Green Hills Literary Lantern

Yearly Trek to Bear Valley


In the mountains that cradle

the Stanislaus River, we gather

in the vista point parking lot

and lie down on the ground.

Friends for years, we’ve driven farm roads

past field corn, pears and the cool

shade of walnut groves

that darken the valley floor.

Past Copperopolis and Farmington

when the only bathroom for miles

was at the back of a two-pump

station, wood-slat door

warped so the lock didn’t work,

flies and light settled in the sink.

This year, the river runs high,

bone-chilling and green—record snow

and the high camps closed.

From the bridge we saw

the widening road and patches

of rust among the green pines,

trees that are dying.

In the mountains, nights are cold.

But the day’s heat seeps

from the dark tar and I feel

warmth where the points of me

touch down. We lie on our backs and wait

for the meteor showers.

Sometimes we shift direction,

follow the horizon or the Big Dipper

or the moon, but we keep looking

and take pleasure in each other's  ahs

as stars flare through the atmosphere,

making extinction

look beautiful.





My cat walks in the front door
with her tail big, smell of skunk
on the night air, sudden twang
of a cookie tray as it cools
makes us both jump.
The mailbox has little to say
and all my calls come
from mortgage companies,
or resorts that want to park me
at Twenty-nine Palms,
or I get offers to replace my auto glass.
And I’ve thought about consulting a psychic—
Melissa recommends this guy on Polk Street,
and every couple of miles on Hwy 12,
there are these signs—
someone offering to read my palm.
I’ve thought about therapy—
but I’d have to explain that all my hobbies
require toxic chemicals, I’ve gotten
in the habit of reading the backstamp
on every piece of china—even in Rob’s
Rib Shack—and I’ve sold my Ouija board
on e-bay. I really don’t remember
my dreams. It’s been that kind of year.
Some nights, I take those online tests
that tell you what your true talent is—
verbal or love—or read the NY Times’
photo captions that blink to open.
Why is trouble so embarrassing?
In this room alone, a hundred secrets circle.
Tonight my cat listens to what the heater
has to say. Ears pinned back,
her eyes fill with the entire night.




Nancy Cherry currently lives slightly up and to the left of downtown Sebastopol, California. Her work has previously appeared in Poetry Kanto, Seattle Review, Sycamore Review, Mid-American Review, 33 Review, Nimrod, Bellingham Review, film canisters buried in the garden, Puerto del Sol, Slant, GHLL, printed on blocks of wood smoldering in National Park campfires, Runes, Haight Ashbury Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, online in Perihelion at webdelsol, and in numerous publications no longer in print. She continues to edit poetry manuscripts, practice journalism, write non-fiction, design ads, sell collectibles and garden madly.