Bob Stanley

Bob Stanley has written poetry and volunteered in poetry organizations for over three decades. Currently president of the Sacramento Poetry Center, Bob has also served on the board of Alameda Poets and has led hundreds of creative writing workshops and readings. In 2008, he organized and moderated a gathering of poets laureate from across California on behalf of the California Arts Council, and in 2009 he edited Sometimes in the Open, an anthology of poems by sixty-five laureates. His poems have won a number of awards, including the California Focus on Writers prize in 2006, and have been published in a variety of journals and anthologies. Mr. Stanley holds a BA in English from UCLA and an MA in Creative Writing from CSU Sacramento. A fourth generation Californian, Bob and his wife Joyce have raised their four children in Sacramento. After working 28 years in the automotive business, Bob now teaches creative writing and English at CSU Sacramento, Sacramento City College, Solano College, and UC Davis Extension. Walt Whitman Orders a Cheeseburger, his first chapbook, was released in June 10, 2009, from Rattlesnake Press. That same night, he was named Poet Laureate of Sacramento, California.

Bob Stanley Poems

Sweet Fire

When the Mongolian cellist astounded Charlie Parker in ’55,
it was shot glasses of rice-liquor all around; the singer
began singing in two voices at once, and lamb
arrived at the table, its roasted ribs splayed like a
Bach fugue, going both directions at the same time.

Ghengis Khan was there, and the first emperor of the Qin.
Not Ching, he laughed loudly, food in his mouth, but Chin,
like on your face, then, Smile when you say that.
He looked nervously around the joint with all its cats,
wishing he was safely in his tomb with eight thousand men.

All the music rolled into one that night, Lionel Hampton
rang them bronze bells, and Chairman Mao (his musical career
having been cut short by the cultural revolution)
aired it out on a flugelhorn solo. If you’ve never heard the Dalai Lama
scat over rhythm changes, you’ve really missed something.

After midnight when eunuchs tore down the sound system,
Reporters and agents waited by the Great Wall
smoking Camels, expecting some good to come of it,
but all we had was memories of drumbeats – perforations on maps
and the sweet fire that sometimes blows from one man’s horn.


What I will tell you since it is not too late
is that a neighbor brought over
the hot rice porridge that you like.
I thanked her in a whisper at the door,
said you were asleep.
It is the dish you taught your daughter to make
when she does not feel well.
I left it on the counter to cool.

What I will tell you since it is not too late
is that I have never seen trees like this,
yellow and red, so tall they seem
to leap into the whiteness of November sky.
You are looking for something,
unsure what it is, while your hands
keep moving, your eyes keep searching.

What I will tell you since it is not too late:
I dreamed your family was a maelstrom
spinning, climbing over each other,
all trying to move forward, and you
were at the center. They wrestled
in bright-colored sportswear: whirling yellow,
gold, orange scrum of wanting to keep
you, to be you. They were working hard.

One night after dinner, light in the West,
we sat outside: you, your daughter, and I
trying to describe the sky – Is this twilight, or dusk?
and the three of us laughed together through the cool
of an evening that could have lasted forever.
You taught us this is the only world we have,
and right now is the only time. This is what I want
to tell you, here, now, since it is not too late.










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