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Shelby Graham

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Barbara Bloom

After Moving North

Trying to learn a new mountain from my window,
I’m back to another move north, over fifty years ago,
and looking through the wavy glass
in my attic room at Galley Bay:
the big cedar tree outside and a patch of Desolation Sound
if you leaned forward just right, and the grey
of that first winter there seeping in, the dark.

I’m wondering how it was for my mother,
younger then than I am now.  There she was,
with her three children, near the ocean she feared,
no money, her husband gone back
to California to work.  No tears:
she told us to fill the woodbox,
coaxed the oven to the magical 350,
then slid in the loaves of whole wheat bread.

Her solace was to create sustenance
from the stores in the pantry, to fill the house
with the smells of baking bread—
not taking time
to stare out to the unknown mountains
and make them her own.
I see her swiping a lock of hair from her eyes,
checking the oven temperature.
With her bare hand, she opens up the firebox
to poke in one more stick of wood.



My landlord wants to sell the house
where I’ve lived for twenty-five years—
and like a crack in granite started by rain,
then expanding as the water chills to ice,
the sense of no solid home
has pushed open inside me.

When I complain to my friend, telling her
how I picked up a bag of daffodil bulbs in Costco,
put them in my cart, then put them back
because maybe I’ll be gone by spring,
she says, Buy the bulbs!
After all, a meteor could hit the Earth
at any time. You could be sitting in your house
thinking you’ve got everything figured out,
and it could come right through the roof!

Go back and get them!

While we’re talking, three acorn woodpeckers
flash through the California walnut trees.
They squabble over who perches where
before quieting down.

I think again of that granite rock.
Often, in those cracks, over time, flowers
will take hold, finding enough sustenance
to nourish them through the short Alpine summer—
phlox, Indian paintbrush, the silvery-leaved sky lupine.


Salal Picking

      for my brother

The sword ferns drenched our jeans
as we pushed our way into the salal thickets.
The loppers we’d brought from the orchard shed
chewed up the tough stems of the plants,
but we kept at it until the light was gone.

It was our family’s first year at Galley Bay,
a thousand miles from the life we’d known.
If only we had a little money, maybe
the long nights, lit only by kerosene lanterns,
would be  more bearable.

 As we made our way back home,
arms loaded with the wet, stiff leaves,
we talked about what we might buy with our earnings.
Books, tools, clothes—all the glitter
of a world we no longer belonged to.

But the next day, after the two-hour trip in our boat
to the closest town, the florist told us
the black spots on the leaves made them worthless.  

We went outside, threw them all into a dumpster. 
How was this any different
from our childish hopes of getting rich selling lemonade
or finding a rare penny in a handful of change?

Nothing was ever going to be easy here. 
The waves slapping against the hull said,
You just can’t get it right.
Who are you to have such hopes? 
The wind chilled our chapped hands.
The grey sky pressed down
as we steered the boat home.


Barbara Bloom, a longtime Cabrillo College English instructor,
grew up on a remote coastal homestead in British Columbia, Canada, came to Santa Cruz to attend UCSC, and lived here for over forty years.  She recently moved to Bellingham, Washington, and, though she misses the sun and all of you, has found much to love there.  Her first full-length collection of poems, On the Water Meridian, was published by Hummingbird Press in 2007.  A second book of poems, Pulling Down the Heavens, will be published in Fall of 2017.

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Barbara Bloom

Featured Artist
Shelby Graham


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