James Bertolino

RAVENOUS BLISS: NEW & SELECTED LOVE POEMS, James Bertolino. MoonPath Press, PO Box 1808, Kingston, WA 98346, 2014, 140 pages, $18 paper,

What a lovely way to spend my afternoon! In this new & selected potpourri of love poems from the inestimable northwest treasure, James Bertolino, you encounter images that make you want to pour a glass of red and call your beloved inside. In “Origami Prayer,” for instance: “The whisper / of the delicate paper / folds her fingers // springs her East / to a bird // the wings of which / trip bright / gardens / in my heart.” In these poems, limbs become bowls of fruit and relationships move forward “over the frets / of a guitar.” You never know what’s going to happen, and then it does.

With cover art by Bertolino’s wife, Anita K. Boyle (also a fine poet), Ravenous Bliss is a book to own, and makes a swell Valentine’s Day gift.

Like Quartz

If I said I love her the way
I love rutilated quartz,
would she understand?

My love for lizards
and my love for her are not
the same, but what I feel

for nested fledglings, and
the brown and yellow salamander
with its wide grin, is mixed

with my love. The blue
wildflowers high in the dry
California hills remind me

that she is gentle, yet hardy.
Could she believe me if I claimed
my love is the lightning of

the aquatic garter snake
when it moves its single dorsal stripe
across a pond? I think of power

rising through her
from the earth to touch me,
and shriek with joy

like the Steller’s Jay.