Four Lassen County poets published in Our California

The work of four Lassen County poets (Dianna Henning, Uvea Grace, Emily Avien and Sam Williams) are included in Our California  — a project of Lee Herrick, California Poet Laureate, and Charlie O’Malley, Literary Arts Specialist, California Arts Council.

They report more than 100 poems were collected from writers of all ages and backgrounds that capture “a unique perspective and voice from your special part of California,” according to Herrick. The poems are arranged by county. Click here to find the poems.

“Thank you for helping to make Our California a rich, diverse, beautiful tapestry of poetic voices,” Herrick and O’Malley said.

Here are the Lassen County poems

My Arterial
By Dianna Henning

  1. Cut me in half

2. California is my better half

3. The saw was sharp

4. I heard nothing in the back and forth, except for the grinding of my teeth

5. My Calafia set me free into a lavender field of poetry

6. This is where my two halves joined

7. Vermont a memory Canada a memory (These places still run deep)

8. But California claims the most of my Arterial

9. Yes, Khalif freed my dreams

10. The saw is now shelved in storage

11. Today, I dream of a world paved with poets

12. I wear California on my skin

13. Here’s to those poets I love, their words rest in mine

14. And join my blood

Looking Down from Thompson Peak
By Dianna MacKinnon Henning

“Thompson Peak is a rugged mountain in the Diamond Mountains, a subrange of the great Sierra Nevada.”

For Holly
She piled onto her new sled,
scooted herself to the hill’s brink,
and each of us pitched in,
giving her a push,

our malamute quickly lapping melted snow
from her mittens and face as she ran alongside her,

and soon our grandchild was at the foot of the hill — a tiny bundle, packaged
in a bright red scarf and jacket.

She protested the steep walk back uphill,
although we assured her another ride
made struggle worth it,
her feet, stubborn plows.

The hill, a sheet of distance—
a thing that went straight up to the heavens.

“I’m running out of breath.
Please help me, “she asked,
but we stood steady on that hill
certain she could do it.

Later in the car I wrapped
her in my jacket,
blew warm breath
onto her fiery cold fingers,
told her stories of the Honey Lake Maidu
who treated this sacred mountain with reverence and awe,

and finally, I said that if she kept
her eye to the trail,
without once looking up,
she’d be surprised how short distance was.

Dear California
By Emily Avlen
Can I call you “Cal”?
I feel like we’re friends by now.
A child in San Francisco, I never
made it to Alcatraz but the
Thai restaurant on Geary St.—
dimly lit, ephemeral,
brought ginger and lemongrass to my palate
and forged a new dimension.
Thank you for your nooks and crannies
to melt into like butter;
for the hushed groves of eucalyptus trees
whose identities peel in layers.
And L.A, the
petri dish of
cars amongst cars amongst
dreams jostling dreams.
Scores of false starts and home runs
a kind of cuneiform of success which
the rest of the world learned to translate.
Oh, and congrats on the promotion of your
“roach coaches” in alleys
to stallions of world-class cuisine.
Thank you for the free yoga
in San Luis Obispo’s wineries,
a little Europe, a backyard reverie.
They say you take an arm and a leg but
I offer mine up in Reverse Warrior,
followed by Mountain Pose.
But listen to me going on and on.
Let me hear you now.
Tell me, what are your ineffable longings,
thoughts brought along by the desert breeze
and dreams seduced into the ocean’s endless expanse?

The Ghost of Beauty Cave
By Sam Williams
On the trail rising steeply and steadily
Out of Kings Canyon
The layers of shale are the edges of pages
In a worn book

I’m breathing heavy when I reach
The rusted red railing
Announcing plainly in peeling paint
Trail closed beyond this point

Turning into the pines and poison oak
I’m crunching leaves and small acorns
Sounding like the mice that scurry unseen
Through the brush

There is a bald incline
A granite slide like a lazy V
Between two wooded hillsides
Half a mile of polished slickness
Rock reflecting sun as if it were snow

At the top Avalanche Creek is 40 feet wide
Spilling over boulders and tree trunks
Suddenly it stops and drops like a waterfall
Through the ceiling of Church Cave
And three miles of underground passage
Before joining the Kings on its sprint to the sea

Just up the hill obscured by shrubs
And scrawny oaks lay Beauty Cave
With provisions for a few days Putt Boyden
A friend of John Muir’s
Threaded his way down from the high country
Camped here and died here
Waiting for a storm to pass
One winter 80 some years ago

I sit inside by the pit he dug with a branch
The stones he stacked in a circle
The grill and the cast iron skillet
Ready for another meal

I imagine how it was
Firelight frisking the walls
Smoke sooting the ceiling
Pouring out of the silhouetted entrance
Soaring into the fury
Of a frosty white December sky
Fingers and toes melting icicles
30 years of mountaineering and boiled rice
Waiting to go home

I imagine his ghost sitting next to me
Leaning on his knapsack
Writing in his notebook
Listening to the steady ringing
Of rock and water
Tree and air
Watching the butterflies drift by slowly
Dandelions loose in the wind