Joe Cottonwood

Pacific Storm

Electricity out and
a Pontiac overturned in a ditch
like after a war,
a pine tree uprooted with
branches still thrashing
as cones skitter away like mice.
Wires snap, dance a samba with sparks,
but coming down the mountain
through thrashing wipers
I see one – there! – over Interstate 280
above crawling cars, and later
another – there! – on El Camino
rising from Ernie’s Liquors, and then
again – there! – a full half circle
from the Shell station
to the Christmas tree farm.
Everywhere pots of gold
except home, the power now in
but the phone is out
as hail pelts the skylight
and through the trees, bolts
of sunlight: all in all
a good day for rainbows.

Frantic Woman

Tires of my pickup grip the mountain
over patches of ice.
Road is narrow, cars few. From the rear,
headlights cut through mist.
Coming fast.

On a curve without hesitation
the BMW passes. Eyes meet
so near we could almost touch hands.
Blonde, beautiful,
with a clenched jaw.
Her sedan swerves on the glaze,
fishtails out of control —
cutting me off.

I crush the brake pedal.
Wheels lock and slide.
My white truck bearing a rack of lumber
glides friction-free
like a windblown cloud
to the guard rail and crunches
to a stop
at the edge of a precipice.
Toolboxes slam-bang against the back of the cab
while redwood two-by-sixes break free
of straps and hurtle over the hood
down the side of the canyon.

Oblivious, obsessed,
she and her sedan recover traction,
disappear like a cruise missile
around a bend
to go someplace important.

I shut off the motor. Close
my eyes. Breathing.
Loving the fact that I breathe.
If ever I see her somewhere,
maybe she’s buying a latte,
what shall I say?


Joe Cottonwood works as a carpenter, plumber, and electrician (whatever pays) when knees and shoulder allow. Nights, he writes. He lives with his high school sweetheart in La Honda, California, where they built a house and raised a family under (and at mercy of) giant redwood trees. More at

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