Today's poetry for today's world

Scot Siegel 


Scot Siegel is the author of four volumes of poetry: Thousands Flee California Wildflowers (Salmon Press, 2012), Skeleton Says (Finishing Line Press, 2010), Untitled Country (Pudding House Publications, 2009), and Some Weather (Plain View Press, 2008).  He has received awards and commendations from Playa (residency), Aesthetica Magazine (UK), Nimrod International, and the Oregon State Poetry Association.  Siegel has been nominated for the Best of the Net and Pushcart anthologies.  He is a member of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers and serves on the board of trustees of the Friends of William Stafford.  In addition to working as a planning consultant, and writing prose and poetry, he edits the online poetry journal Untitled Country ReviewHe can also be reached at scotsiegel@me.com.  Siegel lives with his family in Lake Oswego, Oregon.




Click on the cover to buy Thousands Flee California Wildflowers.



Photo by Dennis Schmidling.




The barista’s going on about a little girl 
with red curls and hundred-dollar jeans
who reaches into the tip jar

The barista sees her, and it’s a standoff, 
a seesaw staring match in the middle 
of the midday rush

The barista wants to tell her mother, 
but the sun slants through the blinds
and she’s lost in a dream, 

recounting her own childhood–– 
The toy she wanted badly but didn’t get;
the gift that went to her sister––

Then mother enters and they face 
one another, and the girl has the gall 
to ask for a piece of candy!

But she’s so charming, flashing two 
one-dollar bills, like revolvers, 
in the barista’s face––

And we see the anguish rise
in the young woman’s eyes, dark eyes 
that say, I’m doing my best, but she’s killing me!

And the barista wants nothing more 
than to see the bad girl squirm; 
Watch mother dress her down,

Teach her a lesson she’ll never forget; 
the one she’ll spend the rest of her life 
Published in MiPOesias and appears in Thousands Flee California Wildflowers
(Salmon Poetry, 2012).

Click on the book cover to buy Skeleton Says





Autumn Turns Through Stratified Wars




A few little leaves alight on the sleeper wind

lemon, iron-orange, vermilion

but there’s no dive-swiping gnat-catching tonight


Some songbirds sense the slack-season upon us

stillness readies the river, trees glimmer

and we lean uneasily into the quiet . . .


Three warblers balance on one blackberry cane

not ordinary warblers, yellow-breasted chats

gone silent in the breeze––


There’s no yellow chip; no whistle, caw, nor rattle

just three imperceptible heartbeats screaming

through silver thorns & bramble––


Is their night not unlike our country?

Somewhere, a raptor hovers, drags her talons

over Arab neighborhoods, while we lie awake . . .


In my wife’s eyes a blue flame flickers

World News, a helicopter turns, delivering

or receiving the dead . . .


We hardly notice midnight passing over

as we tilt and spin on the dreadful wing of a hawk

Who says she loves us?


Crows on our tail, relentless––

I think I hear one say:


Come home 




Published in The New Verse News, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize;

appears in Skeleton Says (Finishing Line Press, 2010).   





Click on the book cover to buy Some Weather. 




The World In Our Hands




Remember when the weatherman used chalk,

and those satellite shots came once every twelve hours?

We used to warm our hands over television sets.

The world was full of potential –


Yes, we worried about a Cold War; the possibility

of nuclear winter . . .  Now we worry about winter,

in general, and whether the icecaps are going the way

of the dinosaurs – and whether we will too –


My mother wanted me to be a doctor, or a lawyer

I wanted to draw isobars and isotherms, high & low

pressure cells, and occluded fronts – I wanted

to be The Weatherman like nobody’s business . . .


Then I forgot about the weather and did what all good

sons must do; I blew off law school and became

an urban planner . . .  Though, I’ll always remember that frosted

glass globe my parents gave me.  It was electric,


internally lit, and calibrated to the earth’s rotation –

It even tracked the sun’s path twenty-four-seven

until the bulb blew –


Now I have the standard issue: a cardboard orb

I bought for my daughters when they were in

grade school; it’s shellacked with countries whose

names have changed.  It doesn’t get much use –


Some days, when our country’s under siege

and our leaders are doing their best to negotiate

the end of the world, I take the world out of the closet

and dust it off; then I give it


a good hard spin!




Published in The New Verse News, and appears in Some Weather

(Plain View Press, 2008).  View Scot Siegel reading this poem on YouTube.   




Click on the book cover to buy Untitled Country.  




Untitled Country


            Some things in the world have not already happened
There is an odd country beyond Democracy
where few live but many look in and
ask about visas.  They say, that country
has no borders 

Their flag, the color of wind, never flies at
half-staff.  Their national anthem, called
conversation, changes daily
depending on the weather

That country has no army
It’s citizens, even the littlest children
are allowed to vote, and their votes
count twice

Did I mention, in that country
they celebrate Independence Day
every twenty-four hours, even
in the dead of winter.




Writer's Statement: Poetry is an essential creative outlet from the work I do every day as an urban planner.  When I write as a professional planner, I am trying to tell the story of a community according to the vision or aspirations of its citizens.  An effective plan must reconcile different values and points of view, while serving as a roadmap for the common good.


As a poet, I am free to focus on the individual, raise questions out of order, and leave things unsettled and open to interpretation.  Poets can – and in fact are obligated to – explore subjects that are forbidden or suppressed in the workaday world: love, childhood dreams, family history, alternatives to violence and greed . . .  In this way, poetry can help us find meaning and balance in our lives.


All people have the capacity to change the world through art, as producers or consumers of it.  Poetry should be readily accessible to a wide audience while pushing the envelope of literary accomplishment and challenging our notions of political correctness.  The best poetry blurs the line between everyday life and high art, and moves us to repair the world.




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