Martha Clark Scala
Sampler of Prose and Poetry
Advice to Myself in These Found Lines
Shout loud at the top of your voice, “I AM I!”
would God want a second God? Fall in
Don’t answer the telephone, ever
and are we standing now, quietly?
love in such a way that it frees you
Your old life was a frantic running
We must be still and still moving
Reach your long hand out to another door, beyond
You think you know what time it is
Singing as we learn from you
Rise, lead and possess a creation
as when everything seems dead in winter
Through the dark cold and the empty desolation
like a beggar
Don’t keep all the pieces of the puzzles
It doesn’t matter which you heard
Oh magnificent and fecund and magnetic slave
You’ve carved so many little figurines
Everyone who has heard the lethal train-roar
comes out now.
The wave cry, the wind cry, the vast waters
The speechless full moon
But you … you ARE YOU! And, now isn’t that pleasant!
In your mouth is unstoppable --- learn
There’s a blaze of light
and it is full of sadness.
Real singing is a different breath
As a fish from where it swims.
(Compiled by Martha Clark Scala with lines from: Dr. Seuss, Rumi/tr.Coleman Barks, Louise Erdrich, Juan Jimenez/tr. Robert Bly, T.S. Eliot, Rilke/K. Rosen version, Pablo Neruda/tr.W.S. Merwin, Pablo Neruda/tr. Alistair Reid, Leonard Cohen, Mary Oliver)
A purring cat is a sacred hymn
blooming narcissus the incense
plump cherry tomatoes the offering
silence the homily.
The old walnut stump a pew
potting bench an altar
falling leaves the monk's robes.
(The California Writers Club Literary Review, 2017)
Mourning Has Broken
An egg intact: natural beauty.
An egg broken: nourishment.
Yolk and white find renewed purpose
outside the shattered shell.
We’re ten years out, now,
crushed shell in the compost heap.
Praise for its substance,
praise for the mulch,
praise for his singing still so fresh.
(Second prize – Mini Poems, Bay Area Poets Coalition, 2010)
At Bodega Dunes
under a fog-bit sky
feathers found on mustard sand
speak to her,
each one picked up
for a bouquet of sea gull grays,
scent of sea,
as if to purchase
a bankable trust
she could take back
to her splintered home
where exotic vistas and sounds
blend with rivers of sorrow,
and silences brewed
in a pot of tea
deliver wobbly surrender
to a fresh scene,
a new ardor …
where colors do not match,
laundry isn’t sorted,
envelopes are not opened,
and the sand escapes the
(Poetry Now, 2010)
The Woman Who Found a Magic Bottle
thought it was just a bunch of mayonnaise. She almost discarded it in a trash bin at the Ocean Beach parking lot because she learned from her Mom that the only mayo worth eating was Hellman's. Ewwww, not Miracle Whip, or Safeway's generic brand, just Hellman's. This bottle had a peculiar label. The design was the same but instead of it saying Hell-man's, it said Diablo Dude's. The Woman couldn't contain her curiosity. She wondered if she had found some limited edition. You know, a marketing trial, or something like that. She gazed at it. Turned it ‘round and ‘round in her hands, trying to decide whether to open the jar and see if the taste was par with her familiar standards. She hesitated, fearing the ingredients could be ancient. No sell-by date in sight. But a quiet voice whispered the following words: "Earnestness is almost never good art." That did it. The Woman Who Found a Magic Bottle slowly turned the jar's lid to the left -- remembering her old friend Sue's instruction: Righty-Tighty-Lefty-Loosey. The vacuum seal went Pop! The Woman Who Found a Magic Bottle peered inside and saw herself. She spread her self all over two slices of rye, made friends with Colonel Mustard, the monks provided the cold cuts, and their sandwich lived in the belly of happiness ever after.
(Porter Gulch Review, 2012)
Learning to Recite Poetry at a Workshop in October
She forgets her lines. She knows them like her orange calico cat knows when it could slip outside a door left open by mistake. Her brother was Fagan, Ali Baba, Willy Loman too—tossing smooth lines, picking bottomless pockets, clutching their attention without even making a fist. She could recite his surgeries, the blood he spit out in the blue and white ceramic bowl from Juarez, the year and season of each fretful look on her mother’s sun-whipped face, melting ice cubes in her father’s glass of gin. Their ashes scattered so deep, where ships sink and whales thrive. She could recite the snowy night of her sister’s BMW skidding two 360’s into a birch forest in nowhere Vermont, the broken back, and empty bottles, smoke wafting from a Kool cigarette, Wispride cheese smeared on Triscuits, taste buds so dead she would toss a shower of salt on potato chips.
The TV in her mind is on, and host John Daly asks, “What’s my line?” What is her line? Maybe she buried it in her grandmother’s wicker picnic basket before she gave it away. Perhaps the phrase will emerge from her Mom’s strawberry-rhubarb pie with melting vanilla ice cream. She might find it in the buttery crust, blow four kisses, take the stage with her sneaky cat, and thank God for melodrama, sweet honey produced by bustling bees. Maybe she can cherish the deep nectar of the hive, and the forgotten line.
(Fault Zone: Uplift, 2017)