Something strange and amazing happened while I read the poems in Foggy Dog – Poems of the Pacific Coast. A few lines in, on almost every poem, Bruce Springsteen songs started playing in the corners of my ears. Maybe you’re not a Springsteen fan, but the down to earth, real, working, living, loving people of the poems just triggered the same feeling I get from the lines in Springsteen songs – you don’t need to like the Springsteen’s music to like these poems, you just need to like feeling something real, something rooted deep in the ground that branches up into the soul.
For an East Coast girl reading “Poems of the Pacific Coast”, it really blew my mind in many ways. I know the people in these poems. Hell, I’m one of them. In “My Daughter Says” the first lines read, “My daughter says/every tree has a soul./ Some are good, some are bad./But always, a soul.” I nearly fell out of my chair reading that. As a child, I insisted trees had souls. Growing up I even claimed that the two trees in the corner of my neighbor’s yard were “witch trees.” He ends that poem with the lines, “Without the spirit we twist,/we wither, we break./With the spirit our roots take hold. .My daughter knows. So young, so old.”
Perhaps I’m gushing over this because I am the daughter of a woodworker and as a child I remodel houses, install bathrooms, and did various other handyman jobs with my father. Joe Cottonwood is a carpenter by day and a writer by night. But reading Foggy Dog, it’s clear that he is a poet all day, all night, always.
The poems are real. They’re people you walk with, see in your daily lives, love. They’re sometimes the people and pieces of nature you don’t even realize how much they mean to you until you read one of Joe’s poems. And suddenly, their importance is profoundly apparent. Every word is genuine.
I don’t know how else to describe Foggy Dog. All I can say is go read it. Chances are, you’re in one the poems. And I’m quite certain, you’ll find quite a few familiar faces there.
With a keen eye and a big heart, Joe Cottonwood writes of the small towns and driftwood beaches of the coast. As a working carpenter, he speaks with special appreciation of trees: the giant redwoods, the powerful fir and redolent cedar. From pelicans to pumpkins, from dangerous driving to sunny hiking, from earthquakes shaking the house to seals giving birth on the beach, come for the humor, stay for the wisdom — all served with a generous helping of dogs.
Available on Amazon in Print and Kindle
Print Length: 80 pages
Publisher: Clear Heart Books (February 21, 2018)
Wells Fargo Bank
Noon, I’m next in line behind an old man.
“I want to withdraw fourteen dollars,” he says.
The teller, a young woman with a soft sweater, says
“There’s only—let me check—yes—fifty-two cents.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yes.” She tilts her head. “Sorry.”
The sorrow is genuine.
He wears a pinstripe suit, frayed,
wafting an odor of smoke and earth.
A smartly folded handkerchief, breast pocket,
has a dark stain. His silver beard
is neatly trimmed.
On one wall above the safe is a giant
mural of teamsters driving a stagecoach.
The man says, “There might be—”
“No. It’s always the same.”
For a moment he closes his eyes,
a slow blink while indignities of a lifetime pass.
Without a word, the young woman slides a sandwich
over the countertop through the teller window.
“Blessings on you,” the man says with a nod,
and he walks away with a limp.
I cash my check, a big one
from three days of messy labor
for a matron of the horsey set.
“He lives by the creek,” the teller says
without my asking. “Under a bridge.”
Outside the bank, in the parking lot of glistening cars,
I look around for the pinstripe suit, the silver beard.
I might offer the man something.
He might refuse to take it.
Anyway, no matter:
he has disappeared like the last stagecoach.
Only the blessing remains.
6.0 August 24,2014
The earth wakes us
shaking the bed.
It’s 3:21 a.m.
I sit bolt upright,
the dogs growl,
you clutch my arm.
To the ears of this old carpenter
the home we built is
sort of moaning
but not in a painful way
more like the way my body feels
when I stretch after
sitting too long.
after a few seconds: silence.
The planet rests.
“Want to check anything?” you ask.
“No,” I say.
So we curl together and go back to sleep:
you, me, dogs, our little souse,
forest, mountain, tectonic plates.
but the reminder of
who owns this place,
payment due some day
and when it comes
I want it to be with you.
About the Poet: Joe Cottonwood has worked in the building trades for most of his life. By night he is the award-winning author of nine published novels, a memoir, and a previous book of poetry. His poems appear in journals worldwide. He makes his home in La Honda, California. If you need help rebuilding your front porch, he would welcome your call. joecottonwood.com