Local Writers: Poetry

Enjoy these selected works submitted by local poets, featured in our most recent print edition of The Corvallis Advocate:

By Frank Babcock

The Best By Far 

~ with a nod to Langston Hughes~

I wonder how it would be

if you really pressed me for my body,

satisfied your lust like a slide guitar,

limbs confused in light

“swift dying of our mingled breath,

just you by my side in a naked room?”

The Paint Your Wagon creed says,

the second and third best things in life,

a stiff drink and a good cigar,

can put a wiggle on you,

spill the beans, the best by far

is your hot breath in a naked room.

By Cynthia McCain


when, in the fog shrouded valley,

the sun has moved away from home

and the clouds are the only sky


on those days

we go to Marys Peak

we go up the long road

around the corners

grim in the dark firs

on some of those days

near the top

where the noble firs grow,

silver and purple

sometimes near the top

all of a sudden,

yet softly,

we rise above

some days the clouds cling

to the shoulders of Marys Peak

but a different day

shines bright on the summit

the sky is the blue that unbelievers don’t deserve

and the setting sun paints the shadow of the Peak

on the top of the clouds beneath us

Once upon a time,

Marys Peak was covered in trees.

Every year, when the clouds hid the mountain top

from the valley below,

and the sun shone on the Peak,

some trees woke up,

so ecstatic that their roots danced free,

and flew into the air.

And that’s why, after all these years,

there are only flowers and grasses,

only meadows, on the top of Marys Peak.

By Frank Babcock

Xylem and Phloem

Inspired by When a Poet Dies by Alice Walker

The job of trees

is to root in the ground

looking for the bones

of dead poets,

bring them to the surface,

in this way distributing

the small molecules

across the universe.

Trees with hands held high,

branches offering

thoughts and beauty,

rising through xylem and phloem,

and in respiration

to be rained out and spread

back to larger ground.

By Cristina Luisa White


When I came to this town, I was a stranger in a strange land, always adrift, like a leaf, wind-blown, my heart full of longing for friends far away.

Gradually, Corvallis drew me in—first by its courtesy, then, its generosity. Shopkeepers and clerks who always had time for hello, how’s your day? Drivers slowing to a stop as I waited in the driveway, waving me in to take a place before them on the road, chivalrous to a fault.

I fell into step with the rhythm of the seasons: winter gray and rain forgotten in spring—a profusion of color and scent, children at play, cherry trees in bloom—their flowers floating down  and around, carpeting the sidewalks in a soft pink snow, all of us easing into sunlit days and summer daze; music and games and art in the warm blue air, abundant trees offering shade from the heat, their lush green leaves surrendering, at last, to autumn’s chill, suffused by an amber fire, each leaf a gem, bright, brilliant, crimson and gold, nature’s treasure, wealth beyond reason.

As I walked in neighborhoods, my own and those further afield, I grew to love people I didn’t know, except by the gardens they tended. And then, over time, not quite knowing when I crossed the line, this was home.

By Steve Jones

An Invitation to Embrace Bittersweet

––for Katelin Rose, Yogini

Like the best imported dark chocolate,

life seldom presents only sweet

without a harsh dash of bitter.

May we learn to embrace the bitter,

and savor the sweet, while holding

trouble & sorrow in our left hand

and joy & love in our right.

This steadfast vigil nurtures whole-heartedness.

By Michelle Bouvia-Emeott

From an Elder

What do you see when you look at me?

Grey hair and wrinkles?

The unfashionable compression socks on my legs?

These legs have walked for miles toting sleeping children,

These legs have skied down mountains deep in snow,

These legs have followed the shores of three oceans,

Chasing waves as they raced along the sand.

What do you see when you look at me?

A turkey-wattle throat?

The flab that hangs down when I raise my arms?

This voice inside this throat has taught hundreds of children

To read and write and count to ten,

This voice has been part of a dozen choirs,

And jazz bands, and folk bands, and blues.

This voice has been raised in protest,

Reminding our leaders they work for us.

These arms have carried babies all night,

Back and forth across the floor.

What do you see when you look at me?

Someone who forgets things

If she doesn’t write them down?

Who tells boring stories

About beloved places, no longer there?

This brain used to photograph whole pages of data,

So that it could be used another day.

This brain has absorbed the words of many masters,

And read five thousand books.

This mind knows how to solve problems,

Has found a way for sixty-six years.

What do you see when you look at me?

The fadings? The failings?

The “can’t do that any mores”?

Why not the wisdom gained at a price?

Why not a resource like water, or trees, or gold?

From Our Staff…

By Sally K Lehman

It’s Late

The night has sprung a moon and

the moths are out to eat the beams.

The apple blossoms are nothing but petals

spreading twilight.

Listen to the stream ripple the stones,

like small teeth clenching a lip, a knuckle, a tongue.

Listen to the crickets call across the grass,

like children singing into the dark.

Memorize these sounds.

They’ll last you in the hours to come,

when things are still. When the owls and

their prey

are the only creatures allowed to unsteady

the night.

I can close my eyes and feel the spring-damp grass

on my feet,

and feel the murmur of wind float past,

and remember your lips on mine.

And it’s late, too late.

Come home.

By Stevie Beisswanger

A House Called Woman  

They built me (for generations)

a house called Woman

spackled over calcium

heartbeat drumming up until

She screams,

“WHAT’S GOING ON!” she screams, we screamed

and scream

There were other houses called Woman

so many shades and sizes, harboring

bent forecasts, blood songs, and scripts

from DVDs

Woman’s walls were rosy,

packed with pictures she couldn’t face,

their smiles inducing

residual panic:

other lives, other layers of paint

She opened all her airways, just to breathe

the birds, coming and going, until

“It’s time,” she hears, from nameless


Entity—to pluck

your feathers, Leave

them like breadcrumbs

and unravel

from this nest

Woman soars—

away from those other houses, with weeping

anatomical wounds and

septic survival

Old faces, strangers, try to guide her organs

“home,” but smirking, she gestures toward event

horizons, cawing “there…

Can’t you hear my name

on the wind?”

Womanshell wilts

concerned neighbors knock, hearing



They question whether all along Woman was


Some grow accustomed to her vacant lot,

bake hopeful coded casseroles when the sale sign unstakes

Others are rattled

they board their doors and windows

from the birds, build

extensions, tunnels, bundle and coat

Some, when they watch Woman’s excavation,

will softly fold to silence, watching

polished particles, all afloat

Woman’s belongings: suspended, defiant,


She will not be able to stay  put.