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Holaday Mason: Californian Poets Part 6, Four Poems

Holaday Mason

October 18th, 2023

California Poets: Part VI

Holaday Mason

Five Poems

The Earth then Sealed


We fly above a patchwork cloaked with purple

wildfire smoke, topographies erased.

We fly over the flat plains to the breadbasket

belly where rivers once flowed before the sky

froze, dried the earth then sealed it,

eyes sewn shut, soil blown off

in the terrors of our new weather.

We fly over the land where my parents

courted (what is that town down there?)

as if the Will you marry me myth magically

transforms to the lasting stewardship of love.

We fly over the blue ridge, the protest dirges

of coal miner bones reaching up deep shafts,

where corporate opium ripped my brother from this world.

We fly over my beloved’s mother, sealed in

a carriage house of survival, those places we store

our elders while they wait for their Big Moment.

We fly over what’s seen & forgotten ¾

Lake Erie, the shriveled blue of a failed

essential organ masked under evaporation fogs.

We fly above highways & train tracks, every

crossroad marked with skulls & bones ¾

the dinosaur teeth of untamed lands long gone.

We fly through cloud-houses above violence

where every town is starved for rain.

Some believed it was theirs to claim, trees

& boulders trapped inside of barbwire cages.

We fly over our ancestral graves. Over our own

spectral lives. We stare out the windows

& wish to fly backwards, searching

for any point, we could turn it around.

But no one can locate the drop-offs, the exits.

So we wait for the Big Moment together.

We will not have to wait long.


Cloaked in

purple wildfire smoke,

we forget the exits,

stare out the windows

at cloud houses of survival

marked by teeth.

Some wanted every inch.

Empathy Drawn on Asphalt


This must be how mother felt—

a small, fragile world of swollen legs,

fissures in vertebra, crumbled cervical,

thoracic, coccyx, osteo landslide

dissolved to the lowest point of gravity,

the unclear vision, waking up to hillocks of flesh static within

her mountain home, stratus clouds

heavily clinging to topsoil, veils over

the view of the elaborate tulle of the sea.

This must be how mother felt

and envious too at times, with her unfulfilled visions

of families at tables with fat turkeys,

board games, candles splashing

homey light, domestically happy

without the static distances

of long-brewed anger, resentments,

the injuries & subtle struggles for control.

And perhaps this is how she felt

as my brother, still just a child,

stared at her body with jeering

disgust, maybe a smokescreen

for longing or lust, but sneering

nonetheless at her shape, her skin,

her varicose veins, backlogged canals

of blood tattoos she bore from carrying,

first him (then me) ¾ my sole sibling,

who died alone in West Virginia

in a trailer park, transformed by death

to an oxycodone pool of jelly on the floor,

twenty guns in the safe, surrounded

by the unseen, unshared tenderness

of his own exquisite art.

My morning this morning might echo

one of mother’s, waking bewildered,

altered, vulnerable as an infant solo

in a crib, slowly unclutching legs,

knees, hips, ten fingers, scanning

memory’s inventory, to recall how once

in angry impatience I’d grabbed her wrist

too hard as she’d tried to turn the stubborn

knob of my old gas stove—her arm

like a thin neck, delicate as a baby bird.

This must be how my mother felt

when she learned she’d go deaf,

the same quiet chill I felt when my third surgeon’s face fell as he surveyed the x-rays,

then me sitting on his table in my firm

young yogini limbs, with no clue at all

of the distance between an idea & real life.

This must be how mother felt

walking the woods on her island,

each hard step of my slow pace downhill

a souvenir of her steps as my morning course

is crossed by cheerful tan runners swarming

past in packs, then two young men

with their new digital cameras sneaking

a shot—because, sure, I’m curious

with my black oak cane, oversized hat,

red lipstick, slight limp, with my long white hair,

always looking down to watch where I’m going—

of course, they had to sneak a few shots,

to which I had to say, I know you’ve just stolen

my image & they try to explain, but I already get it,

so don’t demand a deletion, because yes,

he could destroy the shot, but the action

can’t be reversed or returned as I can never restore

her to me, to brush her hair, make chamomile tea,

scramble her eggs & tell her at least

one last time, I am so very,

so very, very sorry.


This vision

is a blood tattoo.

In the distance the point of gravity is a


an x-ray.

Oh souvenir, oh baby bird,

echo the quiet chill of the real life

I can never restore.

Talking to Ashes


They are golden so it must be tomorrow.

Under a tree full of dreamcatchers,

the drought cracked oaks in Topanga ¾

Oregon suffocating in smoke as

hydrangeas and birches burn.

The trees are uncorrupted in union,

in communion/interspecies, carbon-fed,

with sunlight they give birth to violins.

While four chainsaws tear the tall eucalyptus

across the street to rags, my index & ring

fingers bend over my thumb like a mother

protecting a babe, a gesture had been my mother’s.

The last of the family line, I carry the horned

spine of my grandmother’s bundle so I live

in both under & over worlds where signals

travel from root to root, netting the globe.

Debris flies the way grasshoppers do. Sawdust

coats the sunlight like the marigold blooms

covering graves on the Day of the Dead, those

destiny candles that shine signals back & forth

between all the departed. So, I ask them

to remember me, show me the way,

when I too return to the entrance.


Netting the globe,

signals travel

back & forth


cracked oaks,



all the departed.

They are golden.

It must be


No One Dreams We Are on Fire


Alive & cold, wet grass, stones

on our feet, we take up

our journals of smoke.

Another war because someone

wants what others have.

Snakes shimmer up my arms

as I try by firelight to resume the exam

in the face of so much gore,

someone wants to paint the stars black.

None of us can correctly

imagine what other lives are like.

Even thousands of miles away

the trees smell blood, try to warn us.

The chronicles stammer on.

The day. The date. The year.

The last of the moon lies on her back

tethered helplessly to the sun.

Our outlines smear

each other into dust.

Your hands are made of every husband.

Clasped together, our hands

are made of everyone.


The trees smell blood.

The journals of smoke


onto the last

of the moon.

Your hands shimmer.

The Glassy Substance of Morning

She is opening the tent now.

She is stepping into the multicolored

postcard she received when waking¾

contrails written in dreams

ready for midsummer.

Something submerged rises like

a scratched polaroid of twin children

tied together in pastel bows—is that

a boy or a girl or a boy or a bird,

or a swarm of bees aroused &

congregating on hibiscus blooms

orange as life rafts? The morning

engines go on & off & as if in tandem,

the huge horizontal daylight opens

in an envelope. She unzips herself

for the duration, pulls her helmet

off, watches the windows brightly

commune with slices of blue

as though they’re plates serving

pretty portions of the sky to the sky.

Author Bio:

Holaday Mason is author of five books of poetry¾ Towards the Forest, Dissolve, The Red Bowl: A Fable in Poems, The “She” Series: A Venice Correspondence (with Sarah Maclay), The Weaver’s Body and two chapbooks—Interlude & Light Spilling From its Own Cup. Her newest collection, We’re a Long Time Dead will be published by Giant Claw Press in 2024. Nominated for several Pushcarts, widely published in journals such as Hotel Amerika, Spillway, Pool, Poetry International & others, she is also a photographer focusing on the beauty of aging. In private practice as a psychotherapist since 1993, she lives in Venice California with the flocks of wild green parrots, a mean ass cat named Ms. T.T. (AKA Ms. Twirly Tail) a big ole’ hound called Chewie & her husband, the musician & educator Adrian Baer (#jellybirdla). She can be found at #holadaymasonphotography or #holadaymason or


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