February 7, 2020
It has been my pleasure since about 2007 to know Mendocino poet Devreaux Baker. She is the author of five full-length collections of poetry, including Hungry Ghosts; out of the bones of earth; Red Willow People; Beyond the Circumstance of Sight; and Light at the Edge. She also co-edited, with Sharon Doubiago and Susan Maeder, Wood, Water, Air and Fire, The Anthology of Mendocino Women Poets.
Baker is the recipient of numerous awards and grants, including the 2017 Joe Gouveia Outermost National Poetry Prize, the 2014 Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry Prize from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, the 2012 Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Prize, the 2011 PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Poetry Award, and the 2010 Women’s Global Leadership Poetry Prize. She is a Fellow at the MacDowell Colony, the Hawthornden Castle and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation. She lives on the magnificent Mendocino Coast in Northern California.
I hope you’ll treat yourself now to two poems by Devreaux, the first from out of the bones of earth (Wild Ocean Press, 2015); the second from her most recent collection, Hungry Ghosts (Wild Ocean Press, 2018). Please send any comments or questions you have about the work to me at kfhastings (at sign) mac (dot) com.
NOSTALGIA FOR THE RAIN
It began with a tin roof
sounds like silver sticks
falling from air
a dash of bird feet
despair or love at all the edges
It began with a car
wind shield wipers forming a pattern
of lost and found
the truth of the seen versus
It began with a picnic
wicker basket of fruit
grass still dazed from a sudden
It was spring
or was it fall
the brush of winter
woven into scarves
It arrived in the blue smell
at the base of clouds
became a dark thought
fell in torrents
released us from ourselves
It began with a mattress
on the cabin floor
the smell of wet pines
in hidden groves
It came in a rush
unfolded wet knees
a vertebrae of desire
It began with your body
in the afternoon
the smell of rain
silver sticks falling across
A dash of bird feet
on all the rooftops
of the world
My mother came for a visit
even though she died last spring.
She was standing by the foot of my bed
releasing vowels from the afterlife
smelling of moss and spring rain
on the tarmac.
Here we go again, old recipes and lectures,
I thought, stumbling out the door into the back yard
while the history of all forgotten things
was leaking out of her apron pockets
like the Andromeda strain or the Milky
Way filled with impossible features of dead stars.
All she really wanted was for me to follow
her lead in this shuffle-foot shim-sham, this
millennial foxtrot of flesh turning into
stardust, that long unwinding road
pale as beer made from wheat where
we all crowd into a room and wait for
the unmarked bus to transport us into the highlands
of the forever lands. This is the way it feels
when she presses her hand against the small of my back.
The valley gorge that rests between my hips and heart
wakes up and smiles and even the smallest bones
like the swing when she says anything is possible
and I want to answer her but am lifted off my feet
shucking the chrysalis of my life, resurrecting the
boogie-woogie, dancing in the midnight arms
of her Stardust Lounge.
One thought on “Devreaux Baker”
Wow. These are wonderful, Katherine. Thank you for introducing me to Devreaux’s work.