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poetry page

The poems of Portland expressionists

Event Announcement:
Celebrate the Summer Solstice with poetry and music by local authors Catherine Conrad-Dixon, Micah Llewellyn, Joseph A. Soldati, Ron Talney and others. Arrive early to order coffees or milkshakes.
Sunday July 27 after 6 p.m.
Free and open to the public.
Donations welcomed to assist Caribbean orphans.
Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe
45 South State Street in downtown Lake Oswego.
Contact: 503-697-7097.

Following is a taste of what to expect from poets Joseph A. Soldati and Ron Talney. Read on!

My name is Mary Otte. As the new Poetry Editor for the Portland Alliance I would like to share my vision with you, the reader, and encourage you to send me feedback on how you like what you are seeing. When putting together a Poetry Page for Portland’s oldest progressive newspaper the ‘progressive’ part drives me. Exploring the many facets of the poetic art form is one of my favorite past times and to be able to share that love with a likeminded readership is a challenge that I am very happy to take on. As you will see, I have divided the page into three sections: the Slam Series, Progressive Poetry by local poets, and Poets for the Community. In Poets for the Community each month will feature a poet who is also doing their part as an activist. This poet will have a more extensive bio with ways to keep up with what they are doing. The section for progressivepoetry by local poets is exactly as described. In the section Slam Series I would like to feature a poem a month from the winning team from National Poetry Slam for the first six months after Nationals and then in the six months leading up to Nationals feature a Portland poet competing for the team here. I am hoping that the melding of these three focuses will support interconnectivity and, of course, progressive poetry. If you would like to submit for any of the three sections or to let me know what you think of the page you can email me at: or paper mail to: The Portland Alliance / 2807 S.E. Stark / Portland, OR 97214.

“Why I Don’t Meditate”

I relish life’s blurts, the Eurekas!
of the day, free samples in bakeries,
hitting twenty-one on the first deal,
ninth inning home-runs and upsets
in big games.  I crave immediacy,
everything on, myself awake
to morning, afternoon, and night.

I detest meringue, the separation
of mind from body, the inside
from the out.  Let body-blow stagger me
or punch-line baffle me, my
quiet time is for reading, desire,
and for sleeping next to you,
for love and love’s cry.  I
want to be near when the moon
rings the crystal bell of sky.

The infant who smiles at my funny hat,
the cat’s sudden leap and settle
in my lap, an English sonnet’s surprise
of couplet--these cannot be dreamt
cross-legged in silent starved repose.

I feast on the unexpected--sunlight
slanting through predicted rain,
the sudden passing of excruciating
pain, the sound of leaves in wind
scratching at my door, that succulent scent
when I bow to a rose.

—Joseph A. Soldati

Did we hear the blades
rattle and the old engine
bawl, or smell the rancid
exhaust? --I don’t recall.

Around the great lawn we drove--
circumference ever smaller,
as down into a vortex--
and found our green center.

—Joseph A. Soldati

First published in Pointed Circle, 2007

Joseph A. Soldati has published numerous poems in a variety of literary magazines, journals, and anthologies, including Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass (2007); Across the Long Bridge (2006); Line Drives: 100 Contemporary Baseball Poems (2002); and Knowing Stones: Poems of Exotic Places (2000). Flying Machines, published by Icarus International, awarded him its year 2000 poetry prize for “Moon on the Wing.” Other journals and anthologies in which his poems have appeared include Margie: The American Journal of Poetry, Clackamas Literary Review, Solo: A Journal of Poetry, Pointed Circle, Spanish Moss, Into The Teeth of the Wind, Hubbub, Fireweed, Ruah: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry, Demilitarized Zones: Veterans After Vietnam, Stafford’s Road, Carrying the Darkness: American Indochina--The Poetry of the Vietnam War, and Trains and Rain. His most recent chapbook of poems, Apocalypse Clam, was published by Finishing Line Press, in 2006. He is also the author of a scholarly book, Configurations of Faust (1980), a poetry collection. For more information, visit his Web site at


“The Sound of a Wooden Bell,
Port au Prince, Haiti”

“No one listens to the cries of the poor
or the sound of a wooden bell.”
—Haitian saying

It is morning
on Delmas Avenue.

The street is crowded,
Tap-taps rumble past.

Venders hawk their wares:
bananas, nuts and cigarettes.

A mother holds out her hand,
holds out her child, “America,” she pleads,

I shake my head.
And somewhere,

deep beneath her gaze
I hear
the sound of a wooden bell.

—Ron Talney


for the first time
since your death
I use your knife,
the tiny one
you always carried.

I am here,
in El Salvador,
here, in my hotel,
peeling a mango.

It is hot. Below
the streets are crowded,
noisy. Smells
from pupuserias
rise into the spaces
of the alleyway
outside my window.

I think of how
in better days
you might have been here too.

I cut the fruit.
Carefully I clean
and fold the blade.

Here in El Salvador
at last
we are at peace.
And, Father,
here at last
cut-mango tastes

so sweet.

—Ron Talney

Ron Talney is a retired legal aid attorney. He has published four books of poems, “The Anxious Ground” from Press-22, “The Quietness That is our Name” from Bohematash Press, “A Secret Weeping of Stones, New and Selected Poems” from the Legal Studies Forum of West Virginia University, and “The Broken World” from Stone City Press, part of the William Stafford Chapbook Series. He has published in numerous literary magazines and quarterlies, including Lynx, Hubbub, Windfall, Fireweed, Oregon Times Magazine, and others.


There is a stench in this house,
the stench of rancid oil
and corruption.

It is almost certain to
sicken the next tenant.

The walls look shiny and white
but if you put your hands to them
you feel the vibrations
of screams.

The screams of prisoners.

This room
contains the souls
of victims.

It is a room so large
the entire world
cannot contain it.

The children alone,
ghost hand in ghost hand,
would encircle the globe.

But even this
pales in comparison
to the unadulterated evil
permeating this house.

If it were smoke
the winds of history
would blow it away,
but it
is thicker than smoke,
thicker than blood.

A new tenant will dwell here.
‘Hail to the Chief’ will play again.
But the shadow on this building,
the stain on these walls,
will endure as long as memory.

—Bob Zahniser

Bob Zahniser is a frequent contributor to the Portland Alliance Poetry Page. To read more of his work, visit


“A Poem of Now”

I decide it’s going to be hell to get up,
no matter what time it is,
so I grab the headboard bars,
stretch my back:
Does it pop today?
The kitty jumps off the bed.
Her tags tinkle.
I groan.
I stump into the livingroom
and squint at the clock.
8:45 a.m.
I do two follow-up calls to work
about that meeting I’m trying to set up.
Nobody answers.
I call Mother to let her know we can talk after breakfast.
I walk into the kitchen,
and notice that the kitty
has eaten all her food.
“What a wonderful kitty!”
I emote to her.
“You ate all your food!”
Kitty butts her head with a soft thud
against the cabinet
with pleasure at my tone,
and in anticipation of more food.
I feel her warm furry self
entwining around my legs.
I scoop out more dry food
with the clean, empty tuna can’s
metallic sound against the pellets.
Kitty munches down.
I sit and write.
Kitty is one foot away,
on the dusky-rose-colored plush carpet.
I decide to eat muesli with blackberries
for breakfast
and take all my behavior-modification

—Marian Drake

Marian Drake is a Portland poet and artist & the proprietor of “Portland Postcards,” which you can visit at



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Last Updated: May 22, 2009