Guest Poet: Paul Marshall

I am pleased to share with you a poem by my friend and fellow Writing Labster, Paul Marshall. Paul’s words have graced this blog before (check out his book, too, Building a Boat: Lessons of a 30-Year Project). Last August, he joined me and a bunch of other mostly-northwest poets in the poetry postcard challenge. His process differed from mine in his usual Marshallian way, and was an inspiration.

One of Paul’s postcard poems will appear in the anthology, 56 Days of August.  In the postcard poem below, Paul writes about a local beach and bears witness to the generations of other visitors who came before him.  It has been many years since I went clam-digging, but I don’t think I’ll ever eat a clam again without feeling his presence.


Native spirits of the Salish Sea
whisper to me as I walk the Double Bluff beach.
The bluff rises like a sentinel
cast in sand and rock.  Standing guard for 15,000 years,
lone soldier left for us by the retreating army of ice.

Butter clams have brought humans to this spot
since the ice left.  Digging into the barnacle
encrusted cobble I feel the cold hands
of the old ones digging alongside mine.
We search for the grey and tan shelled creature that will feed us
this summer night.


Day 20: Seeing Differently

The assignment today is to write about a family photograph. As it is also Easter, I thought I’d share an Easter photo from my childhood. My parents took one of us every year — from when there were three kids, to the time my older brother left home. About.

Okay…so I went searching for Easter photos and couldn’t find one with the baskets and all (often taken outside). But here’s a picture of me with my mom and sisters. I’m thinking that the smaller pic is me at about 9, the age at which I got glasses. Where are the glasses? Well, read my response to the assignment below. Looking at it, I found my brain going in a completely different direction than Easter. Or maybe not. Isn’t Lent (culminating in Easter) all about seeing differently? 


What She Doesn’t See

My mother saw that I needed glasses before anyone else did.
I always had my nose

in a book. Dad thought the books
were all right, but for heaven’s sake, turn on a light.

I wonder now what I was afraid to see,
what made me out of four siblings and my clear-sighted parents

the one person with specs. Oh, too bad, 
Mom told me when I got my first pair,

Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.

Did I care? Didn’t I keep trying to fall
through the lines and into the story, 

and, by contrast, out of mine? But, why?


Day 6 / Poem 6

annie cat2So my job this month is to write a poem a day and I’m encouraging you to write, too. It doesn’t have to be good.

Today’s assignment (at POETRYisEVERYTHING) was to write about the name of a pet.

The Pet Cemetery’s First Citizen

Turtle (1998-2003)

The tortoiseshell cat, taken in as a tiny kitten, a furball
with a very loud purr, named Turtle 

(which delighted the children, themselves tiny back then,
and, in their own way, very loud).

Much beloved.


I don’t have a picture (on this computer) of Turtle, so I’m posting one of our current “top cat,” Annie-Cat. (Long story about her name.)

Searching for pet poems, I found Maria Popova’s website, Brain Pickings, with a post titled, “Literary Pets: the Cats, Dogs, and Birds Famous Authors Loved.” I hope you’ll enjoy it, too.