Melinda Palacio

Melinda Palacio is a poet, author, and speaker. She lives in Santa Barbara and New Orleans. Her poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place 2009 award. She is the author of the novel, Ocotillo Dreams (ASU Bilingual Press 2011), for which she received the Mariposa Award for Best First Book at the 2012 ILBA and a 2012 PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. Her first full-length poetry collection, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, (Tia Chucha Press 2012) was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Award, the Patterson Prize, and received First Prize in Poetry at the 2013 ILBA. Read more of Melinda’s work at


When She Calls 

Death bright as lemon meringue pie quickly gone
into a happy belly is what I wish for you.
When 300 cherub angels come down with trumpets,
I say, bring it on. Let’s all march to that number,

hose down our bare feet and dance, no – dash towards the music.
Death holds its own special rhythm.  

Everyone will eventually take the plunge.
Leaves on a tree simply fall.  

They say this earth is wicked.
Death wants to know if you’ve had enough.  

Close the book, rise from your stinky arm chair.
You know how the story ends.  

Death is where the book continues, conjures
a new ending, a beginning where the words  

sound so pretty, you sigh just to hear yourself, again.
You might be tempted to rewrite your beginning and middle.
Learn how to use your nimble legs and new fertile body,
morph, migrate, and die.


When they first came

No poetry to preach at this sacred rock,
a pulpit to voice what frogs dare say.

Pay attention to this January day. White moon rises from Painted Cave.
Is moonlight always Easter rebirth?  

Past the line of mailboxes, dirt road straddles a stream,
curve right to the platform of Chumash land.  

When they first came, they landed on Santa Rosa Island.
All forgot about the cave drawings, until the people,  

call them Katey and Larry, moved off the grid,
built a houseboat from a van on a pond in Painted Cave.  

Katey sees a bunny holding an Easter egg on the mottled moon
against a burning background. No fires to deepen the pink, only sunset.  

Where is the door to this sweat lodge called paradise
and who will remember this land?


Wet Mask

A lake disguises itself as an ocean.

He wants to see loneliness in its far away horizon.
She wants to see through him, search her fortune
on the other side, Chicago. The lake is not an ocean.

But nature shifts and changes color everyday.
A body of water, a twig that moves, a chameleon.

We are all shape shifters, she whispers and
stares over the vastness of the false sea.

The most beautiful blue is where the water is warmest,
sunken treasure and the sea monster Nessie live there.

He betrays one more secret, until, like another lost
Christian out on his luck, he forces her to believe he
is the first man to own bottomless blue eyes. Yes,

she reminds him, the earth is round.

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