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Blue Pearls

Carlene Tejada

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Author's Brief Bio

Carlene Richardson Tejada teaches English as a Second Language, in which she holds an M.A. She grew up in New Hampshire but spent her adult life in several locales, including New York City, Arizona, Georgia, and El Salvador, Central America. Wherever Carlene settles, she offers writing workshops for women. She has written articles for home plans magazines and Natural Health. One of her short stories was published in North Dakota Review. Some poems in this book first appeared in Northern New England Review, The Poet's Touchstone, The Burning Cloud Review, and White Pelican Review.

Carlene Richardson Tejada teaches English as a Second Language, in which she holds an M.A.. Carlene has authored articles for home plans magazines and Natural Health. One of her short stories was published in North Dakota Review and poems appear in Northern New England Review, The Poet's Touchstone, The Burning Cloud Review, and White Pelican Review.
Living in an Atlanta suburb, Carlene shares her apartment with 14-year-old Chloe, a golden-retriever/border-collie mix. When not writing, reading, or walking Chloe, Carlene tutors students in her home and reads to her grandchildren.

Book Description (Synopsis)

These poems spill out from the imagination of a woman who travels through love, marriage, loss, and the decades that lead to aging. Through some of these travels she is accompanied by Chloe, a golden retriever mix. The author muses about her mother and stepfather, her deceased father, old boyfriends, and loneliness. The ease at which our lives could be overtaken by war becomes a reality, and romance, when love seems lost forever, could be just around the corner.

Book Front Cover Designer
Back Cover Description

These poems spill out from the imagination of a woman who travels through love, marriage, loss, and the decades that lead to aging. Through some of these travels she is accompanied by Chloe, a golden retriever mix. The author muses about her mother and stepfather, her deceased father, old boyfriends, and loneliness. The ease at which our lives could be overtaken by war becomes a reality, and romance, when love seems lost forever, could be just around the corner.

Author's Book Dedication

For my brother,
Kip Richardson,
who provided the cottage
beside the pond.

Story Keywords

Poetry, Poems, Poet, Blue Pearls, Carlene Tejada,


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Advertising Hook

In this book of free-verse, the inner life of a woman is explored as she looks back on her youth, experiences the present with its joy and pain, and looks forward with an open heart, humor and c

Contest Manuscript Details


Tea welcomes arrivals and fortifies leavings—
a string of comings and goings across lips
that remember the press of kisses—

So many thousands of times
I've filled the kettle with water

365 days 1,460 times a year
x 4 times a day x 50 adult years
_____________ _______________
1,460 times a year 73,000

All those times I've filled the kettle,
tugged the lid off the tea canister, and
laid a teabag in one of many mugs that display
a napping cat, a toothy smile, or a sailboat
tacking off the coast of Puerto Rico.

This remembering is all I own
as hot water flows into a mug
over faces dark with steeping.

Only an Hour Ago

Only an hour ago I stubbed my toe
which turned purple as a sovereign's robe.
Gusts of pain chased me to the dock
where I plunged my foot into cool
water, and a spring feeding the pond
ladled its icy flow over my agony.

Soon the purple break faded to the bleak
comfort of a lilac bruise—

I wonder what else is being healed
as I gaze across ripples . . .
to watch this evening's trio of small gray birds
flutter, dip and dive.

At the water's edge the dog pounces
on silver streaks and the sun,
following the sky's pink and lavender curve,
slides with candid calm
down, down into the pine forest.


This cat, adopted only yesterday,
lies by my thigh crushing
her fur against my bare skin.
She hardly knows me
yet she sleeps.

Years ago your hand hovered
a heart's space from mine—
you hardly knew me . . .

The cat sleeps while
I trace years, patterns:
swinging wrecker balls
bridges touching islands
as memory of your hand
against my skin.

Her 90th Birthday

This isn't the time to be modest.
Give your horn a little toot.
Dress up!
Wear a jaunty corsage.
Flaunt your glittermost earrings.

Forget you've learned
the Octogenarian Shuffle.
You're 90 now.

Lean on my arm—elegantly—
as if you didn't need the help,
only as if you deserve the escort,

and you do
for the times you didn't have one,
for the war years alone with
food rationing,
starred banners hanging
stiff in parlor windows,
and only letters for company.

You sat dry-eyed
through funerals of everyone
you loved
except your children.

First decades married to a hard man
absent too often and too long,
then these final years with a
mild-mannered gentleman lacking
tenderness and greatness of heart,

you learned the skill of freezing
tears under your skin
until they encircled your body
like rings of an ancient tree.

You build brittle bark to enclose
these ancient bonds
even as we march

through the restaurant
to your place of honor
at the flower-decked table.

One Week

Only one more week in this vacation hideaway,
two months of renewal whittled down
by the soft chisel of hours reading on the porch
or watching a heron stalk shadows in the reeds
while spiders dressed rotting beams
in silken camisoles.

Today, someone else, besotted by the promise
of one week, arrives at another cottage.
She's planned, saved, and now unpacks
to enjoy hours undisturbed
except for the sun's quiet rise and fall,
the whisper of water hushed at the shore,
and wind breathing out wild fragrances
gathered from the flowered path.

She's unaware that one short week lacks
the stretch needed to repair
cracked walls and fallen bricks of her past.
I too did not know this, nor do you know it
unless once evicted by despair, you relocated
your impoverished self into
a wealth of time.


An eclipse takes too long.
While the shadow shifts

I clean up after supper
fold the laundry
read a bedtime story
make four lunches
feed the cats
write a page

and wonder if
the two Elizabeths
in Hollywood and London
have time to watch.

40 Years Later

You left too soon:
no chance to practice growing old
no chance to show me how
no chance to catch the biggest fish.

You left too soon:
never saw your grandchildren
never hunted caribou in Alaska
never watched your son become a man.

You left too soon:
missed my wedding
missed your 60th birthday
missed my graduate degree.

You left too soon:
to bite into a hot enchilada
to replace 5 o'clock martinis with naps
and appreciate them more.

You left too soon:
to feel the rush of time
to marvel at the pull of change.

Yes, you left too soon.
but now that I'm 70
I know what you missed
and I will live it for you.

Just a Minute

How fast a minute races by—
conceive a child
hear a newborn cry.

While you read a page
the cookies burn.
In a galloping minute
the tide will turn.

How fast a minute races by—
time enough to fall in love
and all the time you need to die.

Over the River and Through the Woods

Great-Grandma wants to untangle
knots in her memory but they
are gray as this holiday's fog.
How did she come to be a passenger?
her silver-haired daughter driving
to this dinner at her son's house
those other Thanksgivings
she wasn't the oldest one at the table
each year's dinner blends into last year's
candle spilling down the wine bottle
they emptied how many years ago?
all those golden-crust pumpkin pies
turkeys stuffed and basted
squash and potatoes mashed and buttered
drip together over the edges
of her mind like the wax of 90 candles
flowing until the wine bottle disappears
under the weight of melted memories.

Generation Gap

My 80-year-old neighbor
stares at the shiny new car, a gift
from her 20ish grandson, because
her old car just turned 10.

“Why?” she asks with a shrug,
a restless halo of short white curls
bobbing around her head.
“My old one drives just fine.”

Then my 30ish son replaces
the chunky 12-year-old TV and VCR,
hogging a corner of my living room,
with a state-of-the-art slim screen TV
bearing a “you can't do without it” DVD slot.

“Why?” I ask with a shrug,
adjusting my own unruly halo.
“My old one works just fine.”

The boys ruffle our halos
with wide hands, wave good-by,
and leave us with our new toys.


When the lights flicker out and the TV dies
my mother sends me down cellar to the fuse box.

He's already at the foot of the stairs
standing on a kitchen chair—one rung broken—and
straining against the question-mark curve of his back.
One mottled hand clutches
the door of the little gray box while
the other hand's bony fingers flip switches.
His years and weight match: ninety-one.

The cellar bulb flashes and from upstairs
my mother's thin voice calls, “They're on!”

He releases the fuse box
to grasp with both hands the back of the chair
and in a series of movements
suspenseful as a slow-motion replay
bends to step down.

I lift my arm, ready to grasp his
but the force of his courage surges
like the electricity he just released
and holds me back.

He stretches a leg for the long
first the right foot
finds the cement floor
then the left.
He sways, fumbles for the cane he stood up
in an empty cemetery urn,
and mutters as he thumps to the stairs,
“Don't tell your mother.”


A Few Blue Pearls

I know you make your living from these blueberry acres
just as I know of your trust in me,
yet on my evening walk up the mountain path
I could not help but pick a few blue pearls
to roll around in my palm.

Then, like one urged by addiction,
I reached for clump after clump as they rose
on slender stems like cats standing on back feet
to meet my petting hand.

So I filled both pockets and my hat
while cartoon balloons floated by carrying
steaming pies, golden cakes and plump muffins
oozing warm and juicy berries.

I did not mean to take so many,
to embezzle those few dollars from your pocket.
Anyway, I made only muffins
and can't offer you even one in payment,
for then I'll have to confess my crime.


Decades ago my people
rode the Highlands
strode fields in Prussia
fished in Nova Scotia's rolling seas
married Indians in Maine
farmed rocks in Vermont
a genealogy of clans and tribes
fog-damp and doped with cold.

Tonight in the full-moon Arizona sky
an arrow of white-rimmed mist
points north— I read the message:
abandon cactus and mesquite
the simplicity of poverty
beans and enchiladas
the luxury of writing poems
when you please
for sleet and snowbanks
of a cold childhood.

Then see the honey-tinted scorpion
on the patio—its stinger arcing,
sending me back
to the chilling isolation
of a Yankee winter.

Now That I'm Here

I'll make friends with my gusty roommate
who never lets up, never lets go,
invades my private thoughts
with whistles and roars,
paws at my door
like a hungry wildcat,
wraps crushing weight
around my quiet dreams of living
safe and loved.

Listen! Midnight Wind runs low
through dark streets, loads up on trash
dropped by Daylight and moans
with the burden.

The pond stands still—passion frozen
in the blight of pain after Fall's rejection,
unaware of Spring's tender arms
waiting around the corner of the wind.

Now that I'm here
Wind is my new roommate, the one
on her way to moving out.

Where We Lived

First we lived on King Street
where there were no kings and
ours was the only two-family house.

Then, would you believe, we moved
to Knight Street
where there were no knights,
only two-family houses
needing paint.

On Summer Street
winter froze our pipes
and snowed us in.
Even indoors my toes and nose
numbed and reddened.

When we lived on Wakefield Street
wide fields stretched behind
tall bushes packed with lilacs.
I wakened each spring morning
to their syrupy aroma deep
in tiny fluted lavender cups.

Only when sitting in my upstairs
bedroom window could I see
lumber piled neat as waiting dominoes
in the mill yard beyond the field.

A hurricane one September
lifted each lumber plank—
wooden UFOs that clipped the tops
off our lilacs and beheaded
my father's circle of sunflowers.

Little Pictures

Last night New Englanders
set back their clocks,
so this evening I walk out in the dark
with a letter to mail in my pocket.

It's my first winter
in this old town built on hills.
I step briskly down the steep
corrugated sidewalk as
wind chills my face to a burn.

Church spires shimmer
like lighted tapers
above candelabra branches.
A distant bell chimes
the hour of closing shops,
of simmering suppers.

Wind lifts fallen leaves,
swirls them underfoot
where they crunch like
broken stained-glass windows.

A shortcut takes me by abandoned
factories, facades chipped
and weathered, windows boarded.

Beyond these ghosts
a footbridge spans the river,
streetlamps spread dim halos
over public lawns.
The river, rippling black,
reflects their glow.

In last summer's sun
a man with an Asian face,
a cigarette stuck on his lip,
fished over the railing.

As I trudge across the bridge
I wonder if tonight
he's sitting down
to a plentiful supper.

In front of City Hall
a mailman wearing earmuffs
transfers a canvas bag of letters
from a blue free-standing
mailbox into his truck.

Hungry to connect with someone,
I hand him my letter and ask,
“Lots of mail today?”
Shadows hide his face as
he answers without looking,
“Monday's always busy.”

If we ever speak again,
we will not remember
that we have spoken before.

Light from mullioned windows
streaks the night. The library,
a sturdy stone-age castle, rises
to a turret where, I'm sure,
sentries watch my approach.

I enter through a rasp of iron
hinges on oaken doors.
Inside, from a muted radiance
of polished woodwork
a minion of Victorian London
will spring—any minute—bearing
a tray of sherry in long-stemmed glasses.

I walk home,
two suspense novels under my arm,
past buildings with sullen windows
and over the deserted footbridge.

Behind my white breath I pant
up the hill to garret rooms, a haven
offering a glass of white wine
and a warm supper of asparagus
with melted cheese on toast.

From a North Window

Just dawn. The fields are bare.
The weight of winter hangs in the sky.
Again the hunters have left the house
taking the strength of their voices.

Death too has gone and taken away . . .
good hunter, Death; he makes no sound.
They've left an old lame hound behind,
limping now through the brown, broken field.

Here's all I've known through heavy days:
bare land and low sky,
rifled hunters in red,
and an old lame hound.

Spring Thaw

Waking early and wrapped in thick flannel,
I stand at the window to watch the sun
abandon Earth's curve.

Then the Mergansers come, scudding across
dark water, diving for a frigid breakfast,
or only dipping heads and waving heinies
like tufts of wild grass sprouting
through the pond's Windex shine.

I remember the last floe melted yesterday,
still a ragged hoar fringes the pond.

Taking big bites of warm buttered toast
and sipping hot tea, I imagine locking
feet and breast into water only lately thawed,
knowing that each mouthful requires
a dive

Time Out

Three little girls float on inner tubes,
their mother asleep on the dock,
towel crumpled under her damp body.
The dog rolls from side to belly
her mouth chewing on a dream rabbit.
A duck dozes on the raft.
Pond ripples slap the end of a beached canoe.
Then one little girl tosses water,
another squeals and tosses back.
The duck stands and quacks,
the dog smacks her chops,
Mother calls to the girls,
the phone in the cottage rings three times.

4th of July Weekend

While you were here
we drank
all the wine
it rained
the cottage roof leaked
the septic system
backed up.

After swims and showers
all the towels hung
the CD player stopped
and we couldn't find
a store that stocked
a cleaning disk.

While you were here
my dog shed white hair
on the plum upholstery
of your new car
your allergies exploded
you got sunburned
and twisted your ankle
on the loose carpet.

When you left
we apologized
you to me
me to you

But after we hugged
and clung
mother to child
child to mother
we couldn't tell
whose tears fell faster.

Now I sit on the porch
trying to fill with memory the empty
rooms, too small now
for you to spread your wings.

At Bow Lake

Among towels, shoes and picnic baskets
scattered on the grassy bank
lay a leg
by itself
straight and shining pinkish in the sun
with foot attached.

I was seven and did not need to be told
“Don't point” or Don't stare”
but the leg like a magnet
drew my eyes sideways
as with my head posed straight ahead
I marched down to the water.

Between dunks in the lake I glanced
up as if to follow a bird's flight
or perhaps some boys playing catch
caught my attention.
Then I saw a young man in spectacles
and dripping yellow trunks balancing
on one foot, laughing at the water play
as he strapped the leg
around the stump
of his thigh.

“How . . .” I began to ask my mother.
“Not now!” she snapped and lifted a stack
of baloney sandwiches from our basket.

If I asked later, I don't remember,
If an answer came with the asking,
I don't remember.
All I remember is the leg shining
smooth and pinkish in the grass and
the young man in spectacles
and dripping yellow trunks laughing
as he buckled the leg's harness
with the same air of distraction
I practiced when tying my shoes.

Catch Your Face

After a summer in their company
spiders no longer scare you.

For one thing, they care only
about their gossamer nets that
catch your face and veil your eyes
as you step through the kitchen door,
lean over the porch railing,
or pass between blueberry bushes.

For another, they have properties
setting them apart:
Fatty Arbuckle, round but
not as loveable as the name,
Princess Di, light and leggy
shows a graceful strut
impossible not to admire,
Peter Lorre, small and sly,
scuds across the carpet
just in front of your bare foot,
while Carmen Miranda, her turban
red as tomatoes,
kicks her dark legs high.

After you're caught, you break free,
mutter profuse apologies,
and bemoan the extra labor
required for repairs.

On Her Way Out

As bedrooms go, the one she has now
you would never see on a glossy magazine cover,
its picture-perfect couple propped on satin pillows,
legs crossed in choreographed perfection,
teeth aligned like Chiclet implants.

No, her rented bedroom's not much:
walls cracked like mapped rivers,
brown deserts on the ceiling, faded
rugs to carry her to the single bed
guarded by a clothes-rack in damp uniform.

On the nightstand—yellow paint chipped
during months of waiting in the thrift shop—
ragged towers of books and notebooks rise from
a rubble of pens, crumb-strewn plates, unwashed
teacups and unfulfilled fortunes torn
out of cookies from the Chinese restaurant.

Notice the child's snapshots taped to the wall,
grabbed on her escape from the perfect man
asleep in a perfectly attired house.
Remember how, on her way out,
the glossy Chiclet couple grinned
from the coffee table as she thumbed
her nose at their gaudy perfection.