Love lines

Sacramento poets share their words on love

Illustration By Paul Hoppe

What better way to woo than with a love poem? It may not be the most original idea, but the reason there are so many of them is because love poems work. Forget about French and Italian—poetry is the language of love.

Here we offer up these love poems—not all of them happy, but then neither is love, necessarily—from some of the area’s best poets.

A Sonnet for Elaine Boosler

I tell my friends now that it was only the cocaine
That drove me almost to seduce Elaine Boosler in a Green Room in 1981.
I mean, she was famous, and she liked my material,
And before you knew it, she asked me to lock the door.
She was due to take the stage of The Alan Thicke Show,
But we didn’t care. She was experienced. Soon the producer was pounding
On the door like a hangover, yelling “60 seconds!” “30 seconds!”
If we had had five more minutes, I could really have made her happy.
I mean, she was no Rita Rudner, but to me, she was Mae West,
Absolute comedy royalty, surrounded by all that fresh fruit and Perrier.
I turned up the sound on the monitor in time to see her fumble her first joke.
She stood too close to the camera, and almost forgot to plug her upcoming special.
The glow of my crush did not last until the end of her segment, and I fled.
Little did I know that that would be as close as I would get to all that wattage.

—Dr. Andy Jones

Black Bra

Still points huddled:
a laundromat’s acrid fog
listens as engines spotlight
the confusion of a week’s
color melting in heat.

Reading is a way out or back,
but there are rusty paths
to gates which swing open soundless,
my watery face in convex glass,
small and new in its fifth year

as I reach for brass knobs
in the houses of others. I invent
parts with the history of lace,
parts woven in glimpses:
a black bra floating in a dryer,

a doorknob turning in my hand, a nude
woman hugging herself tight.
We ask for interruptions, overcast,
pale as a sky we pull
around our shoulders before sleep.
Logic demands division, sorting,
some measure in the whirling combinations
where we witness scuffles, desperate
in possession, white-knuckled hands
tugging a garment that claims two owners.

—Joshua McKinney

Blue Adagio

You fling me away from you in our blue dance.
I challenge your cruelty—come back for more—

touch blue spark—wind myself around you, until we
break the music down. Broken, it falls between us—

dissonant, forcing us back together. You crush me,
bruise me, throw me down. You love me. I love you.

Thrilled and tireless, we dance our rage of broken
music. The stage goes white around us; we blur into

the whiteness. You do not break me to your will;
you do not break to mine. How shall we end this?

—Joyce Odam

The Last Question Before the Fire

He had to ask
what kind of dope
she’d been smoking.
She couldn’t get that
without doing

tearing up the joint,
making sure he heard those
names again.

But sometimes,
That’s the way
love goes;

first there’s the fire,
then the fireworks.

And all he’s left with
is the

“So long, baby,
so long”—

and the hope
that the next one
to come around
leaves before
the flames
take hold.

—W.S. Gainer

Bitney Springs

So much time
is spent hauling

old stones.

Even the poem
is carrion.

Behind the muse
is a mountain

and the man
who brings

her water

—Julia Connor

Abduction Narrative

sad to think about eating
sad to be anything other than a stone
or tongues cut out and given to the grass
tongues cut out and gifted to the grass
tongues in the grass where there are no stones
lush grass with tongues in it but no teeth
no breath
no lungs or eyeballs with the eyelids lifted up
raised up
and the light having finally arrived here in the grass
sad to think about writing a book
to admit to having never been abducted
sad to think about recounting
having never been abducted
having kept up with things more or less
tongues in the grass where there are no stones
sad to have never known and moreso to have known
the pressure of speech
the gangbang of etiquette in retrospect
the teeth that have resulted from all that wishing
after the fact
and cannot breathe

—Joe Wenderoth

Empty Nest

Our girls away at a pajama party,
the house grows large.
The dishwasher churns;

a button ticks in the dryer.
Outside, the candy-striped swing set stands
stalky and alone in the center of the lawn.

We face each other on the couch,
folding pink panties and Barney socks,
humming together “The Sounds of Silence,”

tentatively, as if expecting to hear
the screen door slam, their voices
clamoring for ice cream.

We look up, smile, and reach out
to touch hands, palm to palm, as if in prayer,
over the mountains of soft cotton.

—Tom Miner

Local Lyricists
Sacramento poet biographies

Julia Connor is Sacramento’s current Poet Laureate. The author of six books, Connor studied poetics at the New College of California. She has taught at the California State Summer School for the Arts and facilitated workshops for adults with developmental disabilities, as well as incarcerated adults at several California state prisons. She also ran a three-year California Arts Council artist-in-residence writing program for disenfranchised women and was the first deputy director of the California Arts Council under Governor Jerry Brown.

W.S. Gainer is sometimes described as “an aging angel with an outlaw heart.” However you put it, he’s a rebel—and that makes him irresistible. With a résumè that includes writing, editing and publishing, Gainer is the kind of poet that other poets love to know. He’s a co-founder of the Nevada County Poetry Series and an editor and publisher with R.L. Crow Publications in Penn Valley (, a small contemporary poetry press.

Dr. Andy Jones is the host of Dr. Andy’s Poetry and Technology Hour on KDVS, and co-host of Poetry Night at Bistro 33 in Davis. He finds inspiration behind the microphone and now carries one with him at all times, even when he is teaching writing and technocultural studies classes at UC Davis. Although he has workshopped poems with Republican Dana Gioia and Democrat Robert Pinsky, he has never met Elaine Boosler.

Joshua McKinney is an associate professor of English at CSUS and earned his Ph.D. in English from the University of Denver. His second book, The Novice Mourner (2005), won the Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize and was published Bear Star Press. He is also the author of Saunter (2001), published by the University of Georgia Press. His work has appeared in such journals as American Letters & Commentary, Boulevard, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, The Kenyon Review, Poetry International, Volt, and many others.

Tom Miner is a frequent contributor to SN&R’s Poet’s Corner. He and his wife, Elisabeth, have two daughters, Sara and Mieke. An avid hiker and traveler, each summer he climbs a 14,000-foot peak and adds to the 70 countries he’s visited. His most recent collection is North of Everything (2007), published by Rattlesnake Press. He currently teaches writing at Sacramento City College.

Joyce Odam has been a lodestar in the Sacramento poetry scene since she first joined a poetry workshop with Anne Mennebroker decades ago. She’s edited a number of poetry journals, including Poetry Depth Quarterly. Odam’s most recent collection is A Sense of Melancholy (Rattlesnake Press, 2004).

Joe Wenderoth is an associate professor of English at UC Davis. Wesleyan University Press published his first two books of poetry: Disfortune (1995), and It Is If I Speak (2000). No Real Light (2007) was published by Wave Books and Agony: A Proposal, a work of fiction, is forthcoming. Wenderoth’s last poem to appear in SN&R, “The Home of the Brave” (SN&R War Issue, March 16, 2006), was selected for The Best American Poetry 2007. Wenderoth is Associate Professor of English and teaches in the graduate Creative Writing Program at the University of California, Davis.