The journey of the Messenger Mountain News is an ongoing discovery of the artistic riches that our mountains nurture. This is the second poetry offering in the short time we’ve been publishing. Meet award-winning poet Marsha de la O, who will be Topanga Authors Group’s featured guest at the Topanga Library on July 22. Joining her in these pages are Malibu Poet Laureate Ricardo Means Ybarra, Florence Weinberger and Topangans Joanne Martinez and Deena Metzger. Out illustrator, once again, is former Topanga Messenger editor Dan Mazur who lives in Boston, MA, but continues to carry within an understanding of the Topanga mystique.

Flavia Potenza



Poem on a Female Goldfinch

Willow-green shy girl     

gazing at me from a tree

of hard green lemons

wanting something

from this field  

where I wait

my quiet, her courage

deep green

of the broadleaf –

prosperous weed –  

that country squire   

who sets the table

of himself

with round-bellied aphids

she jumps

their swollen curves

little sap buckets –

yellow, chartreuse, lime

my goldfinch

moss green abbess

in the zendo at meal-time

her way-deep hunger

koan and blessing

fleshpots earthbeads

she plunges and gulps       

one eye on the beholder

white streak in my hair   

after all this time

on earth

invited to the feast

—Marsha de la O




He remembers nothing of the famous photo

a full body shot under the flood-lit letters

captured in the wide angle Hollywood night

He didn’t cross ten lanes of freeway  

to pose, flex a ripped set

stare direct, unconcerned

with the abrupt flash  

one more light

paparazzi, biologists  

the tracking device

around his neck.

He may ignore the collar, but

I don’t want to know when

the 3-5 year life expectancy

of a mountain lion

in Griffith Park

ends by car, bullet, rat poison.

I don’t want to see that photo

a full body shot on the side of a road

I don’t want to see that photo

pink tongue spilled in the night

I don’t want to see the glassy eyes

one long tooth exposed

a curl of blood dried smooth  

as desire under the light.

—Ricardo Means Ybarra

   Malibu Poet Laureate



Life is a Balancing Act

Today I woke and found I’d lost my small left toe.

It wasn’t there. A nothing filled its rightful place.

I searched. I scanned the floor and bed, I even checked the dirty clothes.

The toe was gone and I was in an awful place. I simply couldn’t

stand up straight. My left toe once had held me firm.

Now I just reeled and tipped

At first, I thought I might still be asleep, just dreaming of my fate.

But when I pinched my arm and knocked a bit upon

my head and both things hurt—I knew I was awake.

Awake and falling down. A tragic fate—a life with no left toe.

I barely reached the door to make my way downstairs—

held to the rail and moved with care. One wobbly step, then two.

At last I reached the floor.

So, there I was, downstairs inside my house, without a toe

to hold me fixed—a tipsy, reeling clown. I went about the

things I had to do with lumbering gait. I grabbed, I clutched,

I tried to stand up straight, but there it was—my life without a toe

was one mean balancing act, a sideshow with no crowds—

a play with just one scene—a single role without a solid plot.

The hardest thing I had to do was tie my shoes. When I bent

down to make a knot, I fell face first and landed on the floor.

I bumped my head at least a dozen times until I learned to lean

far back exactly at the time I tilted forward. It was a hard maneuver.

The muscles in my back got stronger with each fall—

until they bulged and held me tight and strong. Then I could tie my shoes.

Quite slowly, moment crawling at a dripping pace, I learned to stand and

hold my head erect. I learned to take one small step at a time, look straight ahead

then take another step. I learned to walk the distance from the stove to

couch without a pause and then I learned to sit and stand without a lurch.

By nightfall, I was quite in charge of how I moved and how I got around.

That damned left toe no longer was my life. That damned left toe would

not become my fate.

Yet, I still know it’s gone. I miss it in the middle of the night

when I curl into a ball and rub my feet together. There is a space

where once a toe belonged. And when I try to reach the highest shelf,

where I keep all the things I rarely use, it’s difficult, at best, to stand up tall

and hold myself erect. I almost fall, despite my new-found strength.

So, if you lose a toe, remember this—you’ll learn to walk and maybe run.

You’ll learn to stand erect, you’ll learn to tie your shoes but

never will you reach a place where you don’t miss your toe.

Until you die you’ll know a part is gone and you’re not whole.

You’ll always have to balance every move with care and

never take for granted what you have. The perfect person

you once were is gone. You’re not the man you always hoped to be.

Joanne Martinez



You Won’t Believe How Hard it is to Change

I’m bored with rhyme and sick of my own rhythm

It’s no use smoking grass, the scene is repetitious

No, my friends aren’t redundant, they’re just not enough

No use banging my head against a pot of boiling water

I tried running with lentils in my shoes

I scolded my fingers and rinsed my tongue

I accepted that cats will trod on my roof

What I cannot accept is pretentiousness

Once I had a teacher who suggested holding a paper clip

or a straight pin and then writing down what came to me

That’s what I mean by pretentiousness

But I tried it

—Florence Weinberger



The Burden of Light

The butterfly, with the burden of light

on its back, weaves across the meadow

where the slightest green emerges

after four years of drought.

The sage has survived, although

it has been ash black for months.

It’s a monarch attaching

to the eucalyptus blossoms among the bees.

Small brown leaves flutter down,

columns of broken wings in the wind.

The clouds gather again in faint promises.

Until realized, we continue to water

wat we can reach of the wild and feral,

returning some of what we have stolen.

We look to the North to redeem us.

The polar bear mother will not survive.

As we burn, her cub will drown.

Still, we pray that her grief

will rain down upon us this season.

—Deena Metzger


From her book, “The Burden of Light: Poems on Illness and Loss (2014),” the first poetry anthology of its kind, weaving together many solitary experiences to create a tapestry of inspiration, support, and hope…. “Optimized to be read on all current-model smartphones and tablets (computers, too)….” (Review by Tanya Chernov)


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