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Oct 09th
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The Poems of Charles Atkinson

AE poetryEditor’s note: Charles Atkinson has lived in Santa Cruz for 40 years. He is the author of five prize-winning volumes of poetry. The poems included here are from his most recent collection, “World News, Local Weather,” from Finishing Line Press (2013). To contact the author, email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .



At first I’d step into that room, eyes

down, braced as if something were

coiled beneath his bed. But he would

without fail slide his mottled

arm of bone from under sheets

to find my hand. I’d fold his claw—

still warm—in both my mitts and hold it

till I felt his flutter-pulse;

then I’d start to breathe again.

One day I smelled what huddled under

that bed: my poorest frightened self.

I lifted it, shaking, almost weightless,

into my lap and stroked its cool—

There now, dying looks like this.

ae bookToday I’m at his shoulder, to follow

the jagged breaths where they go,

surprised—not that I can love him,

but that I might love myself.


After Wildfire

New Camaldoli Hermitage, Big Sur

The floor of hell could look like this: chalky

orange clay, exploded rock, black stumps.

Shredded pine roots from a ‘dozer’s firebreak.

Thousands of silent acres charred, inert.

Not a leaf on the hillside—till you kneel

in dirt: bindweed tendril, bracken nubs,

poison oak’s buds bronze in the ash. Why are

the noxious always most eager, first to return?

Beside the chapel, wren so quick to change

direction on a twig, faster than the eye:

now east—bald ridge—now west—the sheer Pacific—

intent on aphids from a potted rose.

Rain slides down an iron chain from eave

to ground, a rusty rippled sleeve. Each link

a wavering lens that frames the bell tower—

tiny silver towers stacked to the gutter.

Matins for the Mystery—blaze, vine,

bug, bird. They eddy out the chapel,

tufts of milkweed floss shaken loose

by wind, seeds above bare ground.

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Mercury Direct in Libra, Columbus Day, Libra New Moon

Mercury completes its retrograde Friday, poised stationary direct Friday evening at zero degrees Libra. Mercury begins its journey through Libra once again, completing its retrograde shadow Oct. 12. Things should be a bit less complicated by then. Daily life works better, plans move forward, large purchases can be made, and communication eases. Everything on hold during the retrograde is slowly released. Since we eliminated all thoughts and ideas no longer needed (the purpose of Mercury’s retrograde) during the retrograde, we can now gather new information—until the next retrograde occurs on Jan. 5, 2016 (1.3 degrees Aquarius), retrograding back to 15 degrees Capricorn on Jan. 25. It’s good to know beforehand when Mercury will retrograde next—Jan. 5, the day before Epiphany. On Monday is Columbus Day, when the sailor from Genoa arrived in the new lands (Americas), Oct. 12, 1492. This discovery by Columbus was the first encounter of Europeans with Native Americans. Other names for this day are “Discovery Day, Day of the Americas, Cultural Diversity Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Dia de la Raza.” Italian communities especially celebrate this day. Oct. 12 is also Thanksgiving Day in Canada. Monday is also the (19 degrees) Libra new moon festival. Libra’s keynote while building the personality is, “Let choice be made.” Libra is the sign of making life choices. Often under great tension of opposing forces seeking harmony and balance. There is a battle between our lower (personality) and higher selves (soul). We are tested and called to cultivate right judgment and love. When we align with the will-to-good, right choice, then right judgment and love/wisdom come forth. Our tasks in Libra. 


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