Poetry by Loraine Campbell

January 29th, 2008






Road to San Quentin

Written in hopeful protest of the execution of Tookie Williams — co-founder of the Crips and writer of children’s stories


The road to Giverny,
winter, 1885, by Claude
Monet, looks sad.
It looks like the
twisted road to San
Quentin, where an
execution is planned
before Christmas 2005.
Does the spindly tree
realize where it lives?
Is the golden castle —
San Quentin yellow —
Is the weight of death,
and the planning
thereof, crumbling the
crumbled foundation?
Have the birds fled
to where the oxygen
is more honest?
Does an owl linger
and whoo whoo and
remind us of who?
And what of us who
eat our meals in
our holiday homes
with wreaths of berries —
drops of red — and
sleigh bells like a
doctor’s pronouncement?
A stethoscope on the
Christmas tree — silver
and shiny — and ropes
of beads, and ropes
and ropes that twist
a weary past.
Are shoulders hunched
from some of us who
carry more than our
share — and are
we cracking?
Will the Governor kiss
his careful wife and wash
his hands for the news?
Will there be one
less fa-la and la-la
in the department
stores on December 13th?
Will the roasting
chestnuts explode
and fan the open fire?
Will the same old
Bethlehem star rise
and shine like a
broken arrow, and
will it point?
Will Frosty Jack
have a tear in his
eye, or will he
continue to nip?
Will the yuletide
carolers stop singing
at midnight, and will
a shadow pass like
wisps of a former life?
Angels will wing
like broken vacuums —
a constant hum
of sorrow.
We are creeping
under the shadow
of the buzzard’s grin.
There are touchstones
tottering on our
knickknack shelves,
and dark circles
are flapping.
When floods come
and arks sink
and animals go
two by two, will
they pray for us
and look back?








Scream that horn,
that John Coltrane,
sip my tripping
thinking brain,
that figuring,
that thought insane–
notes that tumble,
wax and wane.
Scribble, quibble
oft I thought,
from the Sunday
school I bought
two and two
makes good
and new,
and shiny thoughts
will shine me through
with triple cleft
and what to do,
notes laid out
like dream
and new.
Waterfalls still
hit the earth,
still gurgle in
a dripping birth.
I just need
a note or two,
I’m the lost
I never had,
gone from good
to almost bad!
Smile frozen,
almost sad,
almost dead,
but still not quite–
John Coltrane
with all my might!
Smoky bars
gave me my soul
and cigarettes that
smoked me whole,
a way to almost
get past go.


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