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Sandra Tanhauser: California Poets Part 7, Three Poems

Sandra Tanhauser

July 1st, 2024

California Poets: Part VII

Sandra Tanhauser

Three Poems

One Summer


Hills rise above Glendora touching the smoggy air

Rolling, dry, studded with rocky outcrops

Native grasses, sage and cactus

There my best friend and I discovered

Three half-wild horses –

with hooves overgrown and untrimmed

disheveled coats and shaggy manes.


We were high school freshman with ponytails and jeans

just emerging from childhood, adventurous and

simmering with energy. We brought them apples, carrots,

made braided harnesses and rope leads.

We climbed those hills to look for them

and they came to us gladly.

We led them around, brushing their unkempt coats

rubbing their ears

caressing their necks

their breath through distended nostrils, hot on our hands.


We loved the fluidity, the beauty of those animals.

Like birds on the wind, we wanted to ride that power.

But we took our time, spent

weeks that summer visiting, seducing, calming. 

Then I led the brown one, with the white blaze

to a flat rock.

I climbed on slowly, carefully.

Suddenly I was airborne, tumbling backward

and hit the ground six inches from

the needled hands of a full grown cactus.

Hunting for the Past              


Together we enter the forest where our memories, like

mycelium, lay buried for decades.

Hunting for the mushroom flowers that sprout

and open like an echo

revealing the moments of color and perfume, the taste, the

texture of our past.


Together we choose the ones we savor most

The brownish red Boletes growing by the streams, as boldly

as we lived our lives

The Morels with wrinkled undulating heads, deeply engaged

and intertwined, attached to smooth cream stalks

in the clearing,

The bright saffron orange Lobster Mushroom hidden under

pine needles, shining out loud with the joy we felt.

The pink or yellow Cauliflower fungus branching cheerfully,

like coral under pines, with all the laughter we shared.


Together we gather the golden clustered Honey Mushroom

on fallen logs, soft with our tenderness or the creamy white

Oysters, creatively sprouting beautiful umbrellas from tree


Finally, the deeply passionate Clitocybes, violet or blue, on

leaves or grass with the essence of anise.

Of course we are much older now and have the wisdom

to examine the scent, the color and texture of what we were,

what we felt

to cradle each image making sure it is meaningful and real.


Together we choose the ones that are safe to share

We avoid the mind altering ones, the poisonous ones.

And ... as we enter the field that divided us, searching for

the joys, laughter and warmth of our love, we step very,

very carefully

to avoid the landmines.

Maybe it was  


Maybe it was the carousel

On the pier, with the horses going

Up and down         Up and down

or the pier itself jutting far out into

the sea clad  with mussels on

each ocean leg.


Maybe it was the cliffs capped with houses

rising from the pebbled northern shore,

or the beach the waves washed with

whispers or the people gathered to

sit and listen to the honesty of the ocean,

the certainty of the sun.


Or maybe it was the nights we spent

preparing to speak, words that

could only come from rhyme and music

surging through us

with urgency but without bidding


All the nights we gathered to listen,

to hear the poetry that told a different

story in Venice Beach,  Ocean Park 

to the beat of traffic, clamor of the  city, hard and fluorescent

real and gritty,  sensual in unauthorized ways.


Maybe it was the honesty, those words that laid

everything bare.

Author Bio:

Sandra Tanhauser first started writing poetry in the early 1970’s when she lived in the Santa Monica/Venice Beach area. The artistic scene then centered around small bookstores and Beyond Baroque which was a venue for poetry readings and other artistic performances. She had a number of poems published in Bachy and Momentum, both local small press publications. After retirement from a career in IT, she returned to writing and has been very involved with poetry scene at the Sacramento Poetry Center. Several of her recent poems have been published in Voices 2022, 2023, and 2024.  She finds poetry a beautiful avenue for expressing the essence of the soul.


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