Part 4 Contributors


Tony Barnstone
Willis Barnstone
Ellen Bass
Christopher Buckley
Neeli Cherkovski
Boris Dralyuk
Alicia Elkort
Mary Fitzpatrick
Michael C. Ford
Kate Gale
Frank X. Gaspar
Dana Gioia
Shotsie Gorman
S.A. Griffin
Donna Hilbert
Brenda Hillman
Glenna Luschei
Phoebe MacAdams
devorah major
Clive Matson
K. Silem Mohammad
Rusty Morrison
Harry Northup
Holly Prado Northup - In Memoriam
Cathie Sandstrom
Shelley Scott - In Memoriam
Daniel Shapiro
Mike Sonksen
Pam Ward
Sholeh Wolpe
Gary Young
Mariano Zaro

Part 1 Contributors

Rae Armantrout
Bart Edelman
David Garyan
Suzanne Lummis
Glenna Luschei
Bill Mohr
D. A. Powell
Amy Uyematsu
Paul Vangelisti
Charles Harper Webb
Bruce Willard
Gail Wronsky

Part 2 Contributors

Elena Karina Byrne
liz gonzález
Grant Hier
Lois P. Jones
Ron Koertge
Glenna Luschei
Rooja Mohassessy
Susan Rogers
Patty Seyburn
Maw Shein Win
Kim Shuck
Lynne Thompson
Carine Topal
Cecilia Woloch

Part 3 Contributors

Michelle Bitting
Laurel Ann Bogen
Laure-Anne Bosselaar
Lucille Lang Day
Corrinne Clegg Hales
Marsha De La O
Charles Jensen
Eloise Klein Healy
Glenna Luschei
Clint Margrave
Henry Morro
Alexis Rhone Fancher
Phil Taggart
David L. Ulin
Jonathan Yungkans
Lorene Zarou-Zouzounis

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Click to enlarge picture Cathie Sandstrom
Cathie Sandstrom
Californian Poets Part 4: Five Poems
Cathie Sandstrom



This Wasn’t Always a Desert

Amargosa River Basin—only ten years ago
these brittle salt-crusted flats east of Death Valley
were muddy wetlands. Now so saline, so alkaline,

even the Amargosa niterwort is giving up.

Four inches high, a tiny star of five pink petals
and five stamens surround one fleshy ovary.
Inside: one seed—if lucky botanists find the plants.

Luckier still, and the seed might be viable. Few are.

The Northern Mojave has never been drier.
The Amargosa river runs underground here
before it drops beneath Death Valley.

Upstream, the land drained, farmed, mined, sold, pumped dry.

Break through the white-crystalled soil. See the wort’s rhizomes
—the creeping rootstock that creates a colony, sends
new growth, stores food—withered, alkali-scorched.

Does this remind you of anything?


              In 2015, the Oxford Junior Dictionary cut forty common words, all relative
                to the Natural world, replacing them with terms of the virtual world.

Willow    Minnow   Mussel   Lark

Acorn    Adder   Otter   Fern
Not used enough to merit an entry.

Singled out for loss—Raven.

                I have to build,
                the sculptor says,
                what I need

                to protect
                these wax creatures
                I keep bringing
                into the world.

                His Orpheus series,
                each one expressing
                the metaphor slightly

Why we need
starling, wren.

I lie awake, worry about
linnet, fen, hallow.


Plain as the panes in a penniless
chapel, this room’s four panels
of diamond-patterned leaded glass

streaked yellow-green as if
two colors of molten glass were
poured together and unstirred.

On this September afternoon
for over an hour they glow warm
and rich as saffron, pour light

onto a quartet of bronzes
each centered before a panel.
Primal as gods: the four elements—

Fire, Earth, Air and Water—
dark against the glass until
that liquid hour when the sun

re-enacts the crucible’s flow.
Come from fire, in shadow they hold
cold secrets. But backlit and warmed,

they speak of alchemic power:
base material refined to bridge
the body’s core to pure spirit.

This Thin Line of the Present

where past and future confront
each other is the threshold of all else—

every learned or felt thing. It all
happens here: the inner and outer

vying for balance as this line advances
relentlessly toward the unknowable

while the past—part refugee, part
asylum seeker—hauls behind

its bundles of memory and circumstance.
The task of refining takes place here

in this narrow, but expandable, present:
the dark prima materia of our lives

transformed into a lantern held high
to illuminate one step     then the next

Winged Messenger

A pair of red-tailed hawks ride the thermals
from the valley floor up the face of this hillside.

My mind, swept clear of all intention, follows
their turning gyre, spiral in the sky. They climb

the wind, sail without effort on a stream
of energy that Nature, in her generosity, provides.

A sign from the spirit world—
intuition awakening insight.

Hawks, lend me your keen-eyed vision: whole
sight flowing into sharper focus. Let me

also soar, trusting the wind under my going,
borne up by the ways we connect.

As you and I step off the precipice of the known, you,
love, in passing, lay a feather on the page I’m writing.