Members of the class who wish to read and discuss their poems, in an atmosphere of collegiality and support. New topics and poems are regularly added, making each session appropriate for those who have taken Contemporary Poetry before and those who have not.
Each year the Shepherd's Center Poetry Group publishes a collection of poems by members. Scroll down for the 2010 and 2009 editions. Copyright is held by individual poets. We hope you will enjoy.
2010 Sessions Completed
The Shepherd's Center Poetry Group, part of the "Adventures in Learning" program, spent twelve weeks during the winter and spring terms discussing accessible poetry. Fifteen participants took part; poets studied included Mary Jo Salter, Donald Justice, Margaret Serpas, Jeffery Harrison, Linda Pastan, Ted Kooser, Philip Schultz, Billy Collins and others, including group members whose work appears in the anthology below.
Below are the third and fourth collections by members of our Shepherd’s Center Poetry Group, We began in 2007 with “The Rainbow People,” after a poem by Ted Kooser.
The collections below are meant to be a memento of our weeks together during the winter and spring of 2009 and 2010, which I believe have emboldened us to find and affirm the poet in ourselves and others. Thank you again for sharing your talent and insight with the group.—Bob Demaree
Shepherd’s Center 2010
The Backside of
Lady Liberty holds the torch high
For all the world to see,
Still, we stand in darkness
On the backside of
Because of her iniquity,
God is calling us to repentance
Testing our uprightness and our sincerity.
Wake up to reality.
At stake is the integrity
Of our democracy.
Until there is justice for everyone
And the oppressed are set free
We are all standing
At the backside of liberty.
The day she thinned her iris bed, she thought of me.
She must have known my flowerbeds would lack
The morning sun an iris needs to thrive
And yet she brought twelve hybrid orphans to my door.
Her irises were famous near and far
Tall stately beauties and in colors
We had never seen before.
I worried that her gifts would hat my shaded plot
and languish, if indeed they could survive.
I tilled a patch of sunlight and added sand and loam
I did the best that I knew how to make a happy home
For them and lo, when spring rolled round again
I found them to my wonderment alive.
Just three years later you would seek my gracious
Donor and her iris bed in vain. My neighbors marvel
At the stand of irises that greet the eye as
May comes surging in to bring her legacy awake
For me to cherish in her memory.
My Grandfather Kept Bird Dogs
I was visiting my grandfather.
He kept bird dogs in a fenced pen.
My BB gun was harmless.
It operated by a spring and required cocking.
I seldom hit my inanimate targets.
I aimed at a robin, perched on a fence post, And pulled the trigger.
The robin fell to the ground, to die a slow death.
With tears flowing, I pumped BB after BB into the quivering body.
At last it was still.
I dug a shallow grave.
How did I find my way in an arid desert sand, dusted by wind,
Blended into the many sunrises of vibrant colour
A scorching sun sent white rays to toughen my skin
Sunsets of different hues yielded to darkness
Where planets, constellations, stars frequently wished on gave direction.
Miles traveled, hunger coupled with thirst,
As oasis sighted, a hopeful spirit effervesced,
Spontaneous strength ensured a kindness, a gentleness,
A language if emotional appetites satisfied
For decades empty is this nomad’s journey.
Sentinel of my door garden,
Bobbing on spindly stem,
Prim, tight spheres
Concealing infinite gifts.
Tomorrow you will fling open
Your tissued pink extravagance
To dazzled eyes and gathering hands,
To ants burrowing in fleshy
Layers too deep to behold.
I saw an armful of them
In Isak Dinesen’s dining room,
Spilling over themselves and
The rim of their vase,
The Danes – born understaters –
Call them simply
If April is the cruellest month,
Here is the cruellest flower,
Bursting all bounds of beauty,
Raining petals in velvet carpet,
Leaving me longing.
musical setting by Marnie Ross
after hearing a lecture by
Dr. Robert Goodby of
It is our n’dakina, our homeland.
We were the people from the East,
Here long before you came,
With your famous ships,
White chapels, village greens,
Your right to pray as you supposed
And insist that you were right.
You thought we vanished
Except for the names of places.
We were not Gypsies, the dark French
In your demented plan
To cleanse the stock.
Traces of our lives still
Linger in the rocky
And other places you do not know to look,
We are still here. We never left.
A single leaf trembles
on the slender branch
holding on, holding on,
too stubborn to
let go. Some people are
like that, ignoring all
signs that the end has come.
I’ll be like that leaf
Hang on to that damn
Limb no matter how hard
the gusts whip me around.
I never knew nor cared
which way the wind blows.
A Pacific Memory—
You sit on your rocky throne,
precariously contemplating the sea,
almost daring the icy waters below,
confident your dark-fingered handmaidens
will break their frame
to come to he rescue.
The mists swirl about you like a lacy party dress,
one minute a shroud, then all-revealing,
with an air of mystery befitting a medieval fairy tale.
O, sly fox!
Did you orchestrate this surreal scene just or me?
My reward, perhaps, for navigating
the peninsula’s sinuous curves to court
the famed Lone Cypress Tree?
How long I stand there
alone in my admiration,
transfixed by enveloping stillness
I cannot say.
In the end I feel restored and at peace.
All these years later, I draw on that memory at will
whenever life deals me a blow,
threatening my equilibrium,
and silently thank you for the timeless gift.
Rhododendron bloom from an email
he sent. Northwest coast pinks speak,
their voices heard over three thousand miles,
their beauty clearer than words.
Some blossoms, white-tipped Pacific waves,
remind me of that time, like seas, repeats.
I am the mother. He is the child.
Once I was the child, she the mother.
Postcards and pictures I sent her then
meant what his forward click evokes
in me now. He remembers.
Photos share his day in a park.
His love sweetens my week.
My Mother’s Flowers
One of the things I noticed
when Mother began to fail
was her puzzled expression as she said,
“I can’t remember the names of my flowers.”
It was as if she had forgotten
The name of a sister.
She would stand there
Groping for the right word.
I was no help. I had never
Paid attention to their names
But loved them in ignorance;
Their brilliant color, or subtlety
Of shade, their grace of line and form
Had been enough to bless me
In my yard and on my table.
Yellow were buttercups, and a rose
was a rose. Beyond that—I knew a few.
Then, gradually, out of
some hidden corner of my life,
they appeared before me,
affirming our kinship.
And I, surprised
but not surprised
named them one by one
Wygelia, Sweet Syringa
Joseph’s Coat, Dusty Miller,
Blue Bells of
Snow on the Mountain.
Wrap me in a rug and
throw me overboard.
Put me in a dog suit and take me to
the vet a final time.
Don’t let me live without
Where is Love?
Dollie M. Smith
I looked up to the sky and down on the ground,
I went to the house and looked all around;
I drove to Wal-Mart to search and see,
But I still couldn’t find it—where could “love” be?
“Love” must be a feeling, a closeness, not a place,
Perhaps it’s a smile, a touch, even a word no one can erase;
It’s enjoying being “together”—simply eating or watching TV!
It’s caring for another and sharing “things” only we can see.
Bandit’s in his bed,
Dreaming doggy dreams.
Bird’s in the bird feeder,
Stealing succulent seeds.
Bandit’s on the deck,
Routing rodent rustler.
Squirrel hits the deck,
Fleeing furious feet.
Bandit’s in pursuit,
Tracking twitching tail.
Squirrel goes airborne,
Targeting towering timber.
Bandit’s at the trunk,
Lathered, leaping loudly.
Squirrel’s in the treetop,
Languid, laughing lazily.
Bandit’s back in bed,
Grim in gathering gloom.
BEHIND THE DUMPSTER
Behind the dumpster,
Richard Wayne Ammons, Marine.
Killed in the first Gulf war.
Who remembers that?
The flag folded,
His picture, smiling
Who loved him?
Who tenderly framed
And why, now, not
Sue and David’s divorce had been bitter,
and now Michael lived with his mother.
On a visit to Sue’s parents, Michael had
been playing marbles with his grandfather.
A part of the design in the center of the
large Oriental rug served as a pot.
When grandmother brought the ice cream,
grandfather was ready for a rest.
They sat with their bowls of ice cream,
legs outstretched, backs against the sofa.
“Your name is David,” Michael said.
“No, my name is Elmer,” I replied.
“My heart tells me your name is David.
And my heart is always right.”
THE HOUSE ON THE CORNER
She spoke to me of years gone by,
but with her dignity intact and
her pinkish-gray brick still jaunty,
the gnarly crabapple tree in the front yard
a survivor of all those harsh winters.
Once spring arrived—never early—
I’d make my daily pilgrimage to the garden
to inspect each new shoot and flower,
as the water meandered, with a measured pace,
down the rock face into the small pool.
Then, with a contented sigh, having
done my duty and paid my respects,
I went inside, to my kitchen,
so proud of its idiosyncrasies, and
set about making dinner.
The lock of hair
could not be kept,
pains too sharp
to press inside a Bible.
Why had I asked to be brought
this lock of hair,
snipped from my brother, 17,
as he lay in his coffin?
At the time I thought
to comfort my mother,
but the lock of hair
might become more --
She would go to each day.
Even at 14 I knew the price
of holding fast to those blond memories
I meant to keep part of him with us
Remembering the happy times.
But in letting go,
I could help set my mother free
from the unbearable weight
of her tragic loss -
Her unending sorrow.
THE BIKE DREAM
Today I put on my cycling clothes,
rode to the place that Markie dreamed.
a shopping center now.
Department stores and pavement
replace blackberries and cows.
Can’t you see him, sweeping
over the terrace, his four-year-old
legs barely reaching the pedals,
taking the stand-up hills with ease
as joy spills from his face.
The earth, rising and falling
beneath him, belongs to him alone.
He breaths omnipotence.
Why should he not speed to the top of
the world and fly down the other side?
Low stool, back bend, face pensive
Thick wide hands take knife from pocket
Cuts last year’s potatoes
The blank eye chosen with purpose
Brother and I follow our special parent
Horse harnessed, hitched with patience
Black earth waits, month of preparation
Slightly stooped as we lug filled pails.
Glistening, sharpened shear of the plough
Aiming, judging depth, now it plunges
Against furrow, eye upright, space perceived:
Maybe because the shell is the very color
Of a freshly washed morning sky
And the revolting mess protruding
Came so close to being a robin
That the catastrophe the blue jay made
Here beside the driveway
In the waxing of summer
Evokes a cry of pain from the chronically tender-hearted.
Already the ants have found the boon
And examine it gingerly
And the billions trillion lives and deaths
In the handful of soil beneath the egg
Will flourish and wither differently
From those in the next door handful
As the effluent moves down micro millimeters
Into realities beyond my knowing
My consciousness soars outward into
Thinly populated space
To escape the teeming dizziness fulminating underfoot
Do the bacteria of the soil sing?
Is it possible?
And do they make eggs the color of the sky?
Does anybody matter? And if so
For whom is it appropriate to cry.
AT THE SCIENCE CENTER
The drift of the exhibits registers only vaguely
As I wander, sadly incurious myself,
After my grandson, age nine,
Marveling at the rapt, informed zeal
With which he tries each game and gizmo
Meant to show how the world works.
At length I am struck
By the metallic iridescence
Of the blue Morpho butterfly,
Whose life is measured in weeks.
The mountains, beige and bland,
transform themselves at dusk;
consume blood-red rays
from the sun hovering
on the far horizon,
wring the light dry
until it vanishes. Only
the sky, salmon-colored
The desert, now free
from the sun’s pitiless
glare, fades from sight,
and slumbers under
the eyes of a thousand
stars, while the mountains
hover in the dark, their
glory a mere
MY BACK PORCH
Sitting on my screened back porch
With my faithful collie beside me,
I watch fireflies flitting on a summer night,
Their lights a source of wonder, especially to children.
I listen to the sometimes deafening sounds of screeching cicadas
Calling to other cicadas in another yard.
They seem louder each year.
I also watch bugs and moths fluttering in the light
From my corner spotlights.
They zoom in and out of the cobwebs that
A spider has recently spun.
Sometimes the flying insects get caught by the web,
and the spider quickly appears and wraps them
in its web for a later meal.
A porch is a comfortable hiding place to relax and remember
Special times in my life, husband and children.
I can also talk with my Heavenly father and
Gain courage for the days ahead,
A cool breeze most welcome on my back porch
Before I retire for the evening.
A yellowed newspaper ad—the penciled date March 1949:
“Do you yearn for the soft life? Start with an Elgin Water Softener.”
The barbershop quartet score for Aura Lee—a jaunty note:
“Sing it the old way—NO Elvis impersonations.”
The Collected Lyrics of Edna St. Vincent Millay—an inscription on the flyleaf:
“April 1973-For my favorite poet: let these words of my second favorite poet inspire you”
The erased and much-folded page from a prescription pad—a barely-legible list:
Ron and Jon-my grandsons”
I read the collected writings
Of an ad man, tenor, father, Alzheimer’s patient
I search in vain for words sprung from the soul of a writer:
Memoirs of a Welsh immigrant
Poetry celebrating the western skies he loved
The gritty Chicago novel whose outline he showed me
Tears for his dream too long deferred, too soon shattered
Soak this box of treasures
Legacy from my father.
The road plays hopscotch across the tufts of rock and scrub,
Mile after mile out into the gulf,
No sign of any destination worth the trip.
Subtly, the marshes appear to redefine the view; weathered docks and
Weathered houses perched on stilts.
Then solid land announces a place from yesterday.
Once a major port for trade to Europe, the Orient and beyond,
A Civil War prize, a pirate’s hideaway;
A commercial fisherman’s pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Now all that is gone – replaced by vacation condos and artists’ galleries,
Seafood restaurants and endless gift shops.
Only one reminder of the past remains: The Island Hotel.
Once the headquarters for wealthy traders, then a warehouse;
At times a brothel, now historically preserved,
Right down to the voluptuous mermaid above the bar.
The very walls whisper of stories yet to be told, spicy tales
Of heroes and villains, profiteers and poverty,
Weekend wealth and daily drudgery.
This is a town that time forgot, overlaid by a thin coat of dust and neglect.
Yet it stirs the imagination, whets the appetite
For juicy bits of gossip from a past that remains the present.