seasons

Pomegranate, La Jolla, August 2021


some fruits wither and fall away
so that others can flourish
and ripen
and burst open
when it is their season

do not mourn the harvest that could have been
when a bounty of sweetness
was/is/will be
exploding on your tongue
even now
in this very moment
alive with every possibility



–Charla M. DelaCuadra

I love you, Daddy

Daddy and me, circa 1983-84

Yesterday my dad passed away. He was 88 years old. I sat there listening to my half-brother cry on the other end of the line as he delivered the news, stunned and numb for what felt like an eternity. Then I burst into tears.

My dad had the most fascinating, full life anyone could imagine, from growing up in Trinidad and a youthful sojourn in the merchant marines, working as a psychiatric nurse and a double decker bus driver in Scotland, and then emigrating to the U.S. even though he was barred entry here for years due to his Chinese heritage. He worked as a self-employed mechanic, raised two families, and loved his children fiercely. He was generous, loved going to the horse races (where I spent many a happy summer in the infield), was an excellent cook, and entertained us with Charlie-isms like “throosers” for trousers, “DOHg” for dog, and the very British “alumEEnium.” To this day I don’t know how much these quirks of speech were a result of 3 continents’ worth of accents, or how much they were his own little idiosyncrasies. We loved it either way. Most summers he spent a little time “up north” mining for gold with friends, he was a great bowler and miniature golfer, and he left this world on his own terms – independent, living on his own, and old enough see his oldest grandchild start high school, just like he wanted.

I wrote this poem a few years ago for him, when he was having one of his many health scares. I didn’t share it with him at the time, though. He was so very afraid of dying, and I thought the allusions to it in my poem would be troubling for him as he convalesced. I finally gave him a framed copy of it for Father’s Day this year, and I think it may have been his favorite gift I ever gave him. To say he loved it would be an understatement — he held it and read it over and over, mouthing the words and cradling the frame gently in his arthritic hands. He marveled that I had written it “all on my own,” and said I had “brought a tear to his eye,” — but I already knew. I could see the tears shining there. He told me almost shyly that he wanted to try to memorize it, even though his memory had gotten so much worse over the years. I was honored and so, so humbled. That was our last visit, and I am so grateful I was able to convey to him just how loved he was before he died.

father/time

so passes
the golden autumn
of this world
into a dark/light place
made of lengthening shadows
and warm tender moments alike.
poignant relief marks the passing
of each second and season,
pearls on a string slipping away
through fingers
roughened by time,
all the more cherished
for that which has gnarled them.
fear not,
though a shadow passes over your eyes
at the thought
of things unknown.
in the end,
you are loved.

— Charla M. DelaCuadra

I love you, Daddy, and I miss you already. I’ll always be grateful for your love. I know you were proud of me. I share your name, and you’ll always be in my heart. Thank you — for everything.

(never) yours

 

She’ll fly away one day.  A speck against the sun. 

Glorious and free.

But will she miss the ache of her chest, the yearning in her breast?  
The way his stubble might have felt on her throat? 
His lips on her pulse?
  
Oh, yes.

If only.  Wrong time.  Wrong place.
Missing him.  Pretending not to.

He was never yours.


— Charla M. DelaCuadra

vigil


how can we find power amidst enforced oppression?
we can grow between the cracks,
force things apart with our growing.
grow wide and tall, cracking apart
that which binds, blinds, brings us to our knees.

our expanse will stop them.

hatred cannot stand before our twisting, growing roots
sinuous and deep, love-strong, defiant, and true.

go forth and grow.
blind them.

they cannot comprehend our joy.



-Charla M. DelaCuadra

vertigo

high and low

swerving and dipping between

extremes of intimacy and indifference, teeter totter.

but really, why

is my heart so fragile — 

so indebted to the whims of one who cares

not enough?



balance is

so elusive 

when you’re falling

through space and time

for someone not quite new.

will I crash land?

or will a touch to my cheek cushion my fall

from grace

into sweet madness?

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Out of my head

Blue moon, 10/31/20

Votes are still being counted as we wait and hope, stress and wonder, cross our fingers and keep looking forward. Here is a poem I wrote some time ago that seems to fit my mood this week. I’m craving some mental quiet as we hope and wait, wait and hope. Wishing you some serenity this weekend.

____________

I want to

peel off my skin

get out of my own head

escape into silence

for a while

find the quiet stillness

that my restless

spirit so 

craves.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra

Shelter and place

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing truly luminous readings from an incredible line-up of California poets: Dana Gioia, Garret Hongo, Robin Coste Lewis, Luis J. Rodriguez, David St. John, and Gail Wronsky. Cartography of Poets, a virtual poetry event presented by Visions and Voices at USC, centered around the ways history and place shape the poetic experience. The idea that writers and their work are shaped by their environments is certainly not groundbreaking — what would Henry David Thoreau be without Walden Pond? — but this event got me thinking about things in a more contemporary, more personal way.

Fires are still raging in the West. California is on fire, breaking records and breaking apart lives. Amidst this landscape, this small reflection by Dana Gioia reminded me of the beauty of our summers:

I can imagine someone who found
these fields unbearable, who climbed
the hillside in the heat, cursing the dust,
cracking the brittle weeds underfoot,
wishing a few more trees for shade.
An Easterner especially, who would scorn
the meagerness of summer, the dry
twisted shapes of black elm,
scrub oak, and chaparral, a landscape
August has already drained of green.
. . .
And yet how gentle it seems to someone
raised in a landscape short of rain—
the skyline of a hill broken by no more
trees than one can count, the grass,
the empty sky, the wish for water.

from “CALIFORNIA HILLS IN AUGUST”
by DANA GIOIA

We continue to shelter in place, and meanwhile, I am contemplating shelter and place, and the way we inhabit both those spaces. Our shelters — the homes we have been confined to and seek succor in. Our places — the solidarity of New York on 9/11, the orange glow of San Francisco’s skies, the hazy rain of ash in Los Angeles, and the ways we shape and are shaped by them. I think of how we are all nesting, all trying to make our homes work better for us — dining rooms becoming offices, offices becoming playrooms, kitchen tables becoming classrooms — and how beautiful the adaptability of the human spirit really is. The way we keep working, toiling, and finding joy in between.

I put up new lamps this week that I love. Something to bring a small joy in a small way. I think I am puttering, not doing much of import, and yet my friend exclaims over how productive I have been. And I think, well yes, I suppose I have. To shelter and find small joys is no small thing, today, yesterday, or tomorrow. I am here in this place, California sunshine streaming through my windows, and I think, I am lucky. I am of this place, I have shelter, and I am learning to find joy.

Exorcism wanted

Brugge, Belgium July 2019

Wanted:

an exorcism of the heart.

A friendly spirit has come to stay 

settled in

made me home

made me

     restless 

     ache

     long for

     wonder.



Imaginings 

haunt me daily,

while this little spirit of mine

stays on

uninvited.



Time to go,

to set me free.

I’ll always remember you fondly

even though

it would hurt less

to forget.



One exorcism

wanted. 


dusk

indigo 2020, Charla M. DelaCuadra

 

dusk

 

the slightest hammock swing 

is enough to let me touch 

the shaded velvet of the night sky encroaching so softly 

upon the world 

and my being.

the earth tucks in for slumber 

deep and tranquil 

the way I yearn for my heart to also 

be at rest.

 

how beautiful contentment looks 

from this sleepy in-between place 

full of promise and possibility. 

wistful fingers reach for it 

just beyond her grasp. 

“If only,” she whispers. 

and the first star whispers back.

–Charla M. DelaCuadra