Patricia L. Scruggs

I See the Ineffable

After Frank X. Gaspar

Across the street, the children attach
giant spiders to the picture windows,
hang ghosts from trees, begin
draping the house with fake cobwebs.

The tallest girl tries to reach the bottom of the eves
and fails, the older boy stands on the planter
but can’t stretch far enough. At last, his sister
climbs onto his shoulders to reach their goal.

Next, on the lawn, they position an inflatable
sea serpent, standing almost taller than the house.
When their father comes home,
he helps secure it in place with ropes.

As darkness descends, the sky ranges from turquoise
to an ineffable blue some call indigo.
After supper, in the dark, the sea serpent
has dominion, glows golden far from the sea.

Small wild things dance around it.

There’s Nothing to Say Except These Things I Love

After Kim Addonizio

These jonquils, cut blooms in a purple bottle,
fragrant on the kitchen counter.
Rainfall on Monday, sending cars caroming across
the freeways like billiard balls.
The bass player in the rooftop bar of the New Otoni Hotel
who once played for Elvis. Walk through the Japanese Garden
on the third floor, past the waterfall to get there.
The graffiti on the telephone pole on Alameda Street,
Worse. Worse, it repeats in white paint (I tried to teach
my students to neatly letter their graffiti).
That gas station with the clean restrooms
and the cheapest prices in town.
Truckers who let you into their lane.
The ATM at the bank that actually dispenses bills
in the denominations asked for.
The clutch of boys carrying skateboards, their big feet
encased in tennis shoes, wait for something to happen.
They stand in the middle of The Village sidewalk watching
the line to Rhino Records wind around the block.
The Last Drop coffee shop. That slice of olallieberry pie.
The house on the corner with its Christmas lights on year-round.


Not the red freesia
in the yellow pot, not the
coffee table it
sits on, but the bare feet next
to the pot and the
thirteen year old they belong to.
She says her new jeans
are too short, her legs have grown
since last month. She says
she’ll never cut her hair — not
ever. She says she
has no homework. She says boys
change everything.

Emptying the Crate

I’ve been given a milk crate full of bulbs —
jonquils, paper whites, and daffodils.
It’s taken weeks to plant them in artful patterns
using a hand trowel to tuck each bulb in its spot.

But today the crate is still over half-full, while
weeds have taken over the flowerbeds.
A black Phoebe on the roof ridge turns his head,
ruffs his crest and chirps out a warning.

Grabbing a spade, I patrol the yard, look for spaces
near fences, in corners, under trees. In each one, I dig
a shallow trench, then spill out bulbs higgledy-piggledy,
not caring if the pointed end is up or down.

Cover with dirt, move to a new location, dig, spill,
repeat, until the crate is empty. What will come up
will come up, if not this year, then, the next.
Yielding the yard back to the Phoebe,

I scrub my hands, carry a pen and a notebook
to the red chair by the window, where I begin
to write. And now, this time, instead of bulbs,
it’s words that spill out, higgledy-piggledy.

Trying to Write a Poem about Love

With a line by Natalie Diaz

Something bobbing in a field of wheat.
My husband stops the car, gets out
to look. Finds a dog, an old dachshund,
hooked to a chain wrapped around a log.
He brings her home, carries her in.
Her pregnant belly and dugs
drag across the kitchen floor.
The children name her Princess.



Early. The fog turns pink
with the dawn. We watch
the fade to white while waiting
for the coffeemaker to finish.
We pour, mine with milk, his straight.
He ruffles my hair, points to the squirrels
that run on the telephone wires from the pine
across the road to the walnut tree in our yard.



I am on the sofa eating
the last of the Halloween candy.
My husband sits to talk with me,
but I brush him off, because
I am trying to write a poem. It is
late in the poem and he is lonely.
How many more chances
will we have to talk like this?


Patricia L. Scruggs lives and writes in Southern California. In addition to her poetry collection, Forget the Moon, her work has appeared in ONTHEBUS, Spillway, RATTLE, Calyx, Cultural Weekly, Crab Creek Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, Inlandia: A Literary Journey, as well as the anthologies 13 Los Angeles Poets, So Luminous the Wildflowers, and Beyond the Lyric Moment. A retired art educator, Scruggs earned her MFA at California State University, Fullerton, and is a Pushcart Prize nominee.