to another face of the universe.

      Minutes falter,
      tack into time-lapse nightmares.
      I turn over,
      rearrange pillows
      elbows and knees,
      surf nocturnal waves past
      numbers on the clock,
      sink into and wake
      from brief intervals of dream,
      hear haunting voices.

      Some nights I wish for oblivion,
      to fall into coma for a year or two,
      then wake refreshed,
      having slept long enough
      to banish the demons of darkness
      and reclaim my sanity.

    Laura Bayless

    Tucson, AZ


      A stand of desert willows for 50 yards along Julian Wash
      Not true willows but related to Catalpa trees

      Pink trumpet flowers reminiscent of snapdragons
      Purple rouge on the inner side leading into the bell
      Two yellow orange stripes emerging from inside
      Flowers of two inch long delicately thin membrane
      Yet staying in perfection for weeks through desert heat and drought
      Summer monsoon rains open new blossoms into the spring's surviving bloom
      Branches bearing racemes, stem-like clusters of buds opening sequentially
      Groups of four or fewer in full bloom at a time

      In the gentle breeze after sunrise one lady falls to the brown hard earth
      The edges of the petals do a small ballet choreographed by a light breeze

      Lucky morning, the breeze dancing plants and vividly the flowers
      Dawn's light of dimensional shading and depth of coloration
      Not an hour old slants low from the eastern horizon

      The tallest desert willow in the stand is twenty feet high
      Its trunk separating into five a short way above the ground
      It stands at the height of the slope up from Julian Wash
      Thirty-some feet above the Wash, up a hundred-foot long trail
      On the highest ground and the tallest of any of the trees of this solitary stand

      Stripped free of soil by erosion, a few feet of the topside of one of its roots has been
      Intricately weathered by radiant light, heat, drought, windblown dust, rain runoff
      Kin in its weathered look to beach driftwood
      Or a snow and wind-blasted gnarled branch of High Sierra Juniper

      On the trunks fissures expose the inner wood
      Between the fissures inch-wide strips of bark
      With crosswise creases every half-inch, like a dried cracked mud flat
      Oiled willow-like leaves minimize evaporation
      Bean pods, thin, up to eight inches long
      Brown and opened, spent, or ripening green unopened
      Hang smooth and slightly curly

      The sun has traveled higher overhead
      Radiating intensity from a higher angle, dulling colors and dimensionality
      The desert prepares for another hundred-degree summer's day
      Do its living things have some dim yearning for a monsoon rain?

      One ten-foot tall tree bends its branches over the edge of Julian Wash
      Rooted close to the best water source
      As revealed by blossoms thick on every branch
      Perhaps a thousand trumpet-bell ballerinas given motion by the breeze
      Spontaneous and graceful, beautiful women unaware of their beauty

      The bumblebees and black swallowtails come to partake of the ladies' favors
      Dominating the ballet with their gift of flight
      Nimbly drinking nectar from an unsuspected opening near each flower's base

      Four black swallowtails race by in chaotic tandem
      Almost erratic flight paths follow some instinctual pattern

      Left in the western shade of the big tree up the thirty foot rise
      My backpack waits with iced green tea, lemonade, and tobacco

      After rolling the morning's first cigarette I light it
      The nicotine from the first few drags triggers a momentary sense
      Of the unity of my self-awareness and the entire scene
      Especially the trees, their flowers, and the humble breeze moving through all

      I discover a dozen fallen blooms by my backpack
      On the ground at the base of the trunk that splits five ways
      Blossoms now shriveled and withered
      Still beautiful in their desiccation, singing their final whispered song:
      "Nothing lasts . . ."


      I laid down to sleep
      Tired from working with pickaxe and shovel
      Pulled up the soft sheet
      With the cotton bedspread on top
      Caressed by my mattress
      My head sinking softly into my pillow

      My mind unwound and muscles relaxed
      Bands loosened in all directions
      When a snake slithered up to me
      A boa constrictor with golden eyes

      Its head came to rest on my chest
      "Why are you afraid?" it asked
      "I'm afraid of you!" I replied
      "You're not supposed to be here!"
      "But don't you like snakes?
      I am a very nice snake"
      Its question reminded me that I like animals

      "This is my bed and I sleep alone . . .
      I am happier sleeping alone"
      "What do you love?" it asked
      All the things I love
      Came tumbling into my head
      "I love my health, my car,
      my home, my garden, my cats,
      my income, good food, music,
      good books, and this comfortable bed"
      "Ah!" said the snake knowingly
      "I am the snake who lives in your heart
      I have come with a gift:
      to show you how to love what is not 'yours'"

      The snake disappeared suddenly
      I could not understand what it meant

      Deciding it had not been real
      I slowly began to fall asleep
      And as I fell asleep I thought about
      The hardened tough calluses encasing my heart
      Self-pity, fear, disillusionment and pain
      And I fell asleep wondering
      How could the snake have gotten out?

    Chris Lovette

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    Section C: .................................................................. September 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA


      drawing is all there is
      take a pencil
      a big paper
      draw your name
      as big as you can

      you have drawn a most complex image
      completely abstract
      but full of meaning

      now on another sheet
      draw a line around the edge
      a square box
      to bind the limits
      of what you have done
      or will do

      now on yet another
      put the paper vertical
      not on the horizontal
      and draw another edge
      when that is done
      make a line at 3/4

      it doesn't matter
      if it is from the top
      or from the button

      you are making a world
      and have divided the land from the sky
      separated the ocean
      from the air

      drawing is all there is

      now if you never stop
      for 100 years
      you will be known as artist
      but do it everyday
      on books and pages
      big and small

      do not worry of what to draw
      it's right in front of you

      just remember it is everyday
      drawing is all there is

    Stephen Brown

    Carmel Valley, CA


      I go shopping for words,
      not as one would for new shoes
      or groceries, but with my ears,
      the small hairs in inner chambers
      shivering with anticipation
      of some fresh merger of noun
      and verb, a three-word phrase
      implausibly accurate.

      Song lyrics, book titles,
      magazine ads,
      newspaper headlines,
      commonplace figures of speech,
      become original
      with the variation of an adjective,
      unexpected fusion of images,
      a haunting word.

      I'm an oniomaniac (compulsive buyer)
      of words, a bibliophage (bookworm),
      add them to my vocabulary,
      swap lexicology like anagrams
      in my head.
      I collect tittle-tattle at thrift stores,
      and restaurants, listen in
      on conversations
      for lingual surprises,
      rhetorical questions I can explore
      past their apparent reply.

      I pay nothing for indigenous
      expressions of strangers
      and regional archaisms,
      tuck them into my notebooks
      for reserve stock.
      I've even been known to shoplift,
      a bucolic verse kleptomaniac
      from the racks of greeting cards,
      jot down a jingle or two
      when no one is looking.

      My cupboards are crammed
      with Costco-sized containers.
      l have enough
      babble and bunk,
      bombastic balderdash,
      and poppycock
      to last the rest of my life.

    Laura Bayless

    Carmel, CA

      THE IDEA

      I awoke this morning
      With the idea of you
      Next to me.

      It was an idea
      I had had of you
      Thirty years ago
      Walking along the Charles in autumn
      Long before I met you.

      The long boats drifted by
      Like slow years
      Barely leaving a ripple,
      Gulls from the harbor
      Searching the wide river
      As if it may once
      Have offered them something.

      You walked the Charles
      With years of music
      In your eyes
      Which I heard faintly
      As I neared you

      There was the song of your father,
      A whisper in your lingering stride.
      Were you a student at BU?
      A waitress, a doctor, a woodsmith,
      A painter like someone in your past?

      I have held this memory,
      This song, those boats, this idea,
      As one holds a butterfly
      And lets it go
      Until it returns.

      In the pale orange of this morning
      As I stirred
      On the hard bed of sleep
      It fluttered back
      And landed there beside me
      As you lay breathing.

    Wayne Martin

    Berkeley, CA

      (August, southern Sierra)

      Change something, exactly what doesn't matter,
      new or old, who or what doesn't matter, conjure now,
      make vivid, believe it alive
                as one body enfolds
      another, awaken to an alarm clock shift of her body,
      one whom you love, had forgotten you loved,
      met again on a summer's day, Sierra
      granite and glaciers, measuring distance
      by the careless crush of her arms.

      Each day, cross the river, twenty-minutes more
      or less, swim, whisk yourselves dry, reverie
      and rhyolite giving off warmth, hike to happiness,
      long days cool into evening, weaving sunset
      and sleep, dreaming of
               talus, slopes and scree
      to Old Army Pass, big rock, the back country,
      bighorn sheep, ewes and calves at Soldier Lake,
      corn lilies and columbine in bloom, purple
      onions below at Rock Creek,
               old avalanches
      mark the trail to foxtail pines, to the saddle
      at Guyot, then down, a long, sandy traverse
      to Crabtree Meadows
               ford the creek, veer east, take the fisherman's trail, uphill to the meadows
      and lakes, boulders bright with snow, sliding
      toward solid ground, to the water beneath the cliff.
      Walk on, to the shore of a lake
               high, blue and deep,
      remember that day of fishing and laughter,
      the creek's outlet silver, golden, going scarlet
      with a thousand spawning trout.

      Next morning, follow the shore of Guitar Lake,
      climb seventy-odd switchbacks to the crest,
      cross over, off trail long way round,
      scramble through Whitney Pass and down
      or linger at the top before leaving, bend
               day and night
      and day, flow, river carving curves in the rock,
      decades unchanging even as it changes,
      never the same water, not the same
               Find your pack. Call her, say, "Let's go, leave
      for Lone Pine, hike from Horse Corral, Cottonwood,
      any trail, just two of us.."
               Afternoons and asters, snowmelt
      trickling down the rock.

    Larry Ruth

    Tucson, AZ


      Living in the desert has certain advantages over a house
      Coyotes, quails, jackrabbits, owls, hawks
      Flowers, trees, and the rest of the flora and fauna of the natural world
      Interpenetrate the desert drifters' living spaces
      A desert that has more plants and animals than most since it gets more rain
      Rain in winter and even more in the summer monsoon of July and August

      One desert dweller named Jerry and I became good friends
      Sometimes when we'd talk and the conversation paused
      He would look me intensely in the eyes and ask
      "You know what I like about you the most? Everything!"

      Quail and roadrunners came to eat the bread crumbs Jerry set out next to camp
      We were in a wilderness setting we loved
      One that hasn't changed much since before Columbus — except for the trash
      That was where we shared our stories and heard those of others who came to visit

      Jerry told this story to me once
      About when his small unit
      Was out on a reconnaissance patrol
      And after a long day's march
      They made camp in the open fields, dog tired
      The next morning, as men often do right after they wake up
      The first man who woke up got up to make water
      But before he could finish
      A bullet bit into his brain and killed him

      When he came back from Vietnam
      Jerry left his home in Louisiana and drifted around the country
      Riding freight trains and seeing new places, living in Monterey for a time
      And if opportunity allowed, he sang and played blues guitar
      Finally he ended up here in Tucson living in a tent
      Where sometimes in the summer it tops 110 in full sun

      The patch of desert where he lived begins one block from my house
      A few hundred acres of undeveloped land surrounded by the City of Tucson
      He panhandled down by the local supermarket
      And always gave everybody a smile whether they gave him anything or not

      Whenever he saw me coming
      He would say "Hey Outlaw!
      Use your head for something besides a hat rack!"

      One day a few years back
      He was drinking beer behind a store at the edge of the desert
      A couple of friends were drinking beer with him
      When a young city dweller drifted into the group
      Somehow the punk learned Jerry had some crack in his backpack
      And demanded that Jerry share it with him

      The 55 year old combat vet told the young stranger
      "I had to sit on the corner to get the money for that. You can go get your own!"
      The stranger picked up a big rock and bashed Jerry in the head
      Jerry was killed instantly and the desert drifters and I were sad such a nice man was gone

      I recently heard that another friend who went by the name of Doc Holliday
      Went on a road trip to Missouri this last July

      A few words about Doc are in order
      He always drank everybody else's booze
      When the bottle got passed around he chugged a lot more than his share
      But Doc had a big heart
      And he could tell his friends story after entertaining story
      Over and over again

      On the way back from Missouri he and his buddy
      Stopped to sleep up in the mountains
      Before going to sleep that night
      Doc drank a fifth of vodka
      Took some pills and never woke up

      Janis Joplin sang about freedom being "Nothing left to lose"
      And that's how Jerry and Doc chose to live their lives

      But I had it all wrong about my freedom being like that
      Freedom gives a lot to lose and a lot to gain

    Chris Lovette

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    Section B: .................................................................. August 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA


      I almost hit a spotted dog
      Along his careless way
      My car it moved up swiftly
      The bumper slick and chrome

      I swerved to miss him desperate
      The breaks applied full force
      The rubber peeled in moving sheets
      Upon the pavement stone

      I wouldn't have tried so hard you see
      If I had been alone
      But others they were watching me
      And death they don't condone

      On movie film and T.V. sets
      And prison walls alone

      On another day in another place
      I hit a fluffy cat

      No one sat there watching me
      I'm sure they do not care

      But god I feel alone

    Stephen Brown

    Carmel Valley, CA


      All the silver winter driftwood
      has been burned
      or hauled home
      to become sinuate effigies
      in coastal gardens.

      high fog subdues
      colors to muted hues.

      Even waves
      are docile,
      sliding up
      and retreating effortlessly,
      as if some slender hand
      were swaying slowly
      through the kelp
      far out to sea,

      all the passionate turbulence
      of storms merely
      a dim echo,
      no more retrievable
      at this moment
      than the intoxication of spring,
      vital obsessions
      of desire,
      or the vivid image
      of someone long ago

    Laura Bayless

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    Section A: .................................................................. July 15, 2010

    Del Rey Oaks, CA


      with the spring
      the center spread
      across the still water
      pond with ducks

      lined up behind the hen
      paddling along the reeds
      in the shadow ripples
      reflecting all of the sky

      time to once again
      begin to stand
      upon the bank
      counting flower blooms
      upon the trees

      narrow cast
      towards the
      rain clouds
      spread into the sky

      white and grey
      raising high up
      in blue sky

      beyond those trees

    Stephen Brown

    Carmel Valley, CA


      I intend to make the bed today,
      tuck all the corners tight,
      fluff up the pillows...

      but portly quail gather on the hillside clucking,
      summoning their young to feast
      on seeds I scattered at daybreak.
      I stop to watch them flow,
      a slate-blue stream under sunlight.
      Shadows dissolve
      on the mountain across the valley
      while I linger.

      I plan to sweep the deck today,
      water plants, complete a dozen other duties...

      but a pine tree broke a limb
      in yesterday's wind
      and its scent reminds me
      of the woods along the South Plateau trail,
      so I fetch my backpack,
      head for Point Lobos instead.

      I mean to take one path,
      stay one hour...

      but I fall under a spell,
      wander along the pine needle-covered path
      out to Gibson Beach,
      circle the edge of China Cove,
      soak up heady fragrances
      of sea air and ceanothus.

      I resolve to take the short cut
      back to the park entrance
      through Mound Meadow...

      but the sign for the Pine Woods trail
      lures me down through the forest
      toward the harsh barks of sea lions
      and I follow my heart,
      pause on a bench that offers
      a porthole to the south shoreline,
      admire thin mists trailing
      over islands of stone.

      I think I will turn back
      along the Lace Lichen trail to stroll
      beneath the pale green scarves
      that drape from bare limbs...

      but I recall it has been a long time
      since I visited the ghostly gray cypress groves
      and steep cliffs of the North Shore.
      By this time my legs begin to ache,
      calves tightening
      on steeper portions of the path...

      but rocky inlets and granite walls
      are worth every sore muscle.
      In patches under the pines
      purple stars of woods iris sway
      on slender stems among green grasses.
      A pair of deer graze,
      lift their heads to watch me pass.

      Eventually, reluctantly,
      my pace slows as I exit the trails,
      walk towards the gate,
      a list of unfinished chores
      slipping in to scold once more.

    Laura Bayless

    Carmel Valley, CA


      The secret to knowing you is
      when I remember you—and lose myself,
      I become you.
      Your fragance pours from my skin.
      You laugh and flowers bloom
      drawing bees by the millions.
      You cry and people rush forward with open arms
      and handfulls of tissue.
      You make cautious steps outside your door
      and hundreds of blind men's canes
      tap the path through the darkness.
      Your courage becomes a balm for wounds.
      You feel warmth and babies
      the world over sleep quietly in their cribs.
      your needs form a thousand prayer doves
      filling the sky.
      Your pain is a beggar's bowl
      at the feet of God.
      I love being you.

    Karl Schaurer

    Carmel, CA

      35TH REUNION

      They weren't all there
      It had been years
      Some were dead
      Some were missing
      Even those of us who were there
      Weren't all there

      I danced
      It had been years
      The old songs came back
      Like Monterey fog in the morning
      I wanted to sing
      Not dance
      I knew the tunes
      The harmonies
      The falsetto parts
      Now I wanted to explore
      What had spawned my fantasies—
      The litanies and the dogma
      The mating calls and the sacred texts—
      I wanted to know the words

      The women were more beautiful than
      They had been as girls
      Their brains and their bodies
      Filled full
      And connected to the world
      They had carried children
      Raised them and run restaurants
      Managed offices and real estate
      They had not labored
      To hold back tears
      And it made them
      More beautiful

      We men looked more
      Like returning soldiers
      Who had stayed up too long
      For too little
      Was the difference
      That they had carried children
      While we shouldered responsibilities
      And hunting rifles
      And bought second cars?
      Or was it the tears
      They had not held back
      That released who they were
      To spill out and fill out
      Into their bodies?
      Is this how
      They had grown up to be better
      Connected to the world?

      The evening ends too abruptly
      Like a poem or a dream
      Not ready to finish
      We sneak our last words
      Give kisses
      Exchange convivialities
      And leave while the music still plays
      And while the words I wanted to know
      The primal litanies—
      Hang there in the air
      Clusters of an almost forbidden fruit
      Just out of reach
      And just ready to fall

    Wayne Martin

    Tucson, AZ

    I had to say goodbye to my dog Thursday morning. I held his head while he lay on a little blanket. When the vet injected the barbiturates into him his head immediately plopped into my hand and his spark left. I buried him in a grave I had already prepared, with the biggest rocks I could carry placed on top of it and a cross made of old wood from close by, in the open desert next to some small mesquite trees and not far from a coyote den.


      My dog's name is Cisco
      I found him on a street in Tucson
      In the Spring of 2008
      He was lost and lonely
      I knocked on doors in the neighborhood
      But no one was home
      So I took the puppy and walked home
      Carrying my new precious friend

      He grew and learned
      Crate training taught him to be housebroken
      Slaps on his nose taught him
      Not to jump up on everyone he met
      Grabbing his tongue when he licked me
      And holding on to it a few seconds
      Taught him not to lick people
      Those were the rules I made him learn

      I live one block from the desert
      And Cisco became my eager companion
      On our walks there
      One day in October 2009
      I tied him in the shade of a tree
      In a wash
      Where we stopped so I could meditate
      He didn't want to be tied up
      Straining on the leash
      And finally digging in the wash
      Sniffing the soil
      And caught Valley Fever

      His belly became distended
      And from looking like a small pit bull
      His spine revealed each vertebrae
      His chest revealed each rib
      And his abdomen grew into
      A tight huge ball like a filled-up balloon

      The vomiting and diarrhea began
      Now it is June 2010
      And in the last few weeks
      He has weakened
      But he looks at me
      With eyes sweetly and earnestly
      Requesting any show of love from me
      When I greet him

      When he dies part of me will die
      He will no longer chase rabbits
      Into the place where the cholla cactus grow
      Where sometimes he would stop
      And look to me for help
      With cholla balls in his nose or his legs

      He will not run toward the coyote
      Who looked at him
      And began running toward him
      That made him turn and run back to me

      He will not sleep with me
      In my desert camp
      Where we snuggled naked against each other

      His love will be hard to replace
      But I know that from my broken heart
      Will come a greater wisdom

      We do not want to let each other go
      And when he goes I will let
      A part of me go as well

      Last night we lay on an open sleeping bag
      In the front yard
      So I wouldn't have to clean up his vomit

      He came and licked me on the lips
      The rules forgotten in our love

    Chris Lovette

    Thank you for your creative offerings!

    I invite readers to share their own creative works (poems, stories, images, comment, etc.) in Letter Box On Line (LBOL). I look for work and comments I feel support understanding and encouragement of the creative process, and hence, the process of life.

    The Editor

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