Santa Barbara’s new poet laureate shares her words

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In honor of National Poetry Month, the Mayor of Santa Barbara announced the city’s new poet laureate. Sojourner Kincaid Rolle has been a fixture in Santa Barbara for quite some time. She’s written seven books and six plays, and has been leading poetry workshops since 1992.

We asked Kincaid Rolle to stop by our studio last week and share a couple of her poems.

Sojourner Kincaid Rolle (far right) and Mayor Helene Schneider welcome Maya Angelou to the Arlington Theater in 2011. Photo: Rod Rolle (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

A Space Where A Poem Ought Be

I’ve known of missing poems before
poems stronger than the suppressing hand
poems more powerful than the invisibility

poems that speak from the realm of the soul
from the place that needs no facade
the place unpalpable where the poem touches

a father’s unrenderable gaze

absent from the family photograph
frozen in clenched smile abstraction
hovering somewhere near the unfathomable

a hole where a heart once lay

cached between bone and muscle
a conduit for that which makes life livable
its beat but an echo its rhythm but a spasm of memory

hurt where a friendship once was

its demise never anticipated
its loss never contemplated
it measure infinite

space where a leg ought be

the missing limb but bits of flesh femur blood
soft shrapnel on a once abandoned war ground
the mined soil holding secret its maiming terror

nothing where something ought be

it is said that to which the missing was adjoined
the left behind
mourns its disattached
one sees the shining knee –
the favored other

there is emptiness longing
grief is spoken
and desire

— Sojourner Kincaid Rolle

A Song of Santa Barbara

We honor the first people of this place:
Chumash, Barbereños.
We honor the elders
the keepers of this ancient culture.
O’ the beautiful city by the sea,
city by the side of the Royal Road.

Stately palms sway in harmony with the wind
and the soaring hawks.

Dancers, yellow hibiscus blossoms
in their hair, twirl and clap.
Magenta bougainvilleas snake along the pathways,
crawl across scape of land,
climb the stucco walls.

In the name of Saint Barbara,
patron of mariners and surfers,
we pay homage to the dolphin
relating the legend of the Rainbow Bridge.

We honor those whose forebears
built a life here.
We know their names.
They are as familiar
as the names off our streets,
our paseos, our placitas:
De la Guerra,

We take shelter beneath
the Moreton bay fig,
a canopy of hope.
We hang our holiday lights
on the Norfolk Island pine.

We are known for graceful palm
the lavender jacaranda,
the California scrub oak.

to the watershed,
we lift our eyes
to hills.
Our creeks — Mission,
Sycamore, Arroyo Burro —
some dry beds,
carry the precious liquid
more valued than gold.

We are keepers of bees.
Hummingbirds flitter
among birds of paradise.

Monarchs graze in our front yards,
traveling the yellow-blossomed coast
clustering in the warm embrace
of our eucalyptus groves.

We share our plenty with the seagulls
and the crows.
We hold sanctuary for the California condor,
the bald eagle, the brown pelican
the snowy plover, the green turtle,
the island fox.

We wake each day
to the sounds of a mixed flock.
Mockingbirds serenade us
through long afternoon into night.

Singing a song of Santa Barbara.
— Sojourner Kincaid Rolle
April 7, 2015