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Poets of the Monterey Bay

Five Poems by Barbara Bloom

The Horse Trainer’s Advice

Make your body like a door,
not a wall,
so what he feels
is not that you are something solid
like the fake brick walls
he was beaten to jump—
but that instead,
he can see past you
to the field every horse knows
by smell, by sight,
by the feel of the grass,
and he will approach the door,
curious, unalarmed as you slip the halter on,
his head bent slightly in recognition,
his great heart calm


Give me back the smell of Omeline
as I’d open up the burlap sack
and scoop my hands into its sticky sweetness,
my horse stamping impatiently from his stall.

Give me back those afternoons,
stretching out between school and dinner,
when I’d climb up on my horse’s back
and we’d go deep into the oak and redwood forests
on the old roads, cantering wherever we could,
and I’d forget where I ended and he started,
and we’d just move through time.

Sometimes I’d take lumps of molasses
from the sweet grainy mix, and suck on them,
before I’d spit them out,
amazed that something that smelled so much like cookies baking
could taste so bitter—then I’d watch my horse
nose deep in his grain, snorting with pleasure,
swishing away a fly or two with his black tail.

How gladly I would walk back down that trail
to the stable, the full bags of grain, my horse,
and being ten years old,
not knowing how much I could ever want this back.

Magnetic Force

I stood on the cement floor
of the basement lab room,
wrapping wires around a metal bar
while my father looked on,
beaming.  He was glad, he said,
to see me finally taking an interest
in science.  His calendar, a nude
Marilyn Monroe posed against red velvet,
hung on one wall.  She too, seemed
to be taking an interest, her glance
directed at the open toolbox,
the mirror on the lid, green felt lining—
almost like a jewelry case—
and the carefully arranged tools,
smelling of metal.

When we finished, the rotor spun,
just as it was meant to, opposites
rushing towards each other, similar poles
pushing back.  My brother
rode by the open window on his bike,
and I raced out the door,
spinning away from that cold room,
and the person my father longed for me to be.

Long Distance from Jerusalem
            for my daughter

You’ve been out on the desert,
you say,
away from phones,
following a dry riverbed
past camps of sleeping Bedouin
in the moonlight.

Last night, here in the Sierras,
the full moon rose over the lake,
making a silver swath,
then a wind sprang up,
scattering the light.
Only the zoom of the bats
diving for mosquitoes,
or the occasional plunk of a trout surfacing
broke the quiet.

Knowing you’re safe,
something shifts in this landscape,
and as I hang up the phone
and walk back to camp,
I suddenly remember
how at the end of every day,
the light
softens the granite cliffs,
and then the trees
hold onto it
in their highest branches—
as if they could not bear
to let it go
to the other side
of the world.

Powell River News
Aug. 5, 1965

We stare out from the yellowed clipping
with its scholarship announcements, our faces serious,
hair carefully arranged.  College-bound,
the article brags, though a few of the girls
decided to marry instead, and some of the boys
went straight to work at the paper mill.

The local real estate ads
are on the other side:
fixer-uppers and cottages by the sea,
spare bedrooms and mother-in-law units,
new roofs, deep wells,
must be seen to be believed,
so affordable I am more amazed
at what I might own,
—if I could slip back in time—
than what I might say to the girl in the picture,
the one who was me.

I know she had no use
for houses.  She was going to travel the world,
be the next Emily Dickinson,
go looking for Heathcliff.

The stiff faces of my graduating class
are keeping their secrets,
and those houses
where we might have awakened
to the sound of a fresh westerly wind
banging the screen door,
are long since sold,
and maybe sold again.

But holding this bit of paper in my hands
I wonder if the tide is lapping
at the steps of those cottages now,
or if the Canada geese passing over each fall
still leave a hole in the air
that fills up with our longing

Copyright 2007