Looking Back: Naked Incense and Other Poems

National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month, and I thought I'd celebrate this year with three poems written locally in the 1970s. The first poem, Naked Incense, was written by my friend, retired SJPL librarian June Hayashi in 1975. June reflects on the transient nature of life as she recalls a shared moment with her husband Ted. The second poem, The Model T, was written by another friend Myron Wahlstrand in 1972. Myron's poem is a sonnet, which is a rhyming poem of fourteen lines. Old cars had long been a theme in the Wahlstrand family, and coming across an old Model T manual became the inspiration for this poem. The third poem, The Prisoner, was one I wrote in high school in 1977. The poem is my attempt to humorously describe my desire to better understand myself and the world.

by June Hayashi

Warm air bathes us,
swirls round our heads
like blue strokes of a Van Gogh.

We sit in the grass
leaning back to back,
your body relaxes
settles in mine.

Earlier, the scent
of the blossoming lemon tree
curled through the air
luring the bees
in their restless,
frenzied dances.

But now, undisturbed
the branches thick
with yellow star bursts
offer pure
naked incense.

This moment
will not stay
even as long
as the lemon blossoms.

by Myron Wahlstrand

Weathered beyond calamities it cannot grieve
Unlimbered from thin wheels and set on its springs
Frozen to old colloquies and long past reprieve;
A jumble of armatures, pipes, and broken rings.
Sometime ago when its smooth, polished mirrors
Were turned to accommodate a young lady’s view;
She laughed through her veil as he shifted the gears,
And the bulb-horn OO-gaed and the chickens flew.
Fully cranked and throttled, it fired his esteem
For the driver’s rituals with their slick, new needs.
The reflections of its moment in brass and nickel gleam,
Wrapped in goggled-dusters and breathless speeds.
It stands deserted here, broken in the dust,
This forgotten Model T… hulking into rust.

by Ralph Pearce

My brain, it holds me captive
in this small, gray, padded cell.
Within I ponder all I know
from the heavens down to hell.

And inside my mind I often find
a voice that seems to cry,
“There’s no reprieve, you’ll never leave,
you’ll stay until you die!”

But I must get loose, I’m a stir-crazy moose,
a rubber band that needs to unwind.
A tangle of thought, left here to rot,
I don’t want to be left behind.

So what of that beyond?
Breaking free, what would I find?
If I can get out, I’ll dance and I’ll shout,
“I’m free, I’m out of my mind!”

Further Reading from the California Room: