Tuesday, December 11, 2018


Three Poems by Aileen Cassinetto

Poetry, please*

And when we speak
let it be said

that nothing is lost
in translation.

That our words are true
and tenable.

That we understand
the meaning of “sii,”

the Ohlone word for water,
which is you.

The Ohlone knew this.
They were first of this county,

borne of seawater and
woven reeds to salt

marshes and pickleweeds
and saltwater silvered

by smelt.
They fared

on abalone
and blue elderberry

Western chokecherry.

All flourishing, grace-filled,

If I were a weaver,

I would gift you
a basket made of sandbar

willow and tule,
bright as cinnabar.

But I can only write
this poem,

a tributary,
to carry

the weight of water
as it flows and hefts

the meaning of you.
Giver and taker.

And everything that I knew.

Eggshell Fragments of the Marbled Murrelet**

It’s like tracking a bird from sea
to tree—which sounds a little
offbeat, like hurried wingbeats.
You hear the keer, follow
the mottled brown plumage,
find the eggshell truth.

There’s an understory
to every canopy of century-
old trees. You see, every mound
and pit is a hole-and-corner
battleground. The story isn’t
about a seabird nesting

in an old-growth forest to lay
its one perfect egg. It’s
about you leaving quickest,
quietest, and cleanest so you
don’t leave a trail. Because
a trail could be the death of

this one bird and its one egg
in a really old forest of mounds
and pits that is really a
hole-and-corner battleground.
Sounds a little offbeat, but
it’s the eggshell truth.

Examinations of Moose Chowder in Lemon Parachutes***

seemed so delightful
it made us sit up, like
“Vampires in the Lemon Grove.”
It simply means there can be no

super asymmetry, and we don’t
really want moose chowder.
But what does it matter as long
as there’s a lemon grove, and

“quantum vampires” is a thing.
And read correctly, this is
a love poem that is 42 seconds
long. It means you, my sweetheart,

are the doctor with two hearts,
my Chirrut Îmwe in DS-9,
my Big Bang buddy, and
the universe in these lines.

*Presented at the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ Meeting, October 2018

**Rudolf W. Becking, Northwestern Naturalist Vol. 72, No. 2 (Autumn, 1991), pp. 74-76. https://www.jstor.org/stable/3536805 (accessed December 19, 2018).
Also: Juliet Grable, Audubon, Fall 2018. https://www.audubon.org/magazine/fall-2018/from-sea-tree-scientists-are-tracking-marbled (accessed December 19, 2018).

***Big Bang Theory, “The Citation Negation,” November 2018.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove: Stories by Karen Russell (Vintage Contemporaries, January 2014).


Aileen Cassinetto is the third Poet Laureate of San Mateo County, the first Asian American appointed to the post. She is the author of Traje de Boda (Meritage Press, 2010) and The Pink House of Purple Yam Preserves & Other Poems (Our Own Voice & Little Dove Books, 2018). She is also co-publisher of Paloma Press, an independent literary press established in 2016, which has released 12 books.