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liz gonzález: California Poets Part 2, Four Poems

liz gonzález

February 23rd, 2021

California Poets: Part II

liz gonzález

Four Poems

Ritual for Cold, Humid Mornings

The rain cloud swelling inside your skull wakes you

before the alarm. Breathe. Unclench your jaw. Slip

your fingers under the fleece beanie and rub the

tender spots on your scalp. Pop one OTC anodyne.

Pray you won’t need more. Finish the glass of water

on the nightstand. Slow motion shuffle to the kitchen

for a migraine antidote breakfast. A jumbo cup of half

caf, half decaf instant coffee. Inhale the steam to melt

the mist in your head. Stir blueberries, walnuts,

and chia seeds into a bowl of goat yogurt. Swallow

two turmeric capsules. The TV’s hum soothes

as you breathe, unclench, rub, and wait for the sun

to vaporize the gloom. Finally, the ache shrinks enough

so you can get dressed, feed the pets, make the bed,

wash the dishes. By noon, you roll out the Prince purple

yoga mat on the strip of weed lawn between the palm

fronds flapping like crows and the bed of yellow, sunset

orange, and aromatic lavender roses. Bees buzz

around the blossoms, too busy powdering themselves

to bother with you. Breathe. Unclench. Stretch

into downward dog, careful not to kick the tortie cat

crouched on the edge of the mat. Warn the swallowtails

and painted ladies sailing above to stay out of the range

of her leap. Today is a good day. No need for the pill

that traps you in a shadow, or worse, the self-administered

injection that makes you seasick. No Lady of Shalott

locked inside your home. Your head allows you to rise

without whirling. Take the dog for a walk to the hilltop.

Weave a story or poem. Turn up the funk and dance. Enjoy

this lull while you can. Tomorrow’s forecast threatens fog

thick as a curse, the kind that pulls a spiked rope taut

from your left temple to your left trapezius,

stranding you on the mattress for days.

My Backyard Garden Office

The camellias and bougainvillea

came with the house,

giving me a head start.

First, we planted the nopal

in honor of Grandma’s cactus garden

that I only saw in a photograph.

By the time I was born,

she cooked with nopalitos from a jar.

Next, a row of roses: dainty white, joyful nectarine,

optimistic yellow, and fragrant lavender—

a reminiscence of the roses that greeted us

on the walkway to Grandma’s front door.

Then, a Meyer lemon and an orange tree to bring

my San Bernardino Valley roots back to me.

When the weather is right, I unfold

the beach lounger beneath palm fronds

and read or ruminate. I write on the patio

surrounded by potted plants—

jade I cut from Grandma’s yard decades ago,

black zwartkop, aloe vera, and ferns. Nearby,

my tortie cat pounces on a grasshopper,

a bee chases a monarch off milkweed blooms,

and an Allen’s hummingbird—that copper-orange

flame perched on a powerline—

plummets to the Mexican

sage’s purple velvet spikes.

My writing process is like my gardening.

Deadhead the roses to spark new buds.

Leave some leaves in the beds

to nurture the soil, and weed with hand tools—

the fork puller and claws, not toxic spray.

Dig deep when transplanting succulents

so they root and thrive. Harvest prickly

pears and lemons late enough to ripen,

but early enough before they rot. Search

for bird nests before trimming the camellias.

With the trowel, lopper, and pruner,

create arrangements, refresh lines,

and cultivate joy.

My backyard garden—

where Grandma’s nopal writes odes to the sky

and my palabras push upward from the soil

and unfurl in the sunlight.

A Rose, Red as Sangria

For Mama on her 80th birthday

She chassés in a cha cha rhythm

to Santana’s “Smooth” guitar riff.

Her scarlet lined, black lace

flamenco gown

sways with her curves.

Twirls flutter the flounces

on her skirt like fans

on a summer day in Sevilla.

A rose, red as sangria,

adorns her chignon,

whispers an incantation.

Listen close,

the click of her tongue

keeps time with the beat.

This isn’t 80 is the new 40.

This is Dorothy today:

wife, Mama, grandma,

great-grandma, a bad ass

former single mother

of four daughters

who bought a home

without a co-signer

or child support,

siren, lover, woman.

She persevered

long before the hash tag.

The band plays her favorite

Selena cumbia.

Clear some space.

Dorothy’s going to

get her groove on.

That’s my Mama—

first on the dance floor,

last to leave. Forever

Young in bloom.


Gray clouds conceal

spring sky. Handwriting poems

stills the beast of grief.

Author Bio:

liz gonzález is a fourth generation Southern Californian. She is the author of Dancing in the Santa Ana Winds: Poems y Cuentos New and Selected (Los Nietos Press 2018) and the poetry collection Beneath Bone (Manifest Press 2000). Her poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction have been published widely and will appear in or recently appeared in Voices de la Luna: A Quarterly Literature & Arts Magazine, Cultural Weekly, Askew Poetry Journal, The Anthology of Contemporary Chicanx Writers, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Voices from Leimert Park Anthology Redux, The Coiled Serpent Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles, and Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. liz teaches creative writing at the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program.


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