Monday 14 February 2022

Five Poems by Sterling Warner


Precious Fibonacci


Truly a blessing not a burden, a solid gold

wedding band hangs round my neck

braided Elven chain

secured, with

a hook





close to

my heart,

kept it from slipping

off a creased, withering finger,

helped my dampened spirits soar like castles in the air.


Still, I waste away, my body morphs invisible

like emaciated Ringwraiths,

my perceptible

form’s now a






cries like

a tortured

Nazgûl silhouette

although I cling to my precious

above Mt. Doom’s fires, below airy palaces.


Timeless Painted Ladies


—Remembering Mom and Her B & B Embassy  


Somewhere between high fashion and extravagance,

behind wrought iron gateways and wind-swept terraces,

bay windows peer over manicured gardens, watch

joggers huff on by while pedestrians walk dogs below. 


Randomly located in San Francisco’s lower Haight

extending to near identical Alamo Square constructions,

Victorians range from Gothic Revival to Queen Anne,

Second Empire and Italiante to Stick Eastlake style.


Clustered Painted Ladies prudently sit ten feet apart.

respect mini-yards chaperoning intimately spaced edifices;

wearing regal oil and latex artifice, these architectural trollops

visually flirt with onlookers awed by majesty and splendour.


Boundless Victorian homes—opulence along Postcard Row—

symbolize wealth accrued through the 1849 Gold Rush,

tease tame eyes with vibrant colours accentuating pastels—

garish polychrome brushstrokes igniting visual explosions.


Legend holds the Fulton/Scott Sticklike tower inspired Tom Wolfe

then appeared in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test—mom’s B & B—

nearby, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane, counter-culture icons,

turned-on, plugged-in, cultivated music within inert gorgeous shelters.


As the 21st century struts forward, ever tall SF Victorians stand

while fish scale shingles, lavish spindles, buttons, knobs, finials,

angular scrolls, sculptural friezes, and belvedere rooves endure,

eclectic structural details enhanced with each fresh coat of paint.


Prodigal Driftwood


Chain me to drifting timber

washed up on the sandy shoreline

of Anna’s Bay; real or imagined.


I want to breathe in deeply—fill lungs

with the aroma of a Douglas Fir as its

pine-like scent wafts over the beach.                        


I picture the wooden cast off now salt water heavy,

bark weathered, an evergreen trunk once long

and erect, as vigilant as a watchtower sentinel.


Bending in wind gusts, whistling past alluring

needles that beckon me like conifer sirens.

Seductive. Disarming. Persuasive. Enchanting.


Free me from self-chosen bonds, saturate my body

in wet sea arms, let me float like a fallen log

from Lothlórien, drift among rogue sweetgums, firs,


redwoods, and sycamores— Apollo 14 “Moon Trees”

germinated on earth from an orbiting sack of seeds 

relegated—as am I—to a buoyant, endless odyssey. 


Dubious Belief


Freefalling from ghost memories,

I question faith like a doubting Thomas

railing against inequities, wondering

why apocryphal thoughts swell & fester

like open wounds just inviting inspection?


Spirited nuances dance around altars

honour sacrificial martyrs, pay homage

to the blues players & street hustlers

locked in mistrustful comradery;

hesitation abounds & scepticism reigns.


Disciples of dawn engage in vespers

worship possibilities, question dust

that floats on light beams sanctifying dander,

aeolian fibres & mite remains as suspicion hangs

suspended like luminescent halos over holy icons.

Circus Sands (Or Bring on the Fledging Jugglers)

—Dedicated to Neil Young 

Return us now to the black tar carnival,

appearing each August without exception, 

alongside Barnum & Bailey pavilions, spread

out across Sears Roebuck’s vast parking lot

like a homey, boardwalk arcade, blocking 

off streets, encouraging foot traffic,

sixty years prior to social distancing.


We licked pink cotton candy which melted

on our eager fingers, while inhaling toxic,

friendly air that smelled like oil fumes from  

smoky frames of flaming hoops, mixed with  

an aroma of stale burnt tobacco, fresh roasted 

peanuts, hot buttered pop-corn, & ripe animal 

dung…swept far out of sight beneath bleachers.


Under the big top, anything could happen,

crimson clad ring masters introduced acts:

bears danced in time to organ grinder jigs,  

two women chomped down on thick leather bits, 

twirling in circles, increasing momentum,

as tightrope walkers tread lightly across narrow wires,  

& death wish trapeze artists flew over crowds without net.


Still clowns, glaring clowns, the grease painted clowns,

forged an antidemonic alliance—the children’s resistance—

unified against red smiling terrorists—common threat; 

sucking gas from helium balloons, we chastised hostile 

harlequins, spoke in high-pitched voices like defiant 

Oz munchkins, until white sweat rolled down slimy faces,

collectively negating their menacing, spine-chilling smirks.


Some spectacular shows reached climaxes unplanned;

during a massive coronary, a behemoth’s trainer

grimaced, fell onto his back—a signal Tina the

gymnast elephant recognized; placing her skull

on his chest, breaking twenty-two ribs, Tina

stood on her head, applied bestial CBR, resuscitated

the dead, bowed down on modest knees, her trick error free.


Let us float freely back, traverse crowed canvas tents,

when stakes uncertain provided awesome adventures,

& Cirque du Soleil prototypes received unqualified applause,

approved glitter & danger, delighting in exotic animal routines

fearing smelly phantoms, Ronald McDonald’s forefathers;

say hello to vanishing circles of sawdust, yesterday’s 

theatre ever present, as long as our memories allow.

Sterling Warner - An award-winning author, poet, and English Professor, Sterling Warner’s works have appeared in such literary magazines, journals, and anthologies as Ariel Chart Magazine, Danse Macabre, Scarlet Leaf Review, The Vita Brevis Poetry Magazine, The Fib Review, and the Shot Glass Journal. Warner’s collections of poetry include Rags and Feathers, Without Wheels, ShadowCat, EdgesMemento Mori, Serpent’s Tooth: Poems, and Flytraps (2022)—as well as Masques: Flash Fiction & Short Stories. Currently, Warner writes, turns wood, participating in “virtual” poetry readings, and enjoying retirement in Washington.



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