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 Shelley Scott
Shelley Scott
Californian Poets Part 4: Five Poems
Shelley Scott



Shelley Scott

Shelley Scott took many poetry workshops throughout her academic career, studying with poets who included Carolyn Forché, Richard Hugo, and Colette Inez. She traveled extensively through Europe and parts of Brazil and in later years did volunteer work for the National Organization for Women.

In February 1981, Shelley was in a car accident that resulted in subsequent brain surgery and two years of rehabilitation. The event irrevocably changed her life. She stated that for the first time “I knew what it was like to suffer.”

The City Opened Like a Woman

—for Amy Smith

The city opened like a woman
I took her straight
rode the slender thigh of the highway
glowed flesh under fluorescent

On the streets she looked good
thumbed me down Santa Monica and Vine
her shawl of hair caught yellow neon
Tommy’s No. 5 fading

She hadn’t eaten three days
“A quarter, miss?” I flipped her 25
her face painted Kabuki white
blue dragon wings curved her eyes

Hung at the Zero Club
did lines one a.m. till dawn
took Laurel* numb I came so easy down
her canyon opened to the Valley

the city opened like a woman
and I took her

*Laurel Canyon running from Hollywood to the San
Fernando Valley

Six Months

Six months now
I’ve watched shadows streak
had my belly sucked
went sleepless for six nights
and watched my breasts
pale as moons
shrink to the bone
while you hitchhiked to L.A.
a ruby in your ear
poems folded in your back pocket
and never once did you look back.
Now I’m tired, hole gorged
I could
lie on your belly
stab your flesh with my hips
kiss the blood from over-ripe lips
I could
forget that I am a woman
bite your neck
drag my nails down your back
I could
let this body go.
I want out
no more these nights
vodka pure, gin bitter
no more this love
licking this knife
that bitch consumes me
she won’t let go
I wear teeth marks on my hand.
Six months
my heart in a coma
I’m a stand-up comic
a corpse with a smile
a vampire who rises at dusk.
I’ve had enough
there is no more.

Before the Crowd

—for Víctor Jara, Chilean folksinger killed after the overthrow of Allende

He stood before the crowd
blood jetted from his wrists
there was no pen on the table
where his hand lay
there was no paper beneath his fingers
he stood naked
bullets foamed, the people rose
heat rays in the dry, dead sun
the wind was red
the grass lay wet
fingers throbbed hot on steel
the people rose
glittering bayonets, voices cracked
women fell, the men twitched
he watched his people feed the earth


Finger to the wind
the cold of an early frost
my bones cracking
the creek freezes the hearts of fish
I feel the rise
knees, thighs, chest constricts
on my knees I circle the fire
eyes gold, hair bristling
behind me the mountains hulk
I swallow my spit, hiss in the dark.

We stood on the Left Bank
arched above us gargoyles grinned
if they smile for you
a spell is cast

we knelt on cobbled streets
incantations, le loup exist
candle low in your hands
a white flame seared our lips
wax melted into the sea.

You stare to the West
do not hear the waves
there is a drought in the Alps
first time in twenty years

from St. Jean
you send me pieces of snow
I want to tell you
my mouth glued, hands buttressed,
We met in Ostend
the sun low
a red sea pulsed
one white wave foamed
every hour the ships left
took pieces of me to California.

Now you say
from Firenze
the Statue of David grimaces
his marble chest shattered.

About Death

What I hate most
They never ask permission
Just die before you can say goodbye
And thanks for the love

You carry your grief
Nothin’ worse than leftover
Love used time’s up
No place in your heart
Second place love

No fillin’ that hole
No comin’ back

All the poems above except “About Death” (1994) are from Shelley Scott’s collection Peeling (Baltimore: The New Poets Series/Chestnut Hills Press, 1989). “Six Months” was published previously in the journal Images.