(Photo of Sterling Warner)








softly called for help

behind manzanita bushes

along well-worn deer paths on the Boulder Creek hillside

my sixteen-year-old hand kindly

met her shaking palm 








man-fire as

we walked side by side

enamored under the moonlight, 

her nakedness more beautiful under LunaÕs rays,

she slipped on cut-offs revealing

pubic hair, said sheÕd

dropped acid






lost them

then climbed up

the friendly mountain

after sunset, crying out for 

a warm blanket, thinking only about getting home; 

ÒIÕll hitchhike from here,Ó she explained,

pulling my t-shirt

oÕre round breasts;

Òcool folks









Oxfords—everybody wore or wanted

them when I grew into grammar school. 

My elder sister scored the first pair— 

bone white with a light brown saddle—

in our penny-pinching household.

She wore them a year and a half before 

each foot grew in length and girth, I

started kindergarten, and abruptly required 

something substantial—a hard leather sole—to 

replace supple doe-skin, beaded moccasins. 


Whatever possessed my mother to 

feminize my feet by coercing me to reluctantly 

wear my senior sisterÕs timeworn shoes? 

Knowing too well that trendy male Oxfords 

sported a milk chocolate colored exterior with

a dark brown saddle, Mom smothered the

bone white toe box, vamp, and heal with 

liquid burnt sienna shoe polish that

stubbornly resisted solid pigmentation, left

random brown streaks atop mustard colored wingtips  


Scuffing the leather with rocks and dirt,

walking through gutters, keeping only ankles visible,

scraping the sides against aggregate rockways,

intentionally splashing through mud puddles, 

praying for a pedestrian oil slick to submerge them,

masking the putrid hue of hopelessly disguised shoes,

I wore sisterÕs poorly dyed Oxfords like army boots

fortified to weather vicious verbal assaults, stamp- 

raunchy, mean-spirited whispers—piercing, visual accusations— 

an onslaught of peers perniciously insulting my footwear. 








Along country roads, highways, or city streets

bad drivers cut each other off, each acting

like thoroughfares had been constructed for their 

personal use, considering others congestionÕs visitors 

as unwelcome as unannounced holiday guests; 


they talk on cell phones, drive over pets, 

honk at bicyclists, hawk luggies out winders

onto parked BMWs only they deserve to own.


Exceeding speeding limits, ignoring stop signs

they remind the police officers of relatives 

in high places, judges whose displeasure will come

to revisit them like the ghost of Christmas past

unless let off with wagging fingers or verbal warnings;


bad drivers like the villains in commedia dell' arte, twirl 

imaginary mustaches, grunt and grin like untouchables 

wrap vehicles and themselves around telephone poles. 








Waiting for nightfall when IÕd gather

With virtual friends like a murder of crows

Each with age old stories to retell—sagas

Heard a thousand times and may hear 

Again until I drop from old age or a lack of imagination. 


Patience rides with each horse of the apocalypse, 

portending kaleidoscope arcs around every corner, 

in the middle of damp gutters hanging from eaves  

on steep slate rooftops, LondonÕs gables, 

Where our cameras keep focused on the horizon.


Expecting winds to shift, brollies to open

And Mary Poppins to fly in and fulfill

Childhood fantasies, reminding all present

Her practically perfect disposition should 

Serve as a beacon for impatient people who


Live to fly kites, watch gardens grow, 

Twirl roulette wheels, dream of true love, 

Believe the global pandemic throatholdÕs temporary, 

Anticipate normalcyÕs improbable return,   

Gather in querulous mobs all Waiting for Godot.  











blocked direct

sunrays as they sought 

to blast though my bedroom skylight: 

colorful, pictorial panels, twisting byzantine 

labyrinths, ornamental gothic roundels—bold, yet austere medieval aesthetics.  


Smoky ambers, moss greens, bloody magentas, tangerine yellows, dusty violets

diffuse SolÕs blazing beams in kaleidoscope spectrums 

refracting, distorting opaque incandescence

delight eyes gazing up, I trace

wrapped, soldered casements: 

copper foil





© Sterling Warner


Bio:  A Washington-based author, poet, educator, and Push Cart Nominee, Sterling WarnerÕs works have appeared in dozens of literary magazines, journals, and anthologies such as In the GroveThe Flatbush Review, Street Lit: Representing the Urban LandscapeThe Fib Review, the Atherton Review, and Metamorphoses.  WarnerÕs has written five volumes of poetry: Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, Edges, and Memento Mori: A Chapbook ReduxHis first collection of fiction, Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories, debuted in August 202. In 2021, WarnerÕs sixth book of verse, SerpentÕs Tooth: Poems, is scheduled for publication midwinter in 2021.