Selected Poems by Stephen Barile

Jun 14, 2023

Tehachapi Earthquake of 1952


my mother yelled when the bed moved

across the room
just before 5 a.m., July 21, 1952.

She ran
into the street in her nightgown,

Screaming and crying,
the sticky night turning quickly to day.

With no sense
for the White Wolf fault, 

where the Tehachapi and Tejon  
hills meet the San Joaquin Valley,

or the 7.5 magnitude,
strongest since San Francisco in 1906.

Dogs and cats predicted 
the temblor with mysterious good sense, 

and hid themselves in safety.
My father, groggy under the sheet, 

addressing himself: 
Go back to sleep, it’s only an earthquake!

Mother was nowhere around;
she was found two blocks away,

barefoot and afraid
of an earthquake a hundred miles south.

She came home at dawn,
slightly amiss, but innocently sweet.



The Tree that Killed 
Chuck Moulton* Is Gone!


The tree, 
An Emerald Sunshine Elm,
That killed Chuck Moulton
Is gone!

Cut off at the trunk, 
Ground down level
To the pavement and curb.
Vanished from Linden Avenue, 

Where the damn thing grew
For nearly fifty years.
And twenty-seven years since
The motorcycle poet

Of the Tower District
Was pruning the tree 
From a wooden ladder 
With his chainsaw.

A portable power saw 
A chain with teeth 
Driven by a motor,
Cutting limbs and twigs.

The same saw he used 
To cut huge cedars and pines 
While fighting forest fires 
In the Sierra Nevada.  

He fell from the ladder,
Hit his head on the sidewalk, 
Lost his grasp
Of an upside-down world.

The tree was his upward path 
Along which he proceeded, 
Ascending vertically,
Those who pass from visible

To the invisible.
A ladder of ascension 
He climbed until he reached 
The light of our sun.


*Charles Warrington Moulton (1936-1995)


Stephen Barile is a Fresno, California, native, educated in the public schools, and attended Fresno City College, Fresno Pacific University, and California State University, Fresno. He was a long-time member of the Fresno Poets’ Association. Stephen Barile taught writing at Madera Center College and CSUF and lives in Fresno. His poems have been published extensively, including in Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, The Heartland Review, Instant Noodle, and London Grip.

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