Santa Cruz Poets, Santa Cruz Inspiration: Sally Ashton

From the San Jose State University creative writing teacher and editor of the DMQ Review, two poems.


Highway 1 cut straight across farmland tied in place by rows of artichoke plants and I knew something was going to happen by the way the fields waited, but only a small rise in the road and a row of pelicans flew over like single notes played on the piano, one rise led to another and just before the sea the 100,000 flipped on the odometer, the zeros lined up like a jackpot.

The Beatles were playing and I pulled over on gravel, jumped out, kissed the hood, whooped twice, hands raised, and got back in, driving. The sea on my right spun sunlight and I know it was bad, I texted my son but he sent right back. A seabird rode an updraft, who could name it? Kelp beds swayed on one side, on the other, a Hereford with a muddied face looked up and I took a bite from the apple I’d packed, the ocean called up all its blue, wave, wave, and I couldn’t look over my shoulder, I was driving, there was no stopping, everything turning—the road, the CD, the astonished odometer.

(first appeared in Some Odd Afternoon, BlazeVOX Books, 2010)


Across a sky uniform in gray,
a line of pelicans streams. Wings
unflapping, they coast on currents
nobody sees, their necks folded back
and beaks thrust forward.

The tide sweeps up, slides away.
I won’t let it reach me, water
too cold to endure. The pelicans
drift, their progress undeterred
like the motion of memory

or the steady loss of time. Nothing
varies. Each wave repeats itself,
verses in a song that won’t end
where the predictable return of pelicans
traces a ceiling of cloud

unbroken by sun. One death
can’t stop this rhythm though a monotone
builds inside me, a solid bank of fog
that muffles remembering, that sometimes
lets me sleep. Earth finds renewal

in a constant wearing down, wave on wave.
I seek its pattern, to glide, mechanical,
until this larger grief recedes,
the sand appears like glass, pelicans
dive into the sea hungry once more.

(from Getting Here, poetry manuscript)

Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art ( She earned her MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars and teaches creative writing at San José State University as well as poetry workshops. She is the recipient of an Artist Fellowship, Poetry, from Arts Council Silicon Valley and author of three collections of poetry including most recently, Her Name is Juanita and Some Odd Afternoon.

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

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