Sonoma County Poet Laureate Elizabeth C. Herron introduces Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo 2022 with “Samhain” and other poems.


If a thing wants to be known
it will smoke in
between the jamb and the door
like a spirit, or the way water
flows even uphill
if there’s down on the other side.

At the rim of the woods, moss
is a silver sheen like sand
where a wave just was, a kind of
margin between meadow
and trees, the moss calls you
with its bright coat. Come in!

You cross that boundary
like crossing a line of ashes
between the living and the dead.
Then you’re inside looking out.
You join the generations –
primordial, waiting.

If a thing wants to be known
it will come to you then.

All Hallows Eve

In the orchard 
in the bright cold
of October’s angled light --
the last windfall apples 
cider into soil, seeking the damp 
throat of earth, calling back
her summer songs.

An introduction to Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo 2021 (and two poems) by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam.

PERAS DE MUERTOS - Phyllis Meshulam

Adornamos la ventana con papel picado
color de rosa, turquesa, azul, 
y con las hojas secas y encendidas
iluminadas por un té de sol.
La mesa se llena con fotos y flores, 
cempasúchil, sonrisas.

Las enaguas de una rosa captadas
a media pirueta, y así se va 
a quedar por un día o dos, tiempo 
bastante para mi altar de muertos.

Otra rosa: color del sol 
a través de las orejas de la liebre.
Algunos pétalos cubren de modestia
la bosteza de la flor.

El crisantemo, herrumbroso,
juega papel del payaso,
como papá en su foto;
los dos inclinan la cabeza.

Y canasta de peras perfumadas
que luego vamos a comer.
Tienen forma de mis senos,
piel color de las hojas otoñales,

son llenas de un vino dulce y lechoso,
entre sólido y liquido.
Pera, primer alimento de mi hija,

ultimo alimento de mi papá.
“Haz eso para recordarte de mí.
Eso es mi cuerpo.”
Es cuerpo del abuelo,

es cuerpo de la nena,
son mis senos, mi cuerpo,
parte de la cadena, vida, muerte, 
trenza de ajo, de la cosecha.

¿Papá ya está dead? 
Esta palabra que es clavo 
en el ataúd.

¿O está muerto? Palabra 
llena de murciélagos y espíritus
como una cueva.

El otoño solloza.
Color naranja brilla
de las sombras.

Pera, cuya madurez perfecta
dura nada más un día.
Hoy todavía no, mañana sí,
Pasado mañana, ya perdiéndose.


We decorate the window with papel picado
pink, turquoise, Mediterranean blue,
With dry and fiery leaves about ready to combust
Brightened by the sun’s tea. 
The altar fills with snapshots and flowers, 
marigolds and smiles. 

The petticoats of the rose 
in mid-pirouette. That’s how
it will stay for a day or two, long
enough for a Muertos altar. 

Color of sun 
through a white rabbit’s ears.
A few petals shyly cover
the flower’s yawn. 

The rusty chrysanthemum 
plays the clown,
like dad in his snapshot,
Their heads at the same slant.

And this bowl of perfumed fruit
with the shape of my breasts,
Skin the color of fall leaves

full of a juicy milk,
between solid and liquid.
Pear, my daughter’s first food,

my father’s last.
“Do this in remembrance of me.
This is my body.”
They’re the body of the grandfather,

the body of the child,
the breasts of the mother,
part of the chain 
garlic braid of harvest. 
My father is dead. 
This word like a coffin’s 

Or is he muerto? A word
like a cave
full of bats and spirits. 

Autumn sobs. 
Orange shines
in the shadows. 

Pear, your perfect ripeness
lasts only one day. 
Today no, tomorrow, yes.
Day after, no more. 

     June 12, 2016, when a gunman shot and killed 49 individuals at   
     Pulse, a gay and Latinx night club, in Orlando, Florida, 

Two slender men – 
with tan bodies, 
tank tops, tattoos – 
console, embrace 
like trees entwined. 
These two telegraphed
the story on national news
and endure 
in the grove of my mind
above a scattershot of the fallen.

Can I speak the names behind the names?
     Angel, Beloved, Bread-and-Water, Carrier,
     Daughter, Defender, DJ, Earth Worker, Farm. 

Angel wings shielded mourners from protesters 
as they made their way to funerals. 
Many opened veins and gave 
until banks overspilled.
Rainbow flags flowered.  
Matches scratched and leapt 
into flame, into candle.

     Flaming Sword, Fortress, Guard, Holder, Healer, 
     King, Listener, New House, Painter, Ruler, Young Mother.  

Thinking of my children, my students, and the forty-nine,
I have made pilgrimage to an ocean full of blue and salt. 

     Of course there were at least two Frank Ones, two Humble Ones,
     Warriors one, two, three and four, 
     the Gracious, Generous, Gracious, Generous ones,
     the Strong, Blessed, Just, Kind, God-like ones,
     Priceless, Priceless. 

What have I done with these Gifts of God? 
     Forest, Wolf, Bear, River, Forest, Wolf, Bear, River, 
     Deer, Snow, Deer, Snow, dear Sea-and-Sun,
     dear Sea-and-Sun, dear Clearing, Rock, Rock, Rock – 
on this Rock I will build 

more Muertos altars. These still overflow.

An introduction to Poetry of Remembrance/Poesía del Recuerdo 2020 (and two poems) by Sonoma County Poet Laureate Phyllis Meshulam.

One Boy Who Cried, Un Niño Que Ha Llorado
     Día de los Muertos, 2018, the year when thousands of immigrant
     children were separated from their families at the border. 2018,  
     año en que a miles de niños inmigrantes los separaron de sus 
     familias en la frontera
At the time of year of the dying sun,
when the time of day was night,
a year when many families were un-membered,
met for a Day of the Dead commemoration.

Día era noche y
I stood with my student before the crowd
en la fiesta del Día de los Muertos, rodeados
por papel picado azul y rosado, beloved faces in frames, sugar skulls.

Con mi alumno, ante la multitud, 
I read of my own mentor who gave up her ghost in May.
Surrounded by paper lace, framed faces, calaveras de azúcar, 
my boy, reading homage to his grandma, cried, could not go on.

Hablé de mi mentora, que todavía me persigue.
Reading of his abuela’s empty bed,
el niño se atragantó, no pudo continuar. 
I read the end – about the fire of his grief.

La cama de su abuela ahora vacía,
his aunt materialized beside him, held him.
El fuego de su dolor aún lo consumía.
but we all began to dance, to conjure:

nuestros seres queridos se materializaron a nuestros lados
as we ate bread of the dead, drank horchata like mother’s milk.
Conjuramos amigos, padres, mentores para que bailaran con nosotros    
     otra vez
Later, many told me the boy’s tears had crystalized their loss.

Comimos pan de muertos, bebimos horchata como leche materna, 
en la estación del del año del sol moribundo.
Para muchos, las lágrimas del niño cristalizaron su pérdida
in a year when families more than ever needed re-membering
A Book of Ruths

My mother’s name was Ruth –
Ruthie at affectionate moments
from Dad. Ooie, originally
from the neighbor baby who
couldn’t yet say her rs,
then for years used as a tease.

Less than 30 years after women
had gained the right to vote,
Mom lay in a hospital bed in Illinois,
having just given birth to me.
She had to beg to get a ballot – absentee.
If those Republican doctors had known
how I was going to vote,
they never would have granted
my wish, she once mused.
It was a close enough
election that The Tribune got
the headline wrong the next day.
But, in truth, her candidate had prevailed.

Mom died a couple years after RBG
was seated on the Supreme Court.
I know she must have felt relief
at someone in power who saw the feet
on the necks of her generation of women.
Justice Ruthie was about the same height
as my mom, a little thinner,
born a couple decades later,
but she, too, knew how women had been
undermined and misused for millennia.

RBG was asked what the right number
of women on the Supreme Court would be
and she answered – I thought I heard none
at first, but it was definitely nine. Spunk.

Mom had sweetness and some spunk.
RBG had both in spades. Spunk in defense
of equal rights under the law. Ut sit. May it be so. 

“Eliza Ya Se Ha Muerto” performed by Jabez Churchill

“Voces (Voices)” by Jabez Churchill

“La Llorona” performed by Jabez Churchill

“Say Their Names/Diga Sus Nombres” by Sandra Anfang

Say Their Names 
     Black Lives Matter marches

We march from distant points 
at opposite ends of town
converge on the fairgrounds
three miles separate us
though it might as well
be a continent
we have no barrio to speak of
but it’s no secret that the east side
is the bedroom of the working class
side by side with twenty-somethings
we punctuate 
the air with fists and signs
say their names: Breonna Taylor
say their names: George Floyd
say their names: Eric Garner

while dopplered car horns answer 
a man emerges from a sunroof
flares a Mexican flag like a giant kite
his face a dueling ground
of joy and tears
the horns continue their applause
say their names: Sandra Bland
say their names: Stephon Clark
say their names: Jacob Blake
at the fairgrounds
we learn what it takes
to understand a people’s pain
the ways to offer
service and respect to sisters 
black & brown—
what books to read
what films to watch
a syllabus in getting woke
before we disperse
we take a knee
a simple act
humbling & quaint
as if proposing to the world 
in all its rainbow beauty
will you take me
as I am
for better & for worse
say their names: Philandro Castille
say their names: Tamir Rice
say their names: Michael Brown

Diga Sus Nombres
Caminamos de puntos distantes
En partes apuestas del pueblo
Nos encontramos al recinto ferial
Hay tres milias de separacion
Entre nosotros
Pero parece como  continente
No hay barrio distinto
Pero todos saben que el parte oriental
Es la habitacion de las clase media.
Lado a lado con los jovenes
pertubamos el aire
con punos y carteles de protesta
diga sus nombres: Breonna Taylor
diga sus nombres: George Floyd
diga sus nombres: Eric Garner
mientras las bocinas responden
un hombre se pone de pie en un coche
vuela una bandera Mexicana como gran cometa
su cara un campo
de alegria y lagrimas
continuan las bocinas
diga sus nombres: Sandra Bland
diga sus nombres: Stephon Clark
diga sus nombres: Jacob Blake
al recinto ferial aprendimos
que es necesario para entender
el dolor de la gente:
como ofrecer servicio y respeto
a nuestras hermanas
negras y marrones
que libros leer
que peliculas mirar
un programa de estudios
antes de salir
nos arrodillamos
un acto sencillo
humillante y pintoresco
como proponiendole al mundo
en su belleza arcoiris
me tomaras como soy
para bien o para mal
diga sus nombres: Philando Castille
diga sus nombres: Tamir Rice
diga sus nombres: Michael Brown

“Tucker McMullen” by Eva Corbin

Tucker McMullen- 1959-2020

Kind and Gentle Spirit
Generous, Loving Heart
Musical Soul

Devoted and Steady Friend
Supportive, Caring Father
Delightful “Happy Go Lucky” outlook on life

Thank you for sharing these parts of yourself with us;
We are forever enriched by it.

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