Livermore Literary Arts
      "Poetry is the language in which man explores his own amazement." 
Christopher Fry
Donut-Wheel 7 a.m.

The old shop smells
of yeast, oil, coffee
Overhead fluorescent lights wink
at turquoise walls

The clerk's dark eyes
scan inventory:
cake, raised, twists, bars,
powdered, glazed, plain

At the table by the window
old cowboys dunk crullers
in bitter coffee gone tepid
today's newspapers already
abandoned beside them

A tall pilgrim from Sarasota
land of orange juice and honey
orders three dozen glazed 'holes
The first taste
a shock of sugar in the mouth
then soft dough
a remembrance of youth

Brown-haired toddler kneels
on a red-backed chair
paper napkins spread
across yellow Melamine tabletop
He feasts with studied pleasure
picks off multicolored sprinkles
one by one
sucks them like candies
sips milk through a striped straw
then lowers his rosebud mouth
to chew off white icing
leaving a cake-ring souvenir

From the kitchen
the diminutive baker emerges
balancing fresh aluminum trays

School girls pierced 
and mascaraed
like chocolate, raspberry, lemon
from tissue sheets
pink tongues darting at sweetness

Decade by decade
new owners, new generations
of old folks and children

On the radio they still play
"Sweet Little Sixteen"
once in a while
as though rock 'n' roll
truly never will die
as though this little place
might stand through time

                 -- Charan Sue Wollard

"Donut Wheel 7 a.m." is hung in the window of the Donut Wheel as part of Poetry in Place, a celebration of National Poetry Month. It first appeared in the 2010 "Saturday Salon Literary Harvest" anthology, and on the Donut-Wheel fanpage on Facebook.  It also is included in the poet's collection "In My Other Life," published by Richer Resources Publishing Co. and available through Amazon.


Tiffane’s Cupcakes


just a small cake

one you can cup in your hand

like a secret


you top it with a lighted candle

march through your neighborhood

leading the parade


maybe it’s your birthday

or hers

or his


maybe it’s the anniversary

of the day

you discovered balloons


or perhaps

you just prefer

a little sweetness

in your day

This poem hung in Tiffane's in Downtown Livermore as part of the 2010 Poetry in Place celebration.

Charan Sue Wollard



A Day on the Walking Trail

Briskly we step, you and I, onto black asphalt winding around Hagemann Farm

blue sky glistens amid lacy branches, mockingbirds chatter

Early morning and it’s just us and tree squirrels and lizards

a woman in pink sweats and sun visor pushing a jogging stroller

“Good morning. Good morning”

Overhead we hear the whirr of a twin engine climbing off runway 2-5

Through the bramble of oleander, wildflowers honeysuckle we trek

An early train whistles down the valley, thrashers and quails coo,

laughing teens with backpacks dash through the ragged underpass toward Daffodil Hill

“Excuse me. Excuse me”

It’s noontime and along the jagged arroyo

gray men saunter, their wide suspenders drooping at the shoulders,

occasional horses tramp toward the rodeo grounds or some surviving ranch

Then the path dips behind the old sanitarium grounds

with its tall round fir, oak and eucalyptus, the square water-tower house

Passels of wild turkeys kick up dust on the stone bridge over dry creek bed

Dirt bikes zip by. “Coming through!”

We continue past a congregation of palm trees, behind wide yards with low fences

Afternoon sun warms our faces. Crows, quails, common loons ca caw

Fat black bumblebees circle the heavy scent of roses

blue spires of iris and lily of the Nile. And still we’re walking

A mountain bike passes

“Excuse me. On your left. Have a great day”

Now the buzz of rush-hour traffic along Tesla where the old brick barrel room still stands

Now raucous strums of electric guitars rock the air from Retzlaff

Now the drone of razor skates in Sunken Garden

our path splits into three distinct prongs, we choose the middle way

sunset throws silent shadows across verdant stripes of vineyards

we head through the empty playground

remnants of almond orchards bloom white flowers and rawhide fruit

And here we are, Neighbors. “Good evening. Good evening”

At the end of the pathway. Here we are                                                                                          By Charan Sue Wollard 

What the City Knows
On the occasion of Livermore’s Civic Appreciation Dinner, May 10, 2012

here in this city of art, 
this city of poetry, science and wonder,
where turbines strum the wild wind  
and grapes bloom Tyrian purple
here cool fountains and the welcoming flag
here wide streets hedged with juniper,
oleander, sweet-scented honeysuckle, camellia and rose

here the long trail meandering past Arroyo,
back porches and playgrounds,
past silent cemeteries abloom with white lilies

here where bicycles rove the dimpled hills 
and shifting seasons fold into themselves
where spirits of Ohlone chase elk and deer
through broad-limbed oaks

this city knows you, knows your weary hands,
you strong heart and agile mind,
knows the shape of every hour given
tonight this city sings to you a grateful song 

Charan Sue Wollard

murals of dreams 
For the painted utility boxes that decorate our town

on this path of dreams
in this town of aspirations
what do you dream of?
see how white daisies and purple-hued irises
point their petals toward bright tomorrows
notice how dragonflies soar amid the green hills
twirl with long-armed windmills in a pastel sky
how graceful hummingbirds dance with joy
we all may find treasures 
under the sea or beyond the stars
or even right where we stand
no walls can block us out
imagine, imagine, the poet sang
even now great cities of peace
rise up

Charan Sue Wollard

Sounds We Never Heard Before

summer afternoons half the town
heads downtown, samples mangoes
ollalieberries, Asian pears hauled in from Modesto, Turlock, Madera
other days these streets run ripe
with racers, aluminum cycles faster
than easterly gusts above the Altamont 
or throng with brass-and-drum corps
parades of cowboys and scientists 

this is a small town becoming a small city
wineries, theaters, shops, sidewalk tables
trellises wound with lilacs, their purple fragrance following you down the street

maybe you sit on a bench
beside Lizzie Fountain listen to music
waft from Blacksmith square
rock ‘n’ roll or country or blues 
or some sounds we’ve never heard before
maybe you see your neighbor
stroll past painted walls and boxes
her child skipping along 
the loose-jointed sidewalks
licking peppermint ice cream

or maybe that hum you hear
is some bold notion yet to come
strumming a guitar
as sparkles of stars startle the water

Charan Sue Wollard

In Honor of the Livermore Valley Opera on its 20th Anniversary

any moment this paper may burst into song

mad notes curling its edges like fire

darkness doloroso pouring

forth in resonant timbre

from ink-smudged surfaces  --

more than meter and rhyme

tripping like moonbeams --

sounds soar, arias allegretto, fortissimo

beat the high rafters

till they tremble with joy

let us sing of Rossini, Puccini, Mozart

Wagner, Verdi, Gounod, Strauss

praise the mighty voices

of principals and chorus

praise too those unsung lovers

toiling in shadows

step out from behind the curtain,

take a bow, Livermore Valley Opera!

while this poem sings to you


On the Tour of California Start in Livermore, May 18, 2011

in those lazy lopes about town

 racers flow past

shop windows,

tall spires of vines,

the vertical heft of the Odd Fellows hall,

fountains spewing

rain back into the sky


in the cyclists’ fluid rush east

along our broad boulevards

aluminum frames stream

like fish or feathers


oh, but the terrain ahead,

hard scrabble mountain

gravel and grit

what of those riders,

wheels pounding

tough twisted trails?


I See This City as a New Poem
Written for City's Volunteers Dinner

a poem of heritage and hope,
bold science, sweet wine, 
of song and story, tree and stone
in this poem one stanza 
holds history in its lap – 
a carved box with slick slides revealing hidden compartments – 

the next keeps the city
strong and true, 
its structures stretching the future,
its brave lines reaching
toward some uncommon good

some lines speak of vision, 
some of hope 
a few may chisel words of glory
in a foundation rock

and beside all are hand and back
and shoulder to lift a neighbor up each word alone is paltry, small
a foolish ping in the dark night
but spoken together
how they do reverberate
a mighty bell ringing
along the golden hills 

This Wall

(Written for the dedication of the mural on the old Firehouse wall)

This wall has heard the sounds
of shouts and clanging iron bells,
of dread and hope, 
of sirens deep in the night 
Inside, the volunteers are vigilant, inside, the wagons wait, 
illuminated by one dim bulb
shining through decades 

This wall has seen yellow flames flash through surrounding skies 
Brigades of brass-buttoned men leap from dead sleep, rush the carriages, water buckets, pumpers,
hoses in tow 

This wall remembers the brave returning, backs slumped
with weariness, faces sooted
with sorrow 

This wall remembers the fallen
who never returned 
And now this wall stands witness 
to past and present,
its rough finish smoothed
with vibrant colors, 
a testament to everything
this wall has known  

Whales in an Inland Town (Written for the dedication of the mural at the Livermore reclaimation plant. Darren Greenwood is the artist.)
 “The ocean is closer than you think.”             Darren Greenwood

everything begins with water: 
clouds, fog, clear sweet raindrops, brutish hail, brackish brooks, 
the deep wide indigo abyss,
all of it streams, storms, 
surges, swooshes, 
clangs against metal pipes,
flows through rivers, eddies, 
our vaporous bodies
here in an inland town 
next to airport and freeway – 
a sluice of cars, trucks, planes – 
an ocean swirls in a concrete box and in two tall cylinders
squatting beside it
on their wet walls gray whales
and dolphins arc, then leap,
while humpbacks hum
their silent song, 
and the great shark glides
like a white shadow
through sunlit waves 
back of it all and underneath 
water rushes,
and the remains of the living
are returned to the sea          


Lizzie’s Street


Crazy old auntie rocked

that chair like it was a bucking mule

all day long on her front porch

profligate hats provoking the sensible

hallooing at tradesmen, vaqueros

passersby winding south

on the long road

that stretched past her house

to the coal mines and Cresta Blanca

Some took to calling it Lizzie’s Street

And why not? Wasn’t her house

planted like a thorn in its side?

Didn’t young hoodlums

race through the dust

just to pelt her door with rocks,

sometimes a load of birdshot?


Long before, a lawyer’s wife

staked her own claim to the avenue.

Daddy owned half the town, after all.

Now they’ve taken it away from both

of them – Aunt Lizzie and Miss Liz –

paved it over, smoothed out the ruts

renamed it

for some long-dead Englishman


But people remember.

They built a fountain

put up a clock across the street

a block or so from where

Lizzie’s wide-porched

bungalow once stood,

on the spot where Joe Duarte

used to sell cigars

Later a tavern quenched the thirsty


Fountain water spouts,

flips the bird at cars, trucks, bicycles,

at progress even


Sweltering summer days

every child in town

splashes like downless ducklings

in her water.

Somebody tosses in bubble soap

Aunt Lizzie would have liked that.

Maybe Miss Liz would too


Charan Sue Wollard

Stellar Gest

They're making a star in my home   town
down the avenue from where I live
Not a Polaris or a white dwarf even
but a microscopic star-let

A bold plan, a grand scheme
planting a star seed in a Petri dish
They'll pummel it with laser bolts
created courtesy of NIF

The seed when it bursts into red-hot flame
shall burn like dry bush on a desert hill
and blaze ten million light years
This seems a clever trick, and still

I cannot help but ponder
the first starts when they were ignited
it was not by lightning but by thunder
"Let there be Light," and they were lighted

I, poor poet, cannot make a star
nor even a bulb to glow  a hundred years,
but I can strike pen to paper
illuminate human joys and fears

They're building a star in my little city
to fuel mankind's great ships with fusion
Those ships may sail millenia
beyond what you or I envision

We fumble in our mundane quests
amid the shadows of the Earth
while a future barely glimpsed
is in a chamber being birthed
-- Charan Sue Wollard

Wollard wrote "Steller Gest" for her installation as Poet Laureate.  It has appeared in The Independent and on LLNL's television station. 

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