Poetry by Katharine Wheaton, Joy Torres, Lawson Pines, Karen Manna-Levin and Debbi Odell

Three poems by Katharine Wheaton


Hummingbird’s Visit

 Before the light hit the trees,

     a hummingbird chirped up busily

     to the glass feeder, as if to drink.

But instead he peered at me,

     and flew away.


“I’ll be back, maybe when the sun comes.”

And the clear, careful, and quiet light

     stole onto tree limbs when I wasn’t looking.


I watched the blue glass globe for signs of shimmer.

But there weren’t any yet.


“Patience” is carved on one of my garden stones.

I have found that nature delivers on schedule

     things like sunlight and season-change.

But she like to surprise  us with things like hummingbirds.



Lunar Eclipse

The moon loses its distinct edges—and its flatness,

Becoming increasingly voluptuous,

A mystery in its apricot shadows,

Holding secrets about its attraction to this green planet.



Bedtime in Summer

It is summer—

     evening—and still light—

I am in bed because

      am too young to stay up later—

      or maybe I am sick?


A plane mumbles in a distant sky.

A summer breath

     moves the lower half of my café curtains.

I can see the white and gray patches

     on the sycamore tree my grandmother planted

     to shade my childhood room.

I can hear splash and clink from the kitchen.

I drift into a child’s sleep, without dragons.

The moon comes up.


I wake later when the train passes through town.

I go to the window and see lighted passenger cars,

     illuminated, distant adult lives,

    flash through a break in the trees.


Then I fall back asleep.


When I wake again,

     I am grown.


Katharine Wheaton lives in California and can often be found outside.


Three Poems by Joy Torres

The Truth

The truth hurts.

It's hard to bear.

It's a stab in your heart

As it killed

The dream of seeing you


Of you resting in my arms.


They tricked me.

My kids and I are toys


 Pawns in this game.

  I don't know why.


I've done something so very right

Yet, they say it is wrong.

Their games ... their lies,

They are destroying us.

They want another chance,

Another opportunity

To say sorry.


It is not going to happen.

I am not going to fall for it,

Not again

I learned my lesson.

I don't lie,

Don't play games.

 So I must say until we meet again;

Goodbye is only hello.

The truth.


Midnight Dancer

When the sun has ceased to exist,

The night is upon us

And the stars are the only lights we'll see,

Save the last dance.


The One will walk through the shadow

Out from the darkness of the night.

You will walk into my eyes.

The spark in our hearts will reunite,

The stars become one,

A burst of flame will grow.


You can't start a fire without a spark.

With my hand firmly on your back,

Your chest against mine

Our eyes will meet.

We will breathe the same air.

Our hearts will beat the same beat,

Unite as if they were one.


Step by step,

Turn after turn,

Whisper after whisper

The mist will leave.

I find myself in your arms,


Dipping you under the stars.

Our blood runs wild,

Dancing silently in the dark.

Midnight dancer


A Day Like This

Today, like many other days, I feel lost,

Disoriented … out of place.

Death seems like the answer.

Don't know what's going on,

Where to go, who to turn to.


I just don't know

What is my purpose.

Why do I bother fighting

If only bad things come my way?


I am a bad luck magnet.

Nothing ever goes right.

What's the point,

Where is my lucky charm ?


Good things happen around me

Just not to me.

Today is one of those days,

One of those long days that feel like eternity,

One of those days when I wonder where you are,

One of those days when something burns

And hurts and won’t stop hurting.


I feel that emptiness,

That loneliness in my soul.

I just don't know.

Why go on when nothing ever goes right?


Death feels better than life

Like my only way out.


A day like this


Joy Torres  is an Orange County, California, community advocate. She was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and major depression when she was five years old and uses her poems “as an outlet to my mind’s racing voices, who for many years controlled me.”



By Lawson Pines

From scattered ships and tumultuous seas

     we sail

Aimlessly searching for elusive golden shores.


Delusional, we believe we may still find

     our sea legs as we cower below the deck

Medicated and warm,

Oblivious to the wreckage above.


Our sickness spreads and the barnacles


A burden invisible but felt absolutely;

A barnacle of denial, then fear, guilt,



Monstrous waves demolish hope

Crashing from all sides in relentless

     pursuit of destruction.


Yet we push on with tattered sails,

Our foundations splintered and cracked,

Our rudders long since gone.


We strain to steady our vessel,

Clutching at the wheel with trembling

     hands and waning faith,

Casting empty prayers for tranquil waters.

Until the day when our rations are gone

     and we emerge to the surface to

     take stock.


Barefoot and bewildered we pace

What has become of this once magnificent


Why have our compasses failed?

Where was it that we had intended to go?


Exhausted and lost, we collapse, defeated,

The icy rain chilling our core.

No more poison for comfort.

No more blankets for warmth.


Somehow we find dreamless sleep,

     but awake gasping for air,

     clinging to a life raft we hadn’t

     realized was there.

And then there arrives a foreign feeling:

     warm sand between our toes.


We look up to find the natives gazing

     through kind, welcoming eyes.

Naked and bleeding we stagger into open arms.


How have these people arrived here?

So wiling to take us in.

So able to mend our wounds.


Fascinated, we learn to walk among them,

     speak their language,

     fish when hunger comes,

     cup clean water in our now steady hands.


Curious children, child we peek around the

     corners of our new home,

Discovering spring blossoms in unexpected



But as season turns frigid and we stumble

     upon icy ground.

We long for the familiar comforts of our ship’s cabin,

Crave with all our fibers our medicated bliss.

Yet we know medication has failed us,

Left us as lost of captains of crumbling ships.


So we turn to our newfound brothers and sisters

And together gather driftwood from the beach,

Each piece blessed with our wisdom,

Each piece bound by our strength,

And in unity we slowly build new ships,

And muster the courage once again to

     take to sea.


Lawson Pines lives in northern California and remembers his joys and pains in recovery.


Four Poems by Karen Manna-Levin


Hands and Feet

Reminders of a bitter price,

As with a single sock,

Or tiny mitten;

A stray button and gilded trinket.

I tidy your rooms meticulously;

His frayed blanket,

And the softness of her bear.

Their scent evaporates before me,

A warm fire against the battering rain.


Annie’s Visit


for your answer; days and weeks a lifetime of longing

Just to be in your presence

The elusive parameters of time

And the imperceptible fracture

A great chasm


The Last Muse


to the drone of cicadas,

seeking refuge from

the sweltering sun. 



on waves that lap

against vacant shores

and fertile soil.



where memories remain


and dimly lit.



to be bathed

in brilliant orange,

and you,



lengthening shadows,

at summer’s end.


The Commons 

Standing on the bridge,

Poised Precision

Suspended in time, resolute

Seared in my mind’s eye, forever.

Contemplating the Charles,

The smoke of his Raleigh

Rising, then dissipating,

While the ashes vanish,

Like Forsythia blossoms

Spiraling toward

The murky green water

Strewn with Swan boats.



Karen Manna-Levin  is a single mom and Doctor of Audiology residing in Lake Forest, CA. She is a mental health advocate and consumer, with a diagnosis of Bipolar II (rapid cycling).  She is also a member and contributing artist and writer affiliated with NAMI/MHSA and the Artist Guild in Orange County with her work exhibited in a number of venues including the Grand Central Art Gallery, Santa Ana, CA. She is a supporting member of the US Navy Memorial, Washington D.C., and Submarine Veterans of WWII, and volunteer for the Honor and Memorial Park in Irvine, CA.



By Debbi Odell



Rain in my soul



Itty bitty green shoots.

Soil rich as chocolate

Rain soft as feathers

Sun beams

Freckles sprout

On my nose, on my arms

Sun warms my hair

Sun warms my shirt

Dirt in my fingernails

Shoelaces untied

Roly poly crawls under a stone.


Debbi Odell resides in Orange County California. Her poem Gardens, was a winner in the  Orange Country Mental Health Services Act poetry contest for the 2012 MHSA Calendar.











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