Finding community through poetry


“Poetry must be fed and nurtured. The muse always brings new whispers. There is a weaving that seems to go on as I open myself to poetry and this includes not only words and ideas but lives that intermingle, grow together.” — Karen Baker

Sharing poetry with others opens up avenues of understanding. For me this process started about 16 years ago when some friends gathered to form a small writing group. We had all been writing on our own, but the next natural step presented itself, actually at a planning meeting for Earth Day, and we met and shared our writing with each other. The experience of hearing what others wrote and being heard was heartening. This group still meets with several of the original members and some new people.

At present I find myself in four writing groups, each with its own unique composition and way of being together. I have shared writing with the Licensed Fools since the mid 90s, have more recently written with Another Writing Group. I also write with members of a dream study group composed of writers. We are using the book Dreams and Inward Journeys by Margaret and Jon Ford. I stumbled upon this book in a Modesto thrift shop.

My first chapbook, Vocal Exercises in Stone, was published in the spring of 2004 by Rattlesnake Press (, run by Kathy Kieth who has given workshops in the Central Valley and has published poetry by many Modesto area adults and children.

I have crossed the country with my life... born on Staten Island, grown up in Rockford, Illinois, schooled in Iowa, and transplanted to California. My husband, Ron and I have lived in Modesto since the early seventies. As my three children were growing up here, I participated in their community as a Girl Scout leader and a volunteer at Fremont Open Plan, an alternative school within Modesto City Schools.

Recently, the process of sharing poetry has expanded for me as I became a co-editor of the poetry journal hardpan, with co-editors Gordon Preston and debee loyd. We are gathering voices from all over the valley, from Bakersfield to Redding, and have included established, published poets and new voices, a few of them high school students. It is a joy to bring wonderful poetry to the valley, and we welcome submissions and subscriptions at hardpan, P.O. Box 1065, Modesto, CA 95353, or

Plea from a Burning Bush
(after an inspiration by Karin Forno)

Please take care of the night
Be gentle when you cannot see
Make a path, however tentative
Don’t let the branches you have cleared
Snap back on others
Look for clearings to build fires
For warmth and light
Do not burn down the forest
Know that you are not alone
Whenever you seem lost
Find your way back to the mountain

The Freeway

It’s true
I envy geese
when stuck on 99
in slow concrete lanes

their freedom
of instinctual engineering
the grace of wings

no one tickets them
nor offers diagnosis
of ADD or possible addiction

their traveler’s courtesy
offers the lead to others
without fight or reservation

geese draw no flight plans
yet reach their goals
in marvels of geometry

while our best human plans
may leave us like cows
in permanent pens

grazing fenced pastures
however green the grass

Pearled Soul

Pearled soul,
Layered, opaque,
Brine born.
Mother, open your
Oyster mouth!

Jet stream consciousness,
Imitation clouds
Zipper my sky.

Fuel gauge:
Quarter tank

In diligence we fall upon ourselves.
In grace we catch our footing.
I am blind to that old irritation.
I sit eating almonds, eye shaped.

Biggest influence this week:
Cornel West
In discussions with Dostoyevsky,
Carrying Ruskin to desert islands.

Fuel gauge:
Nearly full

The laboratory bends glass
Into ideas,
Recognizes the most useful truth,
Seizes it, white coated.

Fuel gauge:
Useless at light speed

First published in A Common Book of Fools, Licensed Fools Anthology, 2002

Truth is a Shiver

Truth is a shiver.
I knew it that night.
Black words written
on the twilight sky
bleed out of their boldness,
marble and mix.
Political attitudes
fertilize the airwaves,
blend and smear.
Did you hear me agree,
recognize your unspoken voice
whispering below the rhetoric?
Did you see me, suddenly cold,
slip on my red worsted sweater,
fiddle with a pulled thread?

Previously published in chapbook, Vocal Exercises in Stone, Rattlesnake Press, 2004



enter through the fog:

valley’s veil

listen for voices turning into


something needs to go right

people moving in         not many leaving

I will buy a Silverado
to drive into the moon

snatches of sanity         beam like halos

on the well worn free way