The Poet at the Party

Existential Shopper

Death Valley and other Western Wonders


Wish List












The Poet at a Party

He’s perched over there,


in the noisy room

and then later sits by his wife

for comfort, perhaps for safety.

He is open-faced,

a reverse beacon,

receiving all mood,

color, sound, and nuance.


The gathering settles

to a manageable wave

he can finally surf

with measured words.

Quick to find irony,

humor, and tragedy,

he enters conversation,

only to pull back and listen.


Everything rushes in to him naturally,

where he stores his take

for future ruminations

put to pen.


Paula Ragsdale ....'08












Wish List

Being here

deep with longings,

and a short list of

Rio de Janeiro



Sri Lanka







An embrace

in a foreign place,

a meal of non-descript food,

to witness cryptic customs

and see the familiar

smile of an unknown child,

somewhere a latrine,

a pillow on a bed,


And still

the same love of you

love of me there.

While knowing I am here,

I wish to go there

to see and feel us all


just being.


Paula Ragsdale ....'08










California From The Car


California is

polka-dotted green hills,

cornucopia of foliage

on an array of alien trees,

elevations and crops galore.

Over there a cow,

a horse, then goat and sheep,

stand on steep grades of

paradise, and endlessly graze,

under blue sky uninterrupted.


California is

miles of road,

hours vacant of buildings,

until a curve in the road

presents valleys packed with sprawl and smog.


California is

Mendocino cannabis,

Napa grapes, and

it is Fresno, Sacramento, San Joaquin all

bearing our produce, our dairy.

And it is

San Francisco lush

with anything your heart,

or whims, desire,

where everything grows

and anything goes.


 Paula Ragsdale ....'08













Existential Shopper


What carried me

through Wal-Mart

without a list

or reason

other then the need for paper goods?


I pushed a cart

through a Great Hall of Things,

full of long faces

not saying much,

focused on a need.

Empty people passed me

walled in by merchandise.


Once in the car,

I hardly remember

what I needed so badly.

The trunk is full

of products following me home.


Paula Ragsdale ....'08













Death Valley, Sage Brush, and other Western Wonders, 2008


Sure is brown all around.

Miles and miles of dirt and rock piles,

and weed-balls scattered,

like week-old beard growth,

across the flat desert face.


Hills here, mountains over there,

in the sky a solitary cloud,

like a speech balloon, hovers over a tall peak.

Not much to say, it is too dry.


Down here four wheels take us

through boulders and canyons,

cutting through the floor -

the bed of some bygone sea.


Us easterners are intrigued

at this endless monochromatic vista,

punctuated by a random pink

or purple cliff face.

Questions are brewing

between sight and the unreal.


Earth seems all at once

majestic and depraved.

Nothing moves, except for the breath of sand.

And finally we ask out loud,


How did this happen?

Is this west a seismic carving,

a millennium in the making,

or catastrophic impact

hurled from outerspace?


It’s thrilling to be this incredulous

at what appears before you,

so solidly there

and no where else to be found.


Through an assortment of sandstone confections

sprinkled with rock jimmies,

or doused with Navajo sugar dust,

the ride from Death Valley to Zion to Bryce in March

swings from salty to alien to comical.


Hoo-Doos look like happy accidents,

mistakes formed by an errant ingredient

in a massive earthen recipe,

rendering dirt into medieval architecture

and Brancusi sculpture.


It feels good

to just let your eyes feast,

and not know anything but

the sun, the heat, and the gravel underfoot.


Paula Ragsdale ....'08