The Outdoor Poet: Marcia Adams

Pulley Line

I like to take the dress off the line,
the heat still in it. — Robin Behn

My mother took great pride in how she hung her laundry
on the never-ending pulley line that stretched
from the corner of our back porch across a steep hillside
to the trunk of a tall sugar pine. Always in the same order
white muslin sheets, pastel bath towels, my father’s lumberjack
work clothes, her house dresses, my school and play togs,
pajamas and finally, our underwear beginning with Daddy’s
white briefs and ending with my collection of colored panties,
the days of the week machine-stitched over the right hip.
And when she reeled the line toward her wicker basket
at the end of a windswept afternoon, the smells
of buttercups and manzanita mingled with oak and pine
in an indelible perfume that permeates all my memories
of her standing on that wooden porch, arms raised
as if she held the universe at her command.


The area below the forest canopy. . .
due to little light, some learn to live, others fall

Walk with me into a Mokelumne wilderness
where I can show you how to love even
the surprising scent of mountain misery.

We will explore a natural Calaveras stand
of dry snags and saw timber, learn to decipher
heartwood rings, the understory of old skulls.

Listen close for the ghosts of long gone lumber
jacks, soft shift whistles from Wilseyville’s mill,
as snow thaw water rushes down the Licking Fork.

Imagine Blue Mountain’s base all ablaze in buttercups,
a wizened coyote shape shifter full of strange old stories
about this upper story women who fell for him.


His name was Ivanhoe
and they called him Dave
his eyes seem blue
and his hair maybe red
although its hard to tell
what’s real in old sepias
they know it was rabbit blood
smeared on his Oldsmobile
left on a Sacramento levee
and those who still ache
tell terrible stories
about how his father
found him in Idaho hiding
dragged him back to face
babies, bankruptcy trials
and a temporary widow
turned into unforgiving
divorcee hell-bent on never
speaking his name aloud
and when he snagged himself
under a fall log while fishing
on the Klamath in 1923
my mother lost a little girl’s
daddy she insists to this day
was a good and loving man.

About The WriterMarcia Adams lives in Santa Cruz, where she is one of the founding members of Poetry Santa Cruz. She writes frequently about her family of California pioneers and her upbringing in a Sierra Nevada lumber camp. Her work is published in a number of anthologies including Manzanita: Poetry and Prose of the Mother Lode and Sierra.

The Outdoor Poet is edited by Robert Sward, author of numerous books of poetry including, most recently, New and Selected Poems: 1957-2011 (Red Hen Press). He lives on the Westside with his wife, the artist Gloria Alford, and a poodle mix named Cosette. Participation in The Outdoor Poet is by invitation.

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