In this week’s installment of Santa Cruz Poets, Santa Cruz Inspiration, the laureled poet Joe Stroud pens an homage to spring and the great Chinese medieval poet Li Po.

Spring in the Santa Cruz Mountains with Li Po

Here our life
is the absolute clearness after rain.
We sit in the middle of a path
near an acacia tree.
Under a rush of branches
where the stream pools,
a towhee dips its feathers,
shuddering water into jewels of light.
A squirrel shrills in the scrub oak,
furious we have come near
her throne of leaves.
We hear the long drone of a wasp,
far off,
near the sun.
Bees brush the yellow powder
of acacia blossoms.
Li Po says, “Imagine the taste
of that sweet honey wine.”
This place is so many-tongued.
Blackberry vines wander through sage.
A strand of web
spins sunlight into silk.
It’s no use to think here.
We are not important.
An ant tugs at my sandal,
the wind rises,
and we must go.
It’s all beginning, Li Po,
dusk, mountains, the drifting clouds.
Once we part from here
who knows where
the river of years
will take us.

—Joe Stroud

Joseph Stroud is the author of five books of poetry, the most recent: Of This World: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2009), which won the San Francisco Poetry Center Book of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the PEN Literary Award USA, the California Book Award, and the Northern California Book Critics Award. His work has earned a Pushcart Prize and in 2006 he was selected by the Poet Laureate of the United States for a Witter Bynner Fellowship in poetry from the Library of Congress. He divides his time between his home in Santa Cruz on the California coast and a cabin in the Sierra Nevada.

‘Santa Cruz Poets, Santa Cruz Inspiration’ is edited by Robert Sward. Contributions are by invitation.

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  • Gloria Upper

    I have been trying with no success to contact Joseph Stroud through his publisher, Copper Canyon Press, in Washington. My novel, Spacehart, is in publication and I would like to use the lines below from his poem, “Proportions.”

    If there is any way you can help me locate the poet Joseph Stroud I would very much appreciate it. I believe he lives in Santa Cruz.
    Sincerely yours,
    Gloria Upper
    Seattle, WA


    The other landscape the heart dreams

    And yearns for. A place where we could dwell,

    And trust, and walk on through a world

    Renewed and fresh as far as the mind

    Can create.

    Joseph Stroud, Proportions