Rita Ferri and the Santa Barbara's current poet laureate, Chryss Yost, had a group of poets view paintings in the exhibit "Near and Far: County Parks" while it was hung at the Channing Peake Gallery. Poets chose a painting or two that spoke to them and wrote a poem on the paintings. At the most recent first Thursday, February 5, poets stood in front of the paintings chosen and read the poems aloud. The show now travels to Santa Maria.


Demeter’s Triolet
Poet Mary Brown responding to "Willows, Cachuma Lake"  by Anne Anderson

I’m trying to remember the songs of the ground,
how the willow spins it roots toward water
and raises a hum from a barren mound.
I’m trying to remember the songs of the ground,
but all I recall is my daughter
holding fast to his hand, slipping hell-bound.
I’m trying to remember the songs of the ground
how the willow spins its roots toward water.

My Mother as a Line of Willows at the Edge of a Lake
Poet Mary Brown responding to "Willows, Cachuma Lake"  by Anne Anderson

The way a woman steps into a bath,
hair upswept, legs blurring into water—

dark tracery of thinnest limbs;
reveal of underthings—

as if I’ve opened a door the moment
the towel slides to the floor,

the mother exposed to bones
after years of posing.

At the edge of a lake the trees—
their leaves and hues abstracting

the way skin slacks to gravity,
the way she does, and lives.

Poet Michelle Detorie, after Nancy Davidson

To hang your honeys on, blue
You took into your veins, blue
Point to point, blue
Golden needles, blue
in the scene washed with blue
and breathing the blue smoke of old blue distances

Your green heart is the dull blue click click
The sea-weave washed with blue
Eye glass of blue
Fur lit by static green
green spurned hoof-leafed and buds

Stone bone, blue ash, the blue cracks scattered -scarred
Blue heart where black wings covered
the green disc in the blue-green of the wing bars shining

Who cuts the green heat leaf in half
The open blue wound streak of blue flame and filled
with black wings, green sunsets, clusters of moons.

A white dog moves through the weeds, erasing them
The dirt blooms blue and gold where we used to close
the blue and green lacework – narrows unfurled across blue reaches
A concussion of where there were roses, red
was red for just a moment, in the blinding
gold dust light, shimmer-hived
tracery of coppery gold,  gold-lipped and shiny
mirrored in a sea of blue
and gold flicked tongues telling time

Down the center of the bed is a reddish scar
an orange-red flock, red-zipped
for the wet green and the green and the wet and the balm

A black surface reflecting the golden air
not newly, slit red and tangling the green plumes
Whitethroats washed away the blue years
Black swimming all by itself


Big Rocks in Toro Canyon Park
Poet Lois Klein after John Rindlaub

Like a gray whale surfacing,
it rises to claim the land,
this granite dome in a sea of grass.

For years this rock was a magnet
to my three young children.
Picnic basket ignored, they tumbled
from our car, raced up the path
to gaze at its enormity, a mountain to them—
an irresistible challenge.

I held my breath as three pairs
of tennis shoes assailed the slope, gripped
thin fissures in the rock's smooth face,
slipped, found new foothold, inched upward
to the very top.

A decade later, in the park's blacktop
expanse, on quiet weekday afternoons
I taught my eager teens to drive.
No other soul under that blue sky
no other cars with which to collide—

I watched as they began to climb
the mountain of their own lives.

Sunset from Rincon
Poet Perie Longo (with help and inspiration of her son Dana Longo)
after Jane Hurd

At first you’re drawn to the sun haloing the mountains
turned shades of indigo slipping into the sea
with the ease of any surfer,

and note the rim of trees on top of the cliff,
the sea’s swoop into the classic cove,
this view the highlight of Rincon,

but for surfers, day’s end is only a pause
until they’re back at Indicator, the tip of the point,
where the sets break first, my son explains.

Moving down the coast there’s Rivermouth,
the Top of the Cove, then the Cove. For surfers,
let’s say Rincon is Shangri-La, the hook

for generations to gather, group with family and friends,
pit themselves in contest against each other,
tell stories that grow long like the waves themselves—

the heaviest one, the one that curled around
and spit you out, could have crushed you,
the one you’re still riding.

At trail’s end where tossed rocks shimmer
away from daily clamor, the only call to answer
is that swell of water—to catch it,

let the wave’s power fly you, reach wide and far until
you head out again, that glow, like in the painting,
yours for keeps.


Poet Christine Penko, after “Shacks at the Beach,” by Daniel Linz

Thrown by palm trees and pineapple-yellow roofs, I mistook Jalama  
for a beach in the Bahamas.
Never having been there, it could be anywhere. . .

Like Al Jalama, around since the Crusades. Just a little place on a windswept
stretch of sand, Al Jalama, Arabic for “the heap” where Israeli
military expelled the whole people.  

Closer to home, a Chumash village once called Xalam, meaning “bundle”.
Natives lived there a millennia. Now it’s Jalama,
a beach in Santa Barbara. A gusty curve on the coast few know of. . .

Jalama. A rare name. I discover only twelve families share it, their origins unknown—
as though the Jalamas were blown by an errant wind—
like the gale racing across the painter’s canvas, sky

smearing into mountains, ocean, palm trees, like the wind that roared
through a deserted heap named Al Jalama, an abandoned bundle called Xalam.
The same howling, scouring wind.

Three by Two
Poet John Ridland after Florence O. Russell and Libby Smith

1. “Blue Rock” by Florence O. Russell (Slide #80?)

Hopping boulder-to-boulder-to-boulder,
Upstream or downstream without stopping,
Is not how Florence O. Russell follows
The darks and lights of deeps and shallows.
She calls this view of them, “Blue Rock.”
But all these rocks are shades of brown?
Or no, look: down at the lower right,
Those two big boulders, yoked like oxen
To pull the landscape into the stream,
Under their highwater marks
See how blue lurks.

2 & 3. “Goleta Pier” by Libby Smith (Slides 51 & 52)

Now if it’s blues you’re after, try
“Goleta Pier” by Libby Smith.
Blue’s what you’ll covet––and covet twice,
“Morning” and ”Afternoon”––making a fine
Distinction. In both, the Blue may be marine,
But morning light shines in some green
From Eastward, while under the pier
Is all one shadow. In “Afternoon”
The pilings split apart into our sight.
And we conclude that Water would appear
As much her subject as the Goleta Pier.

Under The Bridge
Poet Sojourner Kincaid Rolle after Don Crocker
Dedicated to my friend and sister of the soul Linda McCall

The shadows seem to murmur,
"do not disturb"
This is a grotto of solitude -
a dome of serenity

There is more here than the
Casual glance can procure.

Flashes of life sparkle
Like an autumn collage
in a Monet pond.

It is a place of peace
and remembrance.

A place of audacity
and hope.

Gaze, for awhile
into the swirl of water
golden sunlight beckoning,
Inviting one last look.
Linger in the dark spaces.
The space between now and then

Lift your eyes to the standing trees
Among the smooth taupe rocks
Each a conglomeration –
a mélange of life encountered

A silent observer to the passage of time.

As the water begins its slow eddy
Reflections dancing in the swaggering pond
The ritual begins
One to tell
One to be told
One to hear
One to be heard
One to witness
One to keep the passage of time

Here the unspeakable
can be whispered.

In response to, “Along the Coast”
Poet Linda Saccoccio after Larry Iwerks

Sparing paring of cliffs
white toothed legends
reflected in speechless slew
while dark graying mothers
hold sentinel, watching
above the edge
backlit warm fleece clouds, cover
a touch of aquamarine
a grace of timid gold


In response to, “Forest of Delights”
Poet Linda Saccoccio after Meg Ricks

Putty pulls you to the ground
Lets you roll on quiet earth
dotted and shaded with blue water light
simultaneously warm and cool
ocher slathered creamy rich
cashew fields, a soup garnished
kale chaparral and
broccoli bunched trees
swirling dreams
a slate blue peak arises, captain of the
while regal Venetian red beats
a sincere heart
naked delight of flesh
The mother’s soul
stilled by a Tibetan blue sky

Early Morning Sonnet
Poet Emma Trelles after Suzan Dougall Christenson

Now wakes a path between the oaks, now
falls a spell of dove and frog, and stones
dream of their mountain clans and each stick
breaks to hear its name. Now light edges creek
and water appears as a quick coin trick or
silk pulled from a funnel of months, now
behind us, at last, and shade and sky fill
the mirror moving from next to next. Now
do you see there is no stillness to this
world, even in sleep a seed is knitting
its reach to the sun and the body hums
on the march to becoming less, and right
now, words arrive then depart like a brush
returning to a well of color.

Entering at Dusk
Poet George Yatchisin after Cheryl Fontana’s “Entering at Dusk”

The palms carve a cage of the sunset,
something elegant, frightening, wanted,
night and its trumped-up excuses.
The frame can’t be long enough
to hold enough and what we can’t see
beyond enough. I mean we know the moon
wills waves into being, but that’s just
science and smarts don’t help here.
Not with the clouds crashing like
a theater curtain, but an act too soon,
three sculls like something holy headed
into a last slip of sun, which will disappear
like any promise, I promise. We want
so much from day but forget more, so set,
sun, the trees have their dark to hold,
the water its cold to rise, boats need to berth.

The Shank of the Day
Poet Chryss Yost after “Goleta Beach: Shank of the Day,” by Nancy Freeman
This story begins with low sun and low tide. Shadows pulled out on the sand, paper across a butcher’s slab.
Evening is basted in blue. This is the story my dog tells himself, of shadow wolf run wild
Shadow me, lanky monolith— a dam daring the ocean to rise calling the cuttlefish up to ink the earth.
Massive enough for multitudes. Shadow me, sisters, the day is shifting. If I keep walking into my shadow what will keep us apart after this? Every wave a tide, breathing, every day a life’s worth of effort. Trudging calloused gritty soles. There are no little cat feet now. The ocean says the day is done
and the dog says good riddance, his jaws’ fierce appetite and stretch of feathered tail swooping over sand
with the foaming tide and darkness snarling over who will get us first.


Beachside Burlesque
Poet Chryss Yost after “Goleta Beached,” by Nina Warner

Shameless little craft,
lousy now with sand crabs,
flashing your barnacles
without the sense to hide your hull
and keep your keel in the water.


AuthorCyndi Burt