Poems by Perie Longo
Perie Longo, Poet Laureate Emerita (2007-2009) of Santa Barbara, California, has published five books of poetry: Milking The Earth (1986), The Privacy Of Wind (1997), With Nothing behind but Sky: a journey through grief (2006), Baggage Claim (2014) and (1984-2014) and A Mosaic of Poetry (2013), an eBook of poetry for children (Lucky Penny Press). Her poems have been published in several journals, anthologies and texts including Askew Atlanta Review, Connecticut Review, International Poetry Review, Miramar Magazine, The Mochila Review, Nimrod, Passager, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Prairie Schooner, Quiddity, Rattle, Solo Novo,and Wisconsin Review. She has been Poet-in-Residence in many local schools through the California-Poets-in-the-Schools (CPITS.org) program (1984-2014), and is on the staff for the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference for over twenty-five years. Poetry chair for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, in 2005 she was invited by the University of Kuwait to speak on Poetry as a way to Peace and to give workshops. As a psychotherapist, she integrates poetry writing for healing, was president of the National Association for Poetry Therapy (2005-07), and mentors those seeking credentialing in that field. She currently runs writing groups for Hospice and Sanctuary Centers of Santa Barbara.
When the world blinds you with its glare and din
to the goodness that is your life, there’s still
the lake of childhood at the end
of an unmarked road, say in Minocqua or Wausau,
names that send you leaping
from the wood slat pier into the lap of water.
Armor cast aside, limbs unfold. You glide mindless
in rhythm with minnow and blue gills,
slip between lily pads with their slick winged leaves
offering the lotus. Eye to eye, your breath
mingles with bubbles rising from roots deep in mud.
Lost years drift past as you float, no need to fret
or grasp, as if you could, the music of what lasts—
feather-song, brush of reeds— carrying you along.
You might be confused today about
the overall purpose of your soul.
Along comes the wind. She can’t meditate.
The sky keeps moving.
A large shadow passing over with a roar
turns out not to be a jet, but a great heron
with similar wing span sailed in from a fire
farther South. It settles on her roof
overlooking the field out back and shrieks.
Its large eye swallows her.
Is she about to die?
She remembers reading that prayer
is looking for God who’s everywhere.
Hi God, she says looking the bird in the eye.
May I come in? the bird rasps.
Smoke fills the air. It doesn’t look good.
There’s not enough room, she says,
feeling like the innkeeper on Christmas Eve.
Didn’t she also read heron was a good omen
for a wise, deceased person? or those pursuing hunt?
Just a minute she says and runs for her camera.
Turned down, Heron will have none of it,
on her return already waddling off across the field.
She follows, unsure that’s her soul’s purpose,
though heart does a sort of can-can
musing it’s so easy to go off course.
after painting “Morning Mist” by Katie Flagan
He lay on the plain of his bed, paralyzed,
memory stolen by disease, without vision half his life.
We’re speaking about loss.
He asks what it looks like where he now lives.
I describe land that lifts us from grief,
that might be destroyed for a purge of oil,
then where would we be? just another place gone gray.
I describe our foothills filled with joy
being hills, wing curved as far as you can see
etched with morning gold, all pitch and thrust
like the seas he’d once ridden
in the far distance. And greenest trees, groves
of oak nestled in the folds of earth’s nurturing flesh.
As if you are hawk on the glide, you see
a hopscotch of shadows creating a larger beauty,
no argument about who’s best, not running
from each other. They know their time is short,
that they’ll become something else. He nods.
Layers of color draw your attention
from tan sand dunes out to sea where islands
rise purple in the mist to a wash of blue sky.
His rigid body quivers in a rumple of yellow, speaks
of a time he could run like the sun, his hand reaching out
to catch a ball or touch an arrow of light, whispers—
sometimes he senses shadows just above his head.
© Perie Longo