Chad Sokolovsky

Chad Sokolovsky is a graduate of Modesto Junior College where he co-founded the Student Activist Club and served as its first president. He began writing political articles and editorials for MJCís Pirateís Log and Stanislaus Connections in 1999 and worked as a protest organizer and activist. Chad was inspired to begin writing poetry after reading the works of Gary Soto and Billy Collins while a student at MJC. He won several awards for his poetry in MJCís Celebration of the Humanities competition including a first place in 2001.
Since then Chad has had his poetry published in Quercus Review, Naked Knuckle, and Penumbra among others. His poetry reflects on the changing climate and culture of Stanislaus County and the Central Valley while drawing heavily on his own childhood experiences living in the Bay Area. ďAlthough I didnít grow up here, the Central Valley has always felt like home. I have always been overwhelmed by the sincerity and genuineness of Modesto.Ē
Chad obtained his BA from UC Berkeley in 2004 and currently divides his time between teaching his daughter, Mia, to play chess, performing slam poetry, and recording music.

Stanislaus County

I used to be addicted
to the crossword
and syrupy coffee
when I was single.
The avalanche of
raw sugar boulders
tumbling into a mug,
and watching old Jim
dump salt like hail
on poached eggs.

Someone started planting
tract homes over
almond-tree roots,
while the dust of old farm stories
still settled into the grease-grimed tables.
I used to pray back then,
before I fell for a girl
in a coffee-stained apron
and migrated to
a shoebox in Berkeley,

where no one
does the crossword
and coffee only comes
in a scalding paper cup;
where I canít forget
the 110 degree summers
building pallets in Ceres
and struggling to sleep
where the sidewalks
still blister at midnight.
 

First Time Homeowners

It seemed so quiet
during the March that rained
for thirty days,
water pooling in the corners
softening the asphalt, two by fours,
and the cracked concrete
wash basin no one could move,
only a distant hammer tacking
on metal and the occasional
blackbird barking out orders.

I donít know how to explain gravity
or the weight of shadows breathing
back and forth under the Mulberry tree,
why this house, or why in Modesto.
California was supposed to be the last
frontier, the edge of the West, the limit
of endless possibilities that eventually
had to retreat from the Bay Area
at low tide and ebb back
into Stanislaus County

where I could drive for hours
in any direction before even
reaching sea-level
and climb a little higher above
endless corn fields and almond
orchard dust hovering above
the valley suffocating everything.
I could look back and see
the forest of camphor trees
lining my street like infantry-men
passing the time playing cards
in their foxholes
one on the harmonica
and some scribbling out
love letters before the
next storm marches in
washing out any dreams of
ever making it back home.
 

Nostalgia Never Dreams in Color [June 6, 2004]

Every old man has a story.
August afternoons at the cannery
or mowing lawns for a nickel.
The Norman Rockwell type
often sit back in their
creaking wicker rockers
and reminisce about that
charcoal-colored morning
when bullets blanketed the beaches.

But America got Alzheimerís.
He forgot that he used to play dominoes
with the Shah and Batista
on Sundayís after church;
the good old days when
Yankee ingenuity showed
the Reds a thing or two.
But some days are slipping away.
America forgot when
he shook hands with Saddam
and the other September 11,
when Pinochet hijacked Santiago.

Heís losing all of it.
He canít remember the other kids
that only got hand-me-downs
and left-overs.
He canít see the ones
that never had a summer job
or the ones that never ran
their blistered hands
through freshly cut grass.
 

Texas

Iím barely coherent
in an art gallery in Texas,
trying to stumble through a wedding toast
after too many glasses of cheap cabernet.
The words blur together
and suddenly Iím trying to interpret
hieroglyphs etched in sandstone,
indecipherable.

I drift outside for a smoke,
and I stand reminded of Modesto,
like the reunion of old friends.

The Winter sun is hanging low,
blinding the freezing wood pile
thatís bleeding with rust from old nails.
Time is slow like Winter days, and
frost is beginning to blanket everything.

I expected expansive vistas
and everything to be big here.

Instead, the long drive
through Fort Worth felt like
the central valley, like highway 99
through Turlock;
only as exotic
as contemplating bullet holes
in the back of pick-up trucks,
and meticulous metal sculptures
crafted from old engine parts,
and one family playing God
in a ranch just outside of Crawford.
 

Thoughts on Faith

Iíll never forget
the suit jacket sleeves
that never quite fit,
loafers with a penny
tucked under the tongue,
and trying not to fall asleep
as my head gained
weight by the minute.
the cheap clip-on ties
that couldnít hang straight
never fooled anyone
or could convince us
that we shouldnít sneak
the junior miss underwear
catalogue into the bathroom.
I remember the first time
I lied and got away with it,
I imagined God taking note
when no one else noticed
and filing it in his dusty ledger
under the ďThings To DoĒ
column along with
finishing the platypus
and teaching
ostriches to fly.