Live Encounters Poetry & Writing, Volume One, December 2020.
Perie Longo, Poet Laureate of Santa Barbara, California (2007-2009, 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 A Mosaic of Poetry (2013), an eBook of poetry for children. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies 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 taught poetry in local schools through the California-Poets-in-the-Schools (1984-2014), and is on the staff of the annual Santa Barbara Writers Conference. 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. As a psychotherapist, she integrates poetry reading and writing for healing.
Hummingbird Late Night
…Some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor. – Rumi
I step on the porch hearing a slapping against
the stucco—click on the light, dodge
a hummingbird’s whizz trapped beneath
the porch’s wide overhang.
I consider the bird’s low swoop, perhaps shaman
bearing magic. My husband paying visit
from on high? My daughter checks her iPhone: hummers
seek only sky…mount something red beyond.
In-out we race frantic as the bird in our desire
to save him, as we could not her father.
She slips her red hat, with sparkles that flicker,
over a broom, presses it into the ground.
I place red impatiens beneath with sugar water
to lure him from the high lamp where exhausted,
he clings for life. Last look, he’s a fist
of feathers, collapsed behind the Ficus.
“There, there,” I hum, point to the tree tops, the moon,
pray nature intervene. Past midnight,
I can’t help peeking. No trace, not even a feather.
I enter the sky, full winged.
I’m holding my last indestructible plastic bag,
banned for the rest of our natural lives,
one of billions that could kill dolphins and turtles,
bury us all in graves of convenience. I remember
my mother’s job as a part time bag checker,
basement of Gimbels department store
just after World War II—years before plastic bags.
Making-do, she called it, some extra pennies
for mittens and socks, maybe a candy bar if we behaved.
“I caught two,” she’d brag, shoplifters sneaking off
with pilfered goods. This bag I’m saving
for a rainy day, a souvenir I wave like a culprit
with a little snap. In the film, American Beauty,
such a bag lifted in the breeze dancing
like Margot Fonteyn along the rim of a curb,
up a flight of stairs with the grace of a swan
like my mother’s hand as she lay dying.
I tried to take hold of it, floating, pulling away
in the empty air, finished, unfettered.
Unwalking the Black Cat During Covid
The one crossing my path outside
past the planter box of red geraniums.
I’m wiping down the groceries
should the corona virus crown me.
You can’t be too careful at my age,
so I begin backstepping, unwalking cat’s slink
in the Lysol scented air, bananas and grapes
floating in a sink of soap. It’s an Irish thing,
hands covering the eyes to unsee what you saw,
unwinding the clock, which makes sense
to me curious where the day went
at bedtime when I unnews the news.
Since quarantine, the top of my head has blown,
turned snow, yet the cat bears not one whisk.
Her stride uncolored me. Have I fallen
for an old conspiracy? Remember that Celts
say these cats, bless their unblinking stare,
also bring good fortune if you will,
love and good health
at the stroke of twelve,
or before if you cast your spell right. I step
outside to undo what plagues, retrace
her steps forward calling here kitty kitty,
come back. Find her in a whirl of dust
in the field out back
Zane at Two
Four days old, he scowled
at the princess crown
his two sisters decked him with,
eyes rolled up with a
here we go look into this life
that might be trouble.
Right away, cars became
his thing—feeling their power
to get you places beyond
a house full of tutus.
Every chance he has, he crawls
behind the wheel
of his parent’s car, checks
right, then left, saying
Go! Go! Soon as I give him
a book of TRUCKS emblazoned
with gold letters
it’s the only one he wants,
runs his fingers over
their pictures—the treads
and spokes, axles,
wraps his tongue around
car transporter, excavator,
bulldozer. Last night
I watched him on his back
rolling the tiny fire
and garbage trucks over
his pudgy cheeks, humming
truck truck truck.
Like that glistening drop
of rain at the tip
of a pine needle flung
across the hedge
whose name escapes me
like the meaning of many things
like remembering what’s to be done
in the middle of what’s going on here
before day’s end
or the world’s
my mind flung as the needle
in the storm clings
to the fact, unaltered,
that truth is a beautiful thing
the poem’s aim and mine,
sealed for keeps that holds me
so I won’t fall away from the edge
where we find ourselves in a rage
leaving too many stranded
no way back home.