in the hour just before morning

Photo: V. Slotto

Photo: V. Slotto

in the hour just before morning

flowers close tight, their buds still chilled
by frost-threatened air, huddle together
in leaf-nests, await sun’s sweet warm breath.

robins stir, tune their voices—magnificent
orchestral artists preparing to greet morn
in symphonic wakening trills. harmony.

dew prepares to glisten in spider’s web,
on blades of grass—dons her rainbow hues,
ready to dazzle the wakening world.

within the womb of an old house an old lady
nestles ‘neath a down-filled comforter,
pulls it snug to cradle the aching toll of her years

down the hall the coffee maker gurgles to life,
infuses the home with scents of comfort.
the husband arouses, stretches
while the dog shakes sleep away.

a crescent moon slips silently in the west,
hiding behind snow-covered peaks
while sun reaches out, pulls herself up
on horizon’s ledge and peeks.

at a distance, the long, long, short, long blast
of the six o’clock train strikes a final
exclamation mark on the day’s opening act.

Linking to dVerse Poets’ Open Link Night where creativity and fellowship flow. Please join us with a poem of your own.

The title an excerpt from a poem  by Mary Oliver…which one? I don’t remember.

Stay for Awhile




A train, at a standstill across
the river, gasps for breath, hisses
its need to move along toward
destiny. Slow start, a wheeze.
It inches forward, heading East.

But I, I don’t want to go.


I live across the river from the train track that threads through the Sierra Nevada from California to points East. I love its plaintive sound (except when some middle-of-the-night engineer really lays on the whistle). It seems to call us to distant places.

This week, at dVerse Poetics, we’re writing about trains. Why don’t you hop on board?!

Monday Meanderings–Welcome, Rain. Please Stay Awhile

The Truckee River, 2014--only a block from our home. It is usually fast and full, fed by Tahoe. Photo: KTVN News Channel 2

The Truckee River, 2014–only a block from our home. It is usually fast and full, fed by Tahoe.
Photo: KTVN News Channel 2

While much of the United States has been inundated with precipitation of one sort or another, we in the West have just suffered through our third year of drought. Our beautiful maple tree, in the front yard is languishing and if we lose it, we have mentioned the possibility of xeriscape, which seems so logical for those of us living in desert climates. (Reno, in Northern Nevada, is nestled in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, about 40 minutes from Lake Tahoe. It is classified as high desert.)

At the moment, I turn my head to look out the window, at a lovely gentle rainfall. The bare ornamental pear tree right next to me is decorated with pendulous drops of water. To the West and North of us, there is a fine dusting of snow that hasn’t quite reached our 4500 ft. elevation. My prayer is that this lovely gift of rain will hang around for a while and water our barren land. But gently, I think, to give it time to soak in (I recall two floods we’ve experienced since moving here in 1993.)

Photo: Victoria Slotto Ornamental Pear Tree in Winter.

Photo: Victoria Slotto
Ornamental Pear Tree in Winter.

This morning “my” tree was full of birds, feasting on the tiny, inedible-to-human pears that still remain. Finches, Jays, a Chickadee–the first I’ve seen here, robins and doves compete. On the ground and in the huge blue spruce in the front yard, quail wait out the winter. Their babies, which delight us in fair weather, are mature now.

Will we have snow this year? Last year only one snowfall made its way to us just in time to get dirty or melt for Christmas. But for today, it’s a very light rain. Please stay a while.

Flood Warning

Just yesterday
the ornamental pear tree outside my office
window flaunted color:
yellow oxide,
cadmium orange
and raw sienna—
clinged tenaciously—

until wind-violence
whipped in fury,
promised rain and warned
the Truckee would defy
her boundaries, swell to rape
the shores, invade the town
and neighborhoods.

On the cul-de-sac
behind my kitchen window,
a pile of sandbags
in a neighbor’s driveway
shrugs in disappointment,

For my part,
I count lonely
fruit, hanging from bare branches,
study black clouds
to the west,
write poetry.

Linked to dVerse Open Link Night, where Natasha is our hostess for the evening. Hope you will drop in, bring a poem of your own and enjoy the work of others.

We live a block from the Truckee and were fortunate to make it through a rough weekend of flood warnings. The winds did more damage than the rain.

On a side note, I’ve been trying to update my gravatar and it just isn’t working. So if you see a black square, it’s not about my mood!

October Haibun

Hawk, the Messenger,
seeks tomorrow’s sustenance,
dove feasts, unaware.

Photo Credit: Wikipedia Commons

Recently, a red tail hawk sat on our fence, watching an assortment of jays, robins, quail and doves fattening themselves on the seeds in our garden. Spent cosmos and coreopsis shrugged, let nature have her way.

Autumn smells pungent—
leaves moldering in crannies,
poems forgotten.

Photo Credit:

All the work of putting the garden to bed for the winter has claimed our attention, turning it from creative pursuits. The tasks of autumn bring to mind those chores that face us later in life—clearing away the debris of spent dreams, wasted efforts—preparing the soil for what is yet to come.

Late blooming roses
struggle in October frost,
clash with changing leaves.

Photo Credit: D. Slotto

A few brilliant roses still persist in their efforts to boast their beauty, proving that nature is not as fussy as we are when it comes to choosing the colors she will wear, or what’s deemed appropriate as defined by the expectations of others. Bright pink and orange: how freeing!

Truckee, languid now,
flows gently through our city,
hopes for winter snow.

Photo Credit: Mike Devon

The Truckee river, a block from our home, is feeling the effect of last winter’s drought. It is fed by beautiful Lake Tahoe, flows east through Reno and ends up in Pyramid Lake, home of the Paiute Indians. Snow fell today, just above our elevation, in the Sierra Nevada and it’s possible we may see some tomorrow. Reno is high desert, receiving only 7” of rain annually. We depend on the snowfall in the mountains and at the Lake.

Written for and linked to dVerse Poets’ Open Link Night, hosted by Claudia Schonfeld who I will have the joy of meeting soon! Her California trip coincides with my visit down South for my mother’s 92nd birthday.

I may be late in visiting. Tomorrow I have a minor procedure for which they’ll send me to la-la land. Doubt I’ll be rational enough to give you any valuable comments!


Ladders new & ancient at Tsankawi

Ladders new & ancient at Tsankawi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Achieving Spiritual Exile

In the background, golfers prowl the green at the Olympic Club,
stroke small white balls towards an elusive hole.
Vistas of San Francisco splay across the 48” screen
where talking heads move lips, spew words I cannot hear (Muted!)

From time-to-time
I see an image
flashing in
my memory.

Early morning: scents of Tide and Bounce,
the churning, sloshing washer, and the touch of soft linen,
yield to the undulating voice of a professor
blathering theories of historical authenticity—
sounds emanating from my Bose, (a Teaching Company CD.)

From time-to-time
the image flashes
on the screen
of my imagination.

The girl-dog followed me into the garage
when I toted a bag of garbage and an empty cardboard box.
I closed the door, entombing her inside that darkness
and wondered why the boy-dog barked.
It took a while before I noticed she was missing.

From time-to-time
I sense the presence,
a hand that stretches
out to my unknowing.

I walk the dogs before the heat of noon.
My cell phone rides in the back pocket of my jeans,
the Blue Tooth in my ear.
Necessary calls completed, leaving my hands free
for picking up their excrement.
(Forgot to check the level of the Truckee and the oriole nest).

From time-to-time
I tell myself
to think about
that image.

Dishwasher beeping end of cycle,
turn up the volume, Tiger’s teeing off,
fold the clothes and make the bed,
don’t have the time to think
about that dream.

The ladder propped against the loft
(too high, too full of danger).
Strong hand that reaches down to me,
(familiar guide from long ago)

It’s safer here, well-trenched within the land of doing.
Find comfort in the work.
Security eschews change.

From time-to-time
an image

Posted in response to Manicddaily’s prompt at dVerse Poetics where we’re asked to write about EXILE. You will want to read this wonderful post, learn a bit about James Joyce and visit the work of some other exiled poets! I took my poem in the direction of spiritual exile…there are times when we receive gifts we just don’t want to look at!

Lady Nimue’s Months-of-the-Year Challenge: Late October

The Truckee River near Truckee, California.

Image via Wikipedia

Submitted to Lady Nimue’s Months of the Year Challenge:


Late October

Cricket songs slow down.
Scarlet leaves dance along the Truckee.
Empty spaces wait like barren wombs,
embrace mounds of snow.

Sunday 160–“Railroad Crossing”

A block away
the Truckee flows.
On the far side
of the river,
a train calls.
Warning us
Take care!
Or, perhaps inviting us.
the myopic
you have created.

Submitted to Monkey Man’s Sunday 160

Poetry and Place

I’ve noticed that a lot of the poetry I write is reflective of PLACE. Both Reno and Palm Desert have a character that is distinctive, charged with beauty and sometimes frightening.

This morning I grabbed a camera to take along on our walk with the dogs. We prowl our neighborhood, nestled beside the Truckee River then turn off onto the river walk that snakes along her banks. David looked at me like I’d lost it when I slung the Nokia around my neck. “Are you sure you want to do that? Why?” Implied was the truth that this is something that we see every day. I told him, I want to find a prompt to help me write a poem, since I’m hoping to come up with thirty new ones by the end of September.”

As it happened, I only took one shot. Actually my formerly-professional-photographer husband pilfered the camera from me and he took the photo I asked for, showing me how to adjust for the lighting.

But something else happened that I didn’t expect. Just having the camera catalyzed my sense of awareness and I SAW so much more than I would have had I not had the intention.

I noticed that August is not the most verdant month in Reno but the sunflowers are flaunting their colors. I spotted pumpkins turning orange in our neighbor’s rock garden. I saw that the Truckee is enjoying the consequences of a wet winter in the Sierra Nevada as the flow is more vigorous that it was this time last year.And from underneath a vine, a tiny purple flower caught my attention. In her center, a brilliant yellow star presided, proving the creator’s use of complementary color is spot-on.

David just left for his weekly trek to a local farmer’s market. On the way out of the house, he grabbed my camera. “You’re taking that?” I asked. “Yeah, he answered. I might see something there to photograph.” So, I don’t have my picture prompt handy…the poem will wait and won’t be a part of this post. But that’s okay. Maybe I’ll have something else to work with in a couple of hours. In the meantime, here’s a picture from a meadow across the street from the entrance to our complex. Am I spoiled or what?

Photo Credit: David Slotto