Mary Lee Gowland graduated from Palisades High in 1967. Two years later her best selling book of poems, Tender Bough, was published. In the 1970’s she published two volumes of poetry and drawings.

In the 1980s she became active in the L.A. poetry scene, hosting a monthly reading series, “Poetry on the Sand”. In 1990 she moved to the Sierra Nevada foothills where she teaches creative writing. Her poems, essays and articles have appear in dozens of journals and magazines. Last year she published Surprise Yourself! Fun Writing Exercises for Today’s kids.


When I sing my mind becomes
a cool blue ocean

When I hug my dog I sink into
his thick brown fur

When the children run to me
I open like the morning

I can not save my brother
I can not save my sister

I can not make my fingers strum
this stubborn mean guitar

Come into my house now
sit here right beside me

tell me why you love me
and I will sing for you.


Big and Small

Last night when I got dressed
I grew bigger with each article of clothing I put on.
My private face, the sad one no one sees,
completely disappeared.

The children’s eyes were bright
in the golden light of the bookstore.
The silvery flute and woodsy guitar
wove around us like red ribbons.
The children’s eyes were bright,
their voices golden.
Their goodness soaked directly into me
the way clear winter sun benevolently
seeps into pale December skin.

When I sleep I become small.
I coil up tight and sink into dreams
where I become big again
walking on real beach sand
complete with cigarette butts
and small polished stones.

I miss the ocean so much
I conjure it up in dreams,
the salty air the wide expanse
the forever of it that spreads
before me, reflecting a buttery sun.

The presence of the children
calm and patient in the bookstore’s glow
was like a placid ocean, I could feel
the possibility of their lives
an undercurrent of strength
silent and unseen.

This morning as grey light
seeped into my eyes and I uncoiled,
a galloping cat plunked onto the bed
her sweet warm breath like sunlight
against my sleepy cheek.


Spring Walk

A poet and an artist are walking through tall wet grass
and weeds that crawl around their ankles.

They point out to each other
wildflowers poking through bright green blades,
each stalk straining to be taller than the next.

Listing dizzily with the weight of rain
tiny pink four-petals, straw-like purple clusters
and shy magenta lanterns bow their heavy heads;
bright white popcorn flowers, usually so rambunctious
sway drunkenly in the meadow.
Only under cover of dripping manzanita
do swaths of yellow-stars defiantly shine.

The artist wants to pick them,
stick them in a vase and paint them,
keep them alive on her canvas,
a testimony to how they’ve risen
from winter’s frozen mud.

The poet sees them months from now
shriveled where they stand
unidentifiable skeletons, uniformly
bleached and dry as surfer hair.
She already feels the profusion of burrs
the protrusion of hornbill, screw weed,
prickly little stickers that pierce and cling
begging to be transported elsewhere
on dog fur or on her socks.

So the artist’s heart is light
while the poet’s heart is heavy.

The poet must propel her mind
through scorching summer and brittle fall
to December’s first compassionate blanket of frost
that will cool and subdue spring’s wild procreative lust.


Mary Lee Gowland Moonday poetry reading

© 2007 Mary Lee Gowland

  MOONDAY HOME PAGE (Current Features)  
MOONDAY (Previous Features)  
                             MOONDAY (Upcoming Features)