San Diego Poetry Annual 2023-24

This edition features 308 poems by more than 300 poets, including the STEVE KOWIT POETRY PRIZE 2023 winner Ash Adams, plus Marge Piercy, Juan Felipe Herrera, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Lisa Lee Herrick, Jan Beatty, and many of the finest poets from our region and beyond. Also featured are community outreach special sections, including the San Diego Poet Laureate, Native Poets, Poems from Juvenile Hall, Veterans, and an interview with the cover artist, Jennifer Chung Klam.

This edition features 308 poems by more than 300 poets, including the STEVE KOWIT POETRY PRIZE 2023 winner Ash Adams, plus Marge Piercy, Juan Felipe Herrera, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Lisa Lee Herrick, Jan Beatty, and many of the finest poets from our region and beyond.

Also featured are community outreach special sections, including the San Diego Poet Laureate, Native Poets, Poems from Juvenile Hall, Veterans, and an interview with the cover artist, Jennifer Chung Klam.


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<strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong><br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Entertainment + Arts Guild<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong>, California

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Entertainment & Arts Guild (SDEAG)<br />

in association with the <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> <strong>Poetry</strong> <strong>Annual</strong><br />

1953 Huffstatler St., Suite A<br />

Rainbow, CA 92028<br />

sdeag.org<br />

sandiegopoetryannual.com<br />

(760) 728-2088<br />

© <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Entertainment + Arts Guild (SDEAG)<br />

All rights reserved<br />

SDEAG is a 501(c)(3) non-profit public charity.<br />

No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or<br />

transmitted by any means without the express written consent of the<br />

Publisher.<br />

First published by SDEAG on March 1, 20<strong>24</strong><br />

ISBN: 9798876177612<br />

Printed in the United States of America<br />

The views expressed in this anthology of poems are solely those of the<br />

respective poets and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Publisher<br />

and the Publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.<br />


in memoriam<br />



1929 - 20<strong>24</strong><br />


1978 - <strong>2023</strong><br />


1938 - <strong>2023</strong><br />


1947 - <strong>2023</strong><br />

Unexpected. Death, like earthquakes,<br />

is never expected.<br />

What times we had!<br />

The memories are jewels I hold in my hand.<br />

They bless me, inspire me, and comfort me.<br />

I salute you.<br />

excerpted from<br />

The Phone Call, by Curran Jefferey<br />

(<strong>2023</strong>)<br />





<strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong><br />

Poems from the Region and Beyond<br />






















•POEMS 1•<br />



The Gravity of Love 2<br />


Sayings 4<br />

Hey, Brother Mine 5<br />


After the Perseids 6<br />


Delayed Stress 7<br />


The Unbitted Horse 8<br />


Hostility 9<br />


Some Rain, Measurable Lightning 10<br />


The Leap 11<br />


Puppet 12<br />


Salve 13<br />


Sirens of the Flame 14<br />


Autumn View 15<br />


Worm in Loose Earth 16<br />


Morning 16<br />


Last Wave 17<br />


All Are Sacred 18<br />


His Mistress of Spoken Words 19<br />


Gypsy Road Trip 20<br />


Phone call 21<br />


Goldfinch 22<br />



La Pine 23<br />


Catholic Guilt <strong>24</strong><br />

KEN BUHR<br />

What Redwoods Know 25<br />


The Patron Saint of Television 26<br />


Sense Datum 27<br />


I Love Children 28<br />


River at One 30<br />


The Absent Present 31<br />


Forever 32<br />


Final moment 33<br />


Acceptance 34<br />


Wit’s End 35<br />


Traitorous Skin 36<br />


Under the Big Bang 37<br />


The Day They Killed the Rosenbergs 38<br />


Let Me Slumber 40<br />


Ode to Our Owl 41<br />


Cumpleaños <strong>2023</strong> 42<br />


Run River Run 43<br />


Desert Day’s End 44<br />


Seasonal Affective Disorder 45<br />


A Pearlescent Morning 46<br />



Midnight Gospel 47<br />


First, Visit Paris 48<br />


Stammering Through Paradise 49<br />


On Dying in Space 51<br />


I Hold a Secret 52<br />


Poetic Soliloquy 53<br />


Traveling Through 54<br />


Folding Laundry 55<br />


Coffee Reminiscence 56<br />


Portrait of a Young Chinese Man<br />

in the Rare Books Room 57<br />


Seed Tending 58<br />


The Story of the Dress 59<br />


Talkin’ Posthumous Americana Blues 60<br />


First Generation 62<br />


Tears and Piñatas 64<br />


The Father Daughter-Dance 65<br />


Dandelions 67<br />


Present 68<br />


It Was a Bold Mustard Yellow 70<br />

J.K. WALLEN<br />

The Youngest Victim of the Winter Storm: Aeon Tocchini 71<br />


The Escape Artist 72<br />


Yesterday in the Garden I Saw You 74<br />



in the meantime 76<br />


The Women Who Raised Me 77<br />


Open Letter to the Curriculum Committee 78<br />


Waking up next to you 79<br />


Stillness 80<br />


Grand Central Market 81<br />


Navigation 82<br />


paper kite 83<br />


re·fract 84<br />


Advice to the Young Poet 85<br />


Eve and the Apple 86<br />


Kowit’s Coup 87<br />


Graduate Student 88<br />


Goldfish: a Love Metaphor 89<br />


The New Toy 90<br />


gentle nodding 91<br />


object 92<br />


Into the Woods 93<br />

RJ BLACK<br />

Zuni Buskers 94<br />


Tomorrow 95<br />


The Unseen Guest 96<br />


The Hierarchy of Horrors 97<br />



Invocation for a Season of Connection 98<br />


Muzot Rondeau, Rilke’s House-keeper<br />

as a Lighthouse in Winter 99<br />


Mexican Train 100<br />


Pisces 101<br />


And Baby Made Three 102<br />


shadow and light 104<br />


Mrs. Peck 105<br />


Lautrec, at Night 106<br />


Sunday 107<br />


Hot Hopscotches 108<br />


Con Gusto 109<br />


Despair at the Door 110<br />


Metamorphoses 111<br />


Hope is a Thing with Trotters 112<br />


My Electrocardiogram: How the Heart Communicates 113<br />


Passion Speaks 114<br />


Dei Filia 115<br />


Elopement 116<br />


Froth 117<br />


Fetch 118<br />


Growing up, I Wanted My House to Smell Like<br />

Sautéed Garlic and Onion 119<br />



No One Wants to Lose 120<br />


A Poet’s Manifesto 121<br />


Onion Soup 122<br />


Steps Down, Undressed She 123<br />


Haibun in Memory of Maureen Murray, R.S.H.M. 1<strong>24</strong><br />


morning solitude 125<br />


Old Companion 126<br />


In the Event of Emergency 127<br />


Falling: A (Sort of) Duplex 128<br />


Love Remains 129<br />


A Quiet Passage 130<br />


Renaissance Girl 131<br />


And in the End 132<br />


Black Island 133<br />


Misbehaving Child 134<br />


The Breezy Time of Day 135<br />


Summery 136<br />


Swim Lesson 137<br />


Encounter in a Drought 138<br />


The Future 139<br />

Birth 139<br />


Salting the Apple 140<br />



The Kowit <strong>2023</strong><br />


At the Edge of the Lost Coastline 143<br />

First Runner-up<br />


Rocks 144<br />

Second Runner-up<br />


I Ken Him 146<br />



Jet Door Opens in Flight, but Plane Lands Safely 149<br />


Vena Cava 150<br />


How to Contemplate Breast Reduction 152<br />


The Book of Tao 153<br />


A Piece of Beauty 154<br />


Larry Levis Leaves Us Floating Like a Lotus or a Lily Pad 156<br />


Easter dinner and tulip 157<br />


A Map for the Lost 158<br />


Catch 160<br />


In this brief online video 162<br />


Park Scene If You Can See 163<br />


Dream Where We Rearrange a Bedroom for Dying 164<br />


The Punching Room 165<br />


Imperial Avenue & 17th Street, <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> 166<br />


Bypass 168<br />


Little Haole Boy’s Family Homesteads the Moon 170<br />


Hotel California 173<br />



I Am the Ash Keeper 174<br />

T. R. POULSON<br />

In Heaven 176<br />


Say Hi to Paris for Me 178<br />


I want to stop pretending we have anywhere else to go 179<br />


Grazing the Charred Sky 180<br />


Reconstructing the Moon 182<br />


<strong>San</strong> Juan Capistrano Swallows Parade, <strong>2023</strong> 184<br />


The Fifth Largest Country 186<br />

•NATIVE POETS • 187<br />


The Law Tells Us Something about Family<br />

that We Already Practiced 189<br />


Pueblo Harvest Dance 190<br />


Another Bridge to Cross 192<br />


If You Knew My Culture 193<br />


I Am a Native 193<br />


Dirt Bikes 194<br />


I Am Native 194<br />


Life 195<br />


The Game of Peon 195<br />


If You Knew My Culture 196<br />


Feel Art 196<br />


I Am a Native Girl 197<br />


Captive Equilibrium 198<br />



When You Return 200<br />

•VETERANS• 201<br />


The Oath 203<br />


GOAT 204<br />


The Healing Platoon 205<br />


Night 206<br />


Just Because 207<br />


An Ordinary Guy 208<br />


Tremble 208<br />


Ode to My Skin 209<br />


Nascar 95 210<br />


Fate 211<br />


Cross 212<br />


Steel Resolve 213<br />


What Writing Means to Me 214<br />


A Peace You Can Feel 215<br />


My Writing 216<br />


I’m Stone 216<br />


My Child 217<br />


Peace is the Purpose 217<br />


Cirrus the AI Authors Papers 218<br />


Feral, But Not Unloved 219<br />


No Spoken Word Was Heard 220<br />



I Write Like How I Talk 221<br />


Triggered 222<br />


To Live in the N(ever) O(ver) W(ar) 2<strong>24</strong><br />


Sticky 226<br />


Mind’s Flashing Lights 227<br />


Raw 228<br />


The Scar 228<br />


Pink Ribbon 229<br />


Naked 230<br />

K MACE<br />

Escort 231<br />


I Was an Airborne Sensor Specialist 232<br />


Navigating My Way Home 234<br />


For those of us who. . . 236<br />

Introduction<br />



•POET LAUREATE• 269<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Poet Laureate <strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong> 271<br />


The Way of War on Native Land 272<br />


To Build Peace, Bake the Bread of Peace: in the Legacy<br />

of Steve Kowit 274<br />


The Palestinian and Israeli War 276<br />


Psalm 151 278<br />


The Ride 280<br />


When the Smoky Skies Shift 281<br />


• POEMS 2• 285<br />


Rainfall 287<br />


The Storm 288<br />


Washed Away 289<br />

TIM RAY<br />

somewhere else 290<br />


Flipping the Switch 291<br />


Powdered milk and rice cake 292<br />

ANN M. ALVES<br />

Online Shopping 292<br />


Did You Hear Me? 293<br />


Dear Sylvia Plath, 294<br />


Don’t Die in June for God’s Sake 295<br />


Losing you in español 296<br />


So Many Times I Have Leaped 298<br />


Walking Down the Street 299<br />


Now 300<br />


Ms. Blum 301<br />


Penis Poem 302<br />

PM FRANK<br />

Cadence 303<br />


Arthur Murray’s Boite de Nuit 304<br />


Dancing 305<br />


Zippo Man 305<br />


God, I Love Peanut Butter 306<br />


three 307<br />



Rest Note 308<br />


(untitled) 309<br />


Inside Me is a Tango Dancer 310<br />


The Sound of Snow 311<br />


Cosmic Joy 311<br />


My Contemplation 312<br />


Sleeping here isn’t that heavy 313<br />


The Pain Scale 314<br />


Dia de los Angelitos 315<br />


We should raise our babies together 316<br />


Adversity, Equality, Intrusion 317<br />


Decrescendo 320<br />


Love from Every Angle 322<br />


gendered pheromones 323<br />


A Lost Tomorrow 3<strong>24</strong><br />


Friendly Fire 325<br />


blood meridian 326<br />


Solving Zeno’s Paradox 327<br />


Our Gas Station 328<br />


Muddle 330<br />


The Pianist 332<br />


certainties and certainties 333<br />



Dragon Flowers 334<br />


Transmutted 336<br />


Intermezzo 337<br />


The Tongue Has No Bone 338<br />


Spray 339<br />


Beyond Science and Religion 340<br />


You, Shapeshifter (on Grief) 341<br />


What Lies Beneath 342<br />


(untitled) 343<br />


A Force of Nature 343<br />


The Most Antisocial Man in the World 344<br />


Moonrise Before Sunset 345<br />


Sea Glass Miracle 346<br />


Rise Up 347<br />


Lava Tube 348<br />


One Worker’s Inquiry 350<br />


Massacre of Wool 351<br />


This Star Trek Poem of Mine 352<br />


Nuclear 353<br />


<strong>Annual</strong> Mother-Daughter Tea 354<br />


War Memorial 356<br />


When We Were Breatharians 358<br />



Hot Cherry Pie 359<br />


The One in Which I’m Jealous of a Rollercoaster 360<br />


Un-Shrouding 361<br />


Desert Vision Quest 362<br />


Anchors 363<br />


The Sea-Bells 364<br />


Trout Fishing 365<br />


Scenes of Satisfaction 366<br />


The Surfers 367<br />


Unveiling the Scarf Rebellion 368<br />


Dionysus dismembered 370<br />


And His Kingdom Will Have No End 371<br />


Unadulterated 372<br />


Brown 374<br />


Here, the Sun 375<br />


The Ending Is Inevitable 376<br />


Sunlight 377<br />


Drunk on Sun 378<br />


A Summer of Skinned Elbows and Knees 379<br />


I am the Moonface 380<br />


Cadaver Lab 382<br />


Home Calling 384<br />



Reincarnation 385<br />


Gone 386<br />


(untitled) 388<br />


Pen Thief 389<br />


Summer sadness 390<br />

JILL G. HALL<br />

Two Toms and a Hen 392<br />


Trickster 393<br />


Somniphobia 394<br />


Stop This Poem 395<br />


Gravity 396<br />


Study of the composition of a poem 397<br />


Cleaning the Refrigerator Instead of Writing a Poem 398<br />


Writing Before Writing 399<br />


Audacious 400<br />


Sidelined: a Family Reunion at Christmas 401<br />


In the maw of the night 402<br />


You’re Not Inside My Phone 403<br />


Leaving Iowa City 404<br />


Nohemi—A Song for Paris 406<br />


Anosmi 408<br />


St. Patrick’s Day 410<br />


A Kenyan Proverb 411<br />



In Southern France, no hijab 412<br />


Warnings 413<br />


What the Dollmaker Does 414<br />


Travel Entry 1 415<br />


Postcards from Home 416<br />


Seasons 417<br />


A Season Spare of Light 418<br />


The Open Window 419<br />


Love 420<br />

L. E. ARNOTT<br />

The sunflowers smile 421<br />


Les chiens mangent les chiens 422<br />


Stay 423<br />


Part One: Us as We Are One River 4<strong>24</strong><br />


Judgment Daily 426<br />


The Autumn Grass 427<br />


<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Street Scene 428<br />


Whispers in <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> 430<br />


Waiting for Rain 431<br />


lluvia 432<br />


rain-soaked lily 433<br />



THE POETS 439<br />





CREDITS 465<br />


POEMS<br />


The Gravity of Love<br />


The world keeps spinning.<br />

I stand on one foot.<br />

Gravity maintains my balance,<br />

my stick-to-it-iveness on this planet.<br />

I raise a wet finger<br />

to the winds of change and chance,<br />

to time passing, shifts in relationships,<br />

shifts in seasons and reasons.<br />

Where do I place that other foot<br />

when it needs to land?<br />

The tides rise, the earth sinks.<br />

Where is a safe, righteous road?<br />

A women’s clothing store<br />

where I work now.<br />

A husband walks in with his wife<br />

clutching his arm for support.<br />

‚She’s celebrating her 72 nd birthday,‛<br />

he says. ‚Needs‖a‖new‖wardrobe.<br />

Going for an ocean cruise<br />

with‖children‖and‖grandchildren.‛<br />

‚We’ve‖been‖married‖52‖years,‛<br />

she whispers to me. ‚No‖tight‖sleeves.<br />

Lymphedema from breast cancer,<br />

the‖swelling,‖still‖a‖problem.‛<br />

We pick out bright colors<br />

full of spring and life.<br />

A paisley shirt in leaf green.<br />

Wide-legged white pants<br />


that will dance with the breeze<br />

on the deck of the ship.<br />

I check in with her husband<br />

to see what he thinks.<br />

He squeezes my hand<br />

‚Anything‖she‖wants<br />

is fine with me, just please<br />

take‖good‖care‖of‖her.‛<br />

Back in the dressing room,<br />

suffused in his love of her,<br />

the preciousness of this lease on life<br />

for however long they have left,<br />

I tell her what looks good.<br />

Tell her what looks better.<br />

Admire and pamper this woman<br />

so loved by this man.<br />

Some days, I wonder about this job, this life.<br />

I stand with one foot pinned to earth,<br />

a wet finger in the winds that blow,<br />

the capricious fates that toss us off course.<br />

What’s the use? Does it matter?<br />

But today I helped a woman<br />

dress in beautiful clothes to celebrate<br />

her life and how well she is loved.<br />

And that seems like a good enough reason<br />

to step forward with my other foot into this day.<br />


Sayings<br />


Mourn the morn<br />

the scythe will fall<br />

too soon.<br />

Beware the grifter’s<br />

smile, behind the mask<br />

unseen.<br />

Let the promises<br />

promised you remain<br />

unkept.<br />

What you’ve seen here<br />

is the future delirium<br />

foretold.<br />

Feelings cannot exact<br />

the total power of<br />

revenge.<br />

Cauterize the wounds<br />

personally, never depend upon<br />

goodness.<br />

With your soul entrapped<br />

by the grasp of futility,<br />

endure.<br />


Hey, Brother Mine<br />


Just heard Mighty Quinn<br />

on the radio and it took me back<br />

to Spring of ‘68 when we went<br />

for a ride in your brand-new ‘59 V-Dub,<br />

a convertible no less, with a radio.<br />

A big deal since the Rambler,<br />

among its many faults, was no radio.<br />

Also introduced me to that unique V-Dub<br />

musk, such a cool little car,<br />

too bad it split in two. Remember<br />

trying to teach me to drive a stick<br />

in the Corvair, but no luck.<br />

Though later I was able to pick it up<br />

driving the Beemer for 20 years,<br />

building up that clutch leg.<br />

So many cars and trucks have gone by<br />

but can’t forget those first ones.<br />

Been a while, miss you, Bro.<br />

This poem was inadvertently omitted from the SDPA 22-23<br />


After the Perseids<br />


This morning we ripped along<br />

Del Dios highway back towards the coast<br />

between the folds of hills on either side.<br />

The creases of the mountains are so similar to skin. . .<br />

Would that we could hide beneath<br />

the thick cream folds of hillside<br />

that form the low banks of Lake Hodges.<br />

Shaken out over eons of sun and eons of night<br />

under the mountains are caves shaped in wide spirals<br />

somewhat like the water patterns shaped by reefs.<br />

The lizards on oceanside cliffs scandalize the sun.<br />

The surface of the water is so similar to skin. . .<br />

<strong>San</strong>d billows in swirls of cloud beneath the rising curls and<br />

reorganizing backwash.<br />


Delayed Stress<br />


Oh God, it is green<br />

Screaming green on a hundred frequencies<br />

wheeling blow me, palm trees and paddy-dikes<br />

Hot jungle greens, devour my will<br />

It is the verdant heat<br />

that takes me into its heart<br />

The hot breath of rotor blades<br />

vibrates the base of my skull<br />

Whispering, whispering<br />

Make me numb to the voices<br />

Make me blind to the smoke that blights the sky<br />

Hearts and minds are scattered like cards<br />

My hands will do the bidding of the hot green night<br />

Between rows of sandbags, I shall close my eyes<br />

Tracers ricochet through dreams<br />

Mud and steel rip the air I breathe<br />

Hail Mary, full of grace, let me live<br />

Lay the dead out upon a drum-head<br />

then grind their bones into black, rich earth<br />

Whispering, whispering<br />

We taken into the belly of the beast<br />


The Unbitted Horse<br />


Misery always hitches a ride<br />

on theory. Each day arrives<br />

when you are doing nothing<br />

at all. Everything begins in<br />

the long after. It’s upsetting<br />

when you lie down<br />

and your shadow doesn’t.<br />

The concocters of memory forget<br />

each heart will carry the weight<br />

of rocks as long as it can, nuzzling<br />

the distance in the distance.<br />

Happiness is God’s virga.<br />

We take in air and exhale words<br />

the same color as air, a turning<br />

vulture tilting on his wings.<br />

Every time I arrive home<br />

I check the mirror to see<br />

which one is here,<br />

the one aggrieved or the one<br />

overjoyed.<br />


Hostility<br />


Sunsets become plumes of fire,<br />

bombed buildings, absent windows,<br />

reflect a black emptiness within,<br />

ash mingles with snow,<br />

turns everything a ghastly gray,<br />

suddenly, like the red-coated<br />

child in the film: Shindler’s List,<br />

a woman appears in the gaping hole<br />

on an upper floor, her blue puffer-coat<br />

a remembrance of sky.<br />



Some Rain, Measurable Lightning<br />

On too many mornings now, rodents float<br />

in the pool: gophers, field mice, an occasional rat,<br />

the rare rabbit—thirsty at night, drowned<br />

by breakfast. I see them, but a new story or poem or<br />

a note about a story or poem or novel or essay<br />

always holds me back. Those bodies will drift<br />

toward my cushioned chair, the spotty shade<br />

from junipers, the whispered breeze<br />

up this ocean valley off the river—<br />

the same route storms follow, clouds swirling,<br />

teasing the chaparral with survival, and once<br />

or twice per decade, drenching<br />

the decomposed granite soil, flooding<br />

our driveway and our road to the rest of the world—<br />

the same route lightning takes, hugging<br />

the ravine, splitting 200-year-old live oaks, torching<br />

buckwheat, sage, the lion-colored grasses, threatening<br />

the fire station a half-mile north—cosmic payback—<br />

and starting verbal flames:<br />

the evacuation conversation.<br />

Rain is a ruler, notched in inches, mostly fractions,<br />

most years not enough. Lightning is math:<br />

factor acres with houses, multiply by beloved trees,<br />

animals, birds, take that sum to the power of habitat,<br />

of neighbors. Every storm arrives as a surprise, even<br />

when forecast, even when umbrellas and old roofs<br />

are no help, when a bag of documents<br />

is the first thing to save, even though<br />

that live oak was more precious, especially<br />

when it sang with nesting Red-tails, especially<br />

on hot mornings when the juniper shade blocks<br />

just enough sun to prevent the need to squint<br />


and when the steps to the pool net, the fishing out<br />

of that unlucky rodent, the toss of its squishy body<br />

toward ancient gray-bark branches, when<br />

the ravine rustles with breath, when everything—<br />

even us—folds into the astonishment<br />

that all of it is still here.<br />

The Leap<br />


and one day<br />

the leap no longer seemed impossible<br />

as the call to re-wild became unstoppable<br />

fear of staying stagnant and small had outgrown<br />

the fear of failing in the great unknown<br />

so, she leapt into canyons of forgotten dreams<br />

riding the wind with her own two wings<br />

soaring, exploring new feels and new scenes<br />

to rediscover what has always been. . .<br />

inside<br />


Puppet<br />


For years Don Miguel toiled<br />

in rows of lettuce, tomatoes—<br />

whatever needed harvesting<br />

in the fields of <strong>San</strong> Joaquin<br />

Valley, Norte California, USA.<br />

Money sent to family in Mexico<br />

kept them fed, in their home,<br />

with a little something to set<br />

aside for the future.<br />

Now, hair, brows, and mustache<br />

grayed, he spends part of his<br />

days, happy, satisfied, on the<br />

streets of Mazatlan, selling<br />

trinkets to tourists—<br />

puppets—symbols of what<br />

he no longer had to be.<br />


Salve<br />


I hear you crying at night<br />

feel your heart pounding<br />

unable to sleep<br />

when the daily news is worse<br />

than your nightmare<br />

Will it help if I tell you<br />

of other times<br />

other diseases, narcissistic leaders, unthinkable injustice?<br />

probably not<br />

Could it help to remind you<br />

that the sun rose silently again today<br />

the bees buzzed around the flowers that<br />

bloomed in the night<br />

an old couple made love<br />

then held each other close<br />

Can I soothe you by whispering<br />

there will be belly laughs and wild dances<br />

mamas will nurse blissed-out babies<br />

the musicians will reach for their instruments<br />

the painters will paint in protest<br />

the writers will write about your tears<br />

that do not go unnoticed<br />


Sirens of the Flame<br />


Dressed in translucent robes<br />

of blue, yellow, orange and scarlet<br />

the sirens of the flame<br />

dance about<br />

swaying within the sacrificial altar<br />

black ash<br />

and crimson embers<br />

dancing to and fro<br />

frolicking about with wild abandon<br />

within the ligneous offering<br />

rising, an insatiable inferno<br />

ravenous, feeding on the barest waft<br />

spinning. . .<br />

undulating. . .<br />

unrelenting. . .<br />

until all that remains<br />

are smoke and ash<br />

minute crimson embers, sent<br />

flying off into the heavens<br />

A sacrificial offering<br />

given up to appease Vulcan<br />

the god of fire<br />


Autumn View<br />


They sit across from<br />

each other, their shared<br />

view another Assisted Living<br />

across the concrete gulley.<br />

Each meal her<br />

feet swing under<br />

the table, towards his.<br />

His feet don’t notice. He<br />

slowly slices some butter<br />

for whatever it can top<br />

that meal. She studies<br />

menus now as a career.<br />

She the 1940 Rose Bowl<br />

Queen, he saw the first<br />

H-Bomb demolish Enewetak.<br />

Now, he asks her will<br />

she have salad or spaghetti?<br />

Mostly they are quiet.<br />

Mostly he looks away<br />

when chewing, mostly<br />

she chews with style, eyes<br />

wide open, searching.<br />

She at 103, he at 97,<br />

not much left to say. His<br />

bare scalp blotches red and<br />

orange like late autumn,<br />

her trembling fingers<br />

pass him the butter.<br />


Worm in Loose Earth<br />


I know I am talking to you now using language to<br />

communicate. You say I am doing OK but I’m leaving too<br />

much out, like July in high season summer green and the<br />

red wing of sunset. I know am unclear. I should have said<br />

more. I apologize. But I can’t really mean it. I feel as badly<br />

as you do about wasting both our time. What I wanted to<br />

say is unsayable because it comes from a primeval place in<br />

the deep mind where there aren’t words. It’s the place that<br />

doesn’t give a damn about communicating, just wants to<br />

know in the way a catfish knows, in the way a worm<br />

knows, not high-class stuff, but something closer to the<br />

root of things where you know what it’s like being under a<br />

rock, what it is like moving in the loose earth.<br />

Morning<br />


The yellow yolk sun<br />

sizzles on toasty beach sand<br />

Shells crunch under foot<br />


Last Wave<br />


Morning sun crests the La Costa hills,<br />

early sky ablaze with the new day,<br />

air chilly, just a hint of last night’s fog.<br />

You strap your board to the roof rack.<br />

It’s a short drive to Cardiff Reef<br />

unlike those long surf safaris of your youth:<br />

Hermosa Beach, Malibu, <strong>San</strong>ta Barbara.<br />

Now, time-in-the-water is most important.<br />

The parking lot is nearly full. A small swell<br />

is building out of the northwest. Dozens<br />

are already in the water. That many more<br />

stand around in small groups. You see John<br />

and Rick arriving. You have surfed together<br />

for nearly three decades, a thousand waves<br />

and seemingly as many breakfast burritos.<br />

That first swirl of ocean around your body<br />

in like nothing else on earth. She reaches<br />

up, pulls you into her, wave after wave.<br />

Yet, you know this love affair must end.<br />

Time is no longer your friend. It has taken<br />

—everything. You paddle into a small right.<br />

Your entire life rides on this, your last wave.<br />


All Are Sacred<br />


<strong>Poetry</strong> and fiction are my scriptures<br />

Both slake my thirst<br />

Diversity fills my bookshelves<br />

Volumes hard and soft<br />

I collect a choir of voices<br />

All are sacred<br />

each sing at a different pitch<br />

overlook myriad views<br />

at times the same window<br />

Deep forests<br />

Endless ocean<br />

Many ways of seeing<br />

saying truth<br />

never a capital T<br />

Often written in pencil<br />

truth is mutable<br />

changes with experience<br />

amused by alternative answers<br />

especially delighted by those<br />

who are absolutely certain<br />



His Mistress of Spoken Words<br />

There’s a place in my heart for my mistress <strong>Poetry</strong>.<br />

She’s such a comfort when I’m writing her.<br />

There’s a great passion I feel when I’m reading her.<br />

In the hours of revision, she reminds me of who I am<br />

and who I’m not.<br />

She’s always ready with a smile when I’m down.<br />

When there’s a time of tears she helps me shudder<br />

them home.<br />

Sometimes I can’t find her. The sage once said,<br />

That’s not writer’s block, it’s writer’s empty.<br />

Sage advice to follow. So I wander outside to fill up,<br />

to toil in my garden, to watch the hummingbirds<br />

flit and flutter at their feeder, or I search for a place<br />

where the women are plentiful, graceful, and smart.<br />

Papa said it’s always in a clean, well-lighted place.<br />

I calm my mistress, reminding her she can relax<br />

as she’s the only one for me. Then I return<br />

to my pen filled up with fragrant flowers,<br />

flutters of wings, and the company<br />

of extraordinary darlings to write.<br />

The sage’s compass helps me fill<br />

the empty every time.<br />

Her beautiful eyes, like candles in moonlight,<br />

shine with lines, voices, images, topics, themes.<br />

She’s the mistress of so many things.<br />

From her I learned that there may be times of loneliness,<br />

but I will never, never be alone.<br />


Gypsy Road Trip<br />


Travel provides for a certain amount of melancholy<br />

or a restless urge, like a cat that stretches in the<br />

early morn, waiting for sunlight, or lost virginity<br />

and what could have been.<br />

A road that stretches straight is nothing more than<br />

black top with a line down the middle. What is<br />

there to anticipate but a sign to the next exit.<br />

Abandoned gas stations, faded billboards, truck stop<br />

food. American flag flies over a deserted RV park<br />

In the distance a dust cyclone rises, wind blades whistle<br />

flashing lights appear—Wide Load Ahead—there it is<br />

a road monster looking like a she devil on wheels.<br />

Windshield now a graveyard for flying bugs, they<br />

cling, multiple and die by the mile, like driving through<br />

bug shit. Miles roll on<br />

Telephone poles fade into the distance—three<br />

dimensional time. Radio tower sending cosmic waves<br />

to the burning sun. Unknown voice blares from the<br />

speaker, true crime podcast Diamond Heist Takes Balls<br />

listen in fascination to the whodunit.<br />

Hungry dog at the truck stop, ribs and hollow eyes<br />

unload all the cheese, he eats like it’s his last meal<br />

blood sugar low, Slim Jim and candy will do. Hit the<br />

road<br />

Out of words, restless, longing for the final mile and the<br />

sight<br />

of home. Anxious for the feel of that familiar bed and the<br />

smell<br />

of one’s own coffee. The final mile.<br />

Bottom line to all this, one ought to think long<br />

and hard before becoming a road riding gypsy queen.<br />


Phone call<br />


Train wreck in Spain<br />

where is he<br />

in Barcelona<br />

blood flush face<br />

short of breath gasp<br />

he is walking the country side<br />

along Compostela de <strong>San</strong>tiago<br />

skin sweats<br />

heart thumps<br />

yell It is not his time<br />

we plan to celebrate<br />

via phone<br />

his birthday tomorrow<br />

he must come back<br />

not his time to leave<br />

have pact with Virgin<br />

de Guadalupe<br />

to protect him<br />

return him back to me<br />

walk laugh talk<br />

enjoy each other<br />

many more miles to go<br />

world keeps turning<br />

for us<br />


Goldfinch<br />


po-ta-to-chip po-ta-to-chip po-ta-to-chip<br />

twitters and warbles the happiness,<br />

joy and simplicity I feel along the trail<br />

with my friend of several lifetimes.<br />

Indian summer sun sparkles leaves<br />

red and yellow, warms my back.<br />

Tender feelings surround me as I<br />

cannot imagine preferring elsewhere. . .<br />

certainly not the fabled pleasure dome<br />

of Kubla Khan, under windowpanes<br />

proffered by Tim Leary, any Emerald<br />

city or even Hilton’s mythical Shangri-La.<br />

Dreaming of a magical goldfinch,<br />

I quash all negatives, feel life can<br />

offer no greater joy or adventure,<br />

thankful while the yellow bird tweets.<br />


La Pine<br />


Char-scarred<br />

cracked and scratched<br />

the Ponderosa reaches<br />

high and wide above<br />

the Oregon forest<br />

while we in awe<br />

look up and wonder<br />

what it’s like<br />

to live five hundred years<br />

and still be beautiful<br />

O to age so patiently as trees<br />

enduring and strong<br />

in all kinds of weather<br />

thriving, full of grace<br />

in the midst of change<br />

outlasting all the others<br />


Catholic Guilt<br />


The bull stomped his hoof<br />

and snorted<br />

as I ran by The Three Fingers<br />

I had just hurried through the Rosary<br />

at Saint Barahanes<br />

The swirling, ominous, charcoal clouds<br />

caught me off guard<br />

I stopped to look up<br />

thinking<br />

it was God’s nod to Vincent Van Gogh<br />

I heard another stomp<br />

another snort<br />

then the sound of hooves<br />

in a full run<br />

I crossed myself<br />

and wished I’d taken more time praying the Rosary<br />

Hail Mary, full of grace. . .<br />


What Redwoods Know<br />

KEN BUHR<br />

Attend to the redwood<br />

growing to an astounding height<br />

patiently<br />

over thousands of years<br />

how much of life<br />

it has observed,<br />

valued,<br />

condemned<br />

learning to trust its own presence<br />

while yearning for more and more of life<br />

knowing someday it will fall<br />

on the forest floor<br />

where seedlings strive to become tall trees.<br />

If it could<br />

reattach its roots to the earth<br />

and raise its head<br />

among the giants again<br />

what thrill of awe<br />

would run through its strong core rings,<br />

tough and scarred red bark,<br />

the green softness of lofty leafy gardens<br />

where tiny cones begin their songs . . .<br />

if it could,<br />

to what would the redwood give<br />

prophetic witness<br />

if not to the joys<br />

of paying attention?<br />



The Patron Saint of Television<br />

Before perishing from hiccups<br />

and a stroke, Pope Pius proclaims<br />

Clare of Assisi as the patron saint<br />

of television—because<br />

this esteemed thirteenth-century nun,<br />

too weak to be at daily devotions,<br />

had seen live images of the Mass<br />

on the wall opposite her pallet.<br />

In the late 1950s, this idea seems<br />

fitting, while Bishop Fulton J. Sheen<br />

has his own Tuesday TV show,<br />

when cowboys on horseback<br />

confront whatever wrongdoing<br />

and evil arises in towns on the old<br />

and lawless Western frontier.<br />

But fashions shift and some slip away:<br />

after the Vietnam War and Watergate,<br />

also during Afghanistan and Iraq,<br />

viewers turn to TV confrontations:<br />

The Gong Show, Gladiators,<br />

Newlywed Game, Family Feud,<br />

Survivor and Last Comic Standing.<br />

What choice has Saint Clare,<br />

she who espoused poverty, purity<br />

and humility as holy blessings,<br />

when Housewives of Beverly Hills<br />

and Bachelorette air? How many<br />

forty-five-minute hours of prayer<br />

can one saint benignly supply?<br />


Sense Datum<br />


Tactile inspection of one starched white calla lily<br />

precisely ironed by unassuming matrons without guise<br />

and I know what I know. . .<br />

Fingertips prep-school savvy and knowing how-to<br />

soliloquize each leaf; each summer bloom by touch<br />

no snow could melt in winter weary hands<br />

tutored in all six senses<br />

for mind-created colors I own;<br />

kaleidoscope kites were never designed for my kind<br />

who cares if cumulus clouds fill the afternoon sky<br />

nature is not the exclusive domain<br />

of the sighted and all who<br />

kiss imagine-nation<br />

I raise my hand to signify the gift of this moment<br />

so starved for acuity; I physically ache<br />

and I am<br />

blessed with fingers, hands, lips, tongue<br />

and cheek<br />

I choose who and what I touch<br />

Not you. . .this, and only this, is mine so<br />

watch me expand my premium self<br />

turned-tables magnify unquenchable hunger<br />

high-speed thirst for inner bliss<br />

My senses know you<br />


I Love Children<br />


I love children<br />

who burst into the room<br />

sharing their day with an enthusiasm<br />

rarely seen in their parents<br />

I love children<br />

Who line up their elephants, their trains, their cars<br />

sequencing and counting in their own trance of<br />

tranquility<br />

I love children who tip toe avoiding cracks in the sidewalk<br />

and their siblings jumping in every puddle as they run<br />

beside them.<br />

I love children who invent friends and pets to keep them<br />

company<br />

and have tea parties with their stuffed animals.<br />

I love children who hug their puppies with their entire<br />

being<br />

not yet having learned that sometimes love hurts<br />

I love the child in my classroom who asked her mommy if<br />

they could go to the baby store and buy me another<br />

daughter<br />

when she learned mine had died<br />

I love children who avoid eye contact<br />

but watch you with a reverence as you bake or garden<br />

carefully studying every movement<br />

I love children who bring flowers and fool’s gold to their<br />

parents<br />

glueing rocks to shoebox lids in intricate designs for their<br />

grandparents<br />

not yet realizing the gift of time over money<br />


I love children with keys around their necks<br />

cooking, cleaning, doing homework<br />

allowing their parents to navigate<br />

a world filled with demands<br />

I love children who hold hands at nap time<br />

singing to themselves while watching their siblings play<br />

sports<br />

The way I love the elderly<br />

So similar in their innocence<br />

as they gaze without judgment on the dimples of a hand<br />

or the missing teeth in a smile<br />

Wishing for one more lullaby or bedtime story<br />

one more chance to tell their parents, their siblings<br />

how deeply they were loved.<br />


River at One<br />


when your mama told me<br />

she was pregnant, I cried<br />

The raging white water trip<br />

that brought you to her and her wife<br />

is a story I’m sure you’ll hear<br />

Your headwaters formed<br />

far away from where you<br />

finally emerged screaming<br />

into the world a year ago,<br />

50 years to the day after me<br />

I met you in person<br />

when you were 22 days old,<br />

a fledgling stream, but hallmarks<br />

of your name were already reflected<br />

in your eyes, your cries,<br />

your burbles, and your silent stares<br />

At six months, you wore<br />

my own, now vintage, baby clothes<br />

that my mother had crocheted<br />

They fit you easily, loosely, like waves<br />

cresting easily over small obstacles<br />

nothing getting in their way<br />

I’ve missed first steps, fevers,<br />

solid food, and first words<br />

but, my birthday twin,<br />

we have memories that<br />

have yet to reveal themselves<br />

like a tidepool full of wonder<br />


I hope we’ll have coffee one day<br />

You’ll add cream, notice how it settles at first<br />

then as you begin to stir,<br />

as the circular motion agitates<br />

what has sunk to the bottom,<br />

you’ll be rewarded with its blooming<br />


The Absent Present<br />

Ah, Layman P’ang—<br />

The present was here a moment ago.<br />

It watched me put away my keys<br />

which have now disappeared<br />

taking the present with them.<br />


Forever<br />


Lining the long, slow river:<br />

pines and hemlock, spruce.<br />

An earthy smell lingers on my body<br />

after my swim across.<br />

David waves from the bank’s jagged edge.<br />

He knows my love of gliding through silky waters.<br />

I sip cool water gurgling over rocks.<br />

A curved slab of granite cradles each drop,<br />

lulls me.<br />

I want it to last.<br />

But I know this rush of river and old stone<br />

won’t stay unchanged.<br />

What about the deep pools of David’s eyes?<br />

His warm skin? I want these to last forever.<br />

I wade into the river one more time,<br />

sink my toes<br />

into the soft, muddy bottom.<br />


Final moments<br />


Their lives unraveled in front of screens<br />

that instead of doing their old-fashioned duty<br />

of hiding<br />

creating separate spaces and nooks<br />

where dust could settle<br />

leisurely<br />

did the opposite<br />

Quicksand promises had made everyone<br />

diaphanous<br />

unlike the young ones<br />

‚the‖old‖transparents‛‖knew‖the‖woods<br />

and retained the memory of wild water.<br />

Concrete cubicles in all sizes and shapes<br />

the new norm now<br />

NOISE ubiquitous<br />

Even divine music consigned to<br />

background drivel<br />

curtailed<br />

for short attention spans<br />

Silence begets thought<br />

to be avoided at all cost<br />

under the new regime<br />

Their unfulfilled longing for a real encounter<br />

beyond the screens<br />

a vast despair<br />

When ads started flashing seppuku swords<br />

and heavy-duty rope<br />

or fast acting, less messy<br />

pills<br />

They knew it was time<br />


Acceptance<br />


Acceptance.<br />

Whitney Houston sang about it,<br />

about‖that‖‚.‖.‖.one‖moment‖in‖time,<br />

when I’m more than‖I‖dreamed‖I‖could‖be.‖.‖.‛<br />

Acceptance is the moment<br />

someone realizes you have worth.<br />

It’s when you know<br />

why you were born,<br />

why you worked so hard<br />

to get here<br />

to stand in this place.<br />

When your moment comes,<br />

and it will, believe me,<br />

breathe deeply,<br />

hold your head up high<br />

accept your prize<br />

and smile.<br />

No one will ever know<br />

how uncertain you feel<br />

or will they realize how many times<br />

you picked up the torn pieces,<br />

taped them back together<br />

or started all over again,<br />

all to create this masterpiece<br />

worthy of their praise.<br />


Wit’s End<br />

Professor Covidity Returns to the Seminar<br />


Now I am cribb’d, confin’d, bound in<br />

and everything that ticked has stopped.<br />

Words ferreting themselves out, change<br />

into something rich and strange, fade<br />

far away, dissolve: I quite forget<br />

the loads of learned lumber in my head.<br />

I beat my pate and fancy wit will come,<br />

looking for something, something, something. . .<br />

but <strong>Poetry</strong> makes nothing happen.<br />

Facing each other rather desperately<br />

we are here as on a darkling plain,<br />

and silent is the flock in woolly fold.<br />

The best lack all conviction while the worst<br />

look at each other with a wild surmise,<br />

—perfect shadows in a sunshine day.<br />

The hour’s come round, yet darkly bright are<br />

bright in dark directed. We stare and say,<br />

‚Well,‖we‖have‖come‖this‖far.‛<br />

Note: this is a Cento of lines from Shakespeare, Emily<br />

Dickinson, Elizabeth Bishop, the Romantics, and W.H .<br />

Auden.<br />


Traitorous Skin<br />


My precious rare B negative blood<br />

flows like a river across the land.<br />

Cleanses, nourishes, ripe<br />

with riches deep within.<br />

I wish to donate this blood to you<br />

luscious red and full of life.<br />

Offer you energy, spark your soul.<br />

No, barks the nurse, you can’t give blood.<br />

Your bandage hides an open wound.<br />

Just a small cut from making my bed.<br />

The corner sharp. It snarled and struck.<br />

Appointment wasted.<br />

Arm heals, skin seals.<br />

Next visit, a wee slit on my wrist.<br />

Scraped a shelf beneath my mug<br />

innocent move that starts each day.<br />

No blood, she snarls, bares her fangs.<br />

I leave.<br />

Skin is aging, weeks to heal.<br />

Fragility belies how healthy I feel.<br />

Flying through waves, biking steep grades<br />

warns my days are numbered. Bemoans<br />

the barest brush with an edge.<br />

With death.<br />

The bump. The curse. The slice of pain.<br />

Spurt of blood. Purple bruise.<br />

Three-cornered tear. Ragged abyss.<br />

The gossamer veil unraveling.<br />



Under the Big Bang<br />

Under a pitch-black rotunda<br />

decorated by a trillion pinholes,<br />

leaking the light<br />

from the Big Bang,<br />

a painting of the history,<br />

of time and space.<br />

I walk a tightrope<br />

between is and was<br />

hate and hope<br />

knowledge and fog<br />

befuddled by the enormity<br />

of it all.<br />

All I can do<br />

is pull you close.<br />

and let your love<br />

be my safe harbor<br />

in this overwhelming<br />

universe.<br />



The Day They Killed the Rosenbergs<br />

‚They‖killed‖them‖because‖they‖were‖Jews.‛<br />

Mascara and tears run down<br />

Portia’s face.<br />

My mother insists<br />

that I call her by her name:<br />

Portia.<br />

‚They‖claim‖they’re innocent!<br />

Jews‖are‖easy‖to‖pick‖on‛‖she‖says.<br />

‚Their‖deaths‖make‖their‖sons‖orphans.‛<br />

I stand in the hall, arms at my sides.<br />

I’m 10—the same age as the older son.<br />

I can’t know how it feels to lose my mother.<br />

I will have to wait six years for that.<br />

Portia slips into the bathroom.<br />

The door locks. The faucet comes on<br />

full blast. I can still hear her sobs.<br />

I’ve never heard her cry before.<br />

I should do something.<br />

Cut the Shasta Daisies she likes.<br />

Make her tea.<br />

Pot roast simmers on the stove.<br />

A berry pie cools on the counter.<br />

The radio plays Guy Mitchell’s big hit:<br />

My Heart Cries for You,<br />

with the Mitch Miller Orchestra,<br />

the tune she has been waiting for.<br />

Sun slants through the window,<br />

two days short of the Summer Soltice.<br />

Portia’s prize Peace Rose blooms<br />

in a white glass vase on kitchen table.<br />


As if asking for help,<br />

the Rosenbergs look at me<br />

from the Evening Outlook.<br />

Not the New York Times my grandfather<br />

walks down to Wilshire Blvd. to buy,<br />

waiting until he is seated at home before<br />

burying his face in the small print, disappearing<br />

there for hours.<br />

Julius wears glasses<br />

and has a mustache. Ethel’s<br />

hair is dark and full.<br />

Guy Mitchell gives way to a deep voice<br />

the on the radio: the Rosenbergs died<br />

by electrocution.<br />

I know not to snap on a lamp<br />

when I’m wet from a bath<br />

or come in from running in the sprinklers.<br />

Did they get to hold hands?<br />

Who pulled the switch?<br />

Portia bolts past me,<br />

snags the newspaper, turns off the radio.<br />

She surprises me with a hug.<br />

I will be imprisoned in that long moment of tears,<br />

that hug, for a quarter of a century, until<br />

I meet her best friend, the one she attended<br />

Communist Party meetings with<br />

in The Bronx and Manhattan, the one<br />

who was convinced Ethel and Julius had been spies.<br />

The 10-year-old me has never heard<br />

our house so quiet. The hug takes away<br />

every sound. except for<br />

the two of us breathing.<br />


Let Me Slumber<br />


Reality beckons in a dream<br />

Irritation ‘til now, unforeseen.<br />

Clamoring to change my brainless ways.<br />

Hours of relaxation never pays.<br />

Attention to details is a must.<br />

Results, outcomes only you can trust.<br />

Discount the old and start anew,<br />

Kicking aside what isn’t true.<br />

Lift yourself up when you are blue.<br />

Envisage wits cut like a knife.<br />

Imagine ending all your strife.<br />

Now, wake up, get up, fulfill life!<br />


Ode to Our Owl<br />


Your distant hoot-hoot<br />

from high in the Douglas fir<br />

is like a hypnotic call of the spirit<br />

world pulling me into a trance—<br />

possibly warning me of some seismic<br />

danger or of a predator approaching<br />

on a coal-colored night.<br />

I have observed your brown soulful<br />

eyes, round head & broad body perched<br />

upright on the branch like a pompous<br />

judge presiding over a court hearing.<br />

Your gown of velvet feathers allows<br />

you to fly silently to spirit-away prey.<br />

Some owls can live 26 years; I wonder<br />

how old you are and how long you<br />

will remain with us. Do you feel protected<br />

despite leaf blowers, drones, & near-by<br />

fireworks? Will the dense canopy bordering<br />

our neighboring canyon provide you an escape?<br />

Whatever the motive for nesting in our fir tree,<br />

your evening serenade soothes my soul like<br />

a soft down pillow. May you sense the echo<br />

of my breath & the beat of my heart<br />

at rest.<br />


Cumpleaños <strong>2023</strong><br />


Day breaks<br />

on the dawn of<br />

my 74 th<br />

I linger in the warmth of<br />

my partner’s rhythmic<br />

deep breathing<br />

remembering when<br />

we were both 29 and<br />

forever young—<br />

we couldn’t then see to 40—<br />

careers, love, and lust<br />

in first bloom.<br />

I am now past wanting presents<br />

or rather I celebrate the presence<br />

of the sun’s radiance,<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> rain, our daughter’s calls,<br />

the unlikely rise of sourdough bread,<br />

the smell of newly shoveled earth<br />

into which I nestled tiny<br />

pointy-leaved green tomato<br />

plants just as I had done in my youth,<br />

that I can work<br />

and travel and—thanks<br />

to a surgeon’s knife—<br />

can again see at the periphery<br />

and I wonder what I<br />

missed in all those years of<br />


leaded lids. I think of<br />

the two not with us<br />

and wonder what I will<br />

see through their<br />

ever-closed lids<br />

and I wonder—<br />

oh yes, I can still wonder—<br />

what might have been.<br />

Run River Run<br />


Run river run. The storm has just begun. Before you were<br />

just a sliver in the sand. Now you are the sculptor of lands.<br />

All life meets at your banks. Falling to the destruction you<br />

leave in your wake. You are soft but strong, and in your<br />

roar, there is a song. Respect the river. The giver of life.<br />


Desert Day’s End<br />


The setting sun casts a warm glow<br />

over snow-capped mountains<br />

illuminating delicate designs<br />

between jagged peaks<br />

sculpted over eons<br />

by wind, water, ice.<br />

A kaleidoscope of swirling snowflakes<br />

deflected around my windshield<br />

Frost-covered sagebrush<br />

Frozen soil<br />

The frigid air chills my cheeks.<br />

As I sped down the highway<br />

heading home past endless vistas —<br />

the desert disappears into dark.<br />



Seasonal Affective Disorder<br />

How many years will tears fall on my birthday?<br />

They first flooded half a century ago,<br />

persistent like the tropic’s summer rains,<br />

monsoon in India, S.A.D. season<br />

in Sweden. My mother wrote a note<br />

on my small birthday card at 17:<br />

Saying how dearly she loved me, saying time<br />

passed too fast, saying I am special.<br />

Every year, since her death 12 months later,<br />

I have opened that rosy envelope,<br />

pulled out still-pristine, pink arbor of a card<br />

and read that message as if it were written<br />

only yesterday, traced the signature, kissed<br />

that beloved word in her familiar hand,<br />

Mother—and felt an angel stroke my arm.<br />

Yet she stays adrift in the ruins of her heart.<br />

It’s a bit like stowed letters from a sailor<br />

who must leave his brood for war, and wants them<br />

to know he loves them, just in case his ship sinks.<br />

Then there’s a news page on an age-20 woman<br />

with incurable cancer, with a year-old girl.<br />

In stage four, that mom has few weeks to live,<br />

so she signs cards to her baby for each birthday<br />

all the way to 18 so that every July<br />

she can open up a note and read,<br />

Happy Birthday from Mother.<br />

Just as I have my own well-wisher.<br />


A Pearlescent Morning<br />


I turn the corner of Barking Dog Street<br />

where Shiloh the wheaten has faced<br />

his fears to find a scene Thomas Cole<br />

would not despise.<br />

A marine layer masks low hills,<br />

promises westward ocean beyond,<br />

black olives, pines and palms line<br />

a meandering stream of road,<br />

cattle replaced by Dodge Caravans,<br />

boulders by bold garbage cans<br />

placed out overnight.<br />

Is this the peace of western<br />

wilderness, Thomas? From sea<br />

to shining sea, all filled in?<br />

Still—still, the trees frame all—<br />

the street a shining silvery ribbon,<br />

the distance a mist of now,<br />

tomorrow, possibility.<br />

I pass beneath the towering pine<br />

at the intersection of Fire and Stone,<br />

history and Acjachemen, gone.<br />

A century young, its twisting trunks<br />

call out the change it has seen,<br />

the bending to weather, phone<br />

lines. It drops its male and female<br />

cones Into the future, into hope,<br />

where they clutter the pavement,<br />

crushed to powder by passing cars.<br />


Midnight Gospel<br />


The moon on the far wall<br />

is full of wind, and it ticks.<br />

It’s okay to pass the hours killing<br />

time—no one runs the risk<br />

of dying faster on a<br />

Wednesday. I shift out of gear<br />

into neutral, cruise to a stop.<br />

Not that the world skips<br />

a beat, birds frozen<br />

in air and all. Only that,<br />

I sidestep myself, take<br />

tomorrow lightly,<br />

spark a joint: time flows<br />

from a river into a knot,<br />

around which the kernel<br />

of midnight swirls.<br />

I’m diffuse, superfluous,<br />

with thoughts bubbling outside<br />

my skin. There’s a pillow<br />

with the gravity of a planet I go<br />

crashing into: a scene<br />

in a low budget sci-fi film.<br />

Duct tape holding shit together.<br />

I reel my head back, look out<br />

the window. Mars burns<br />

like an exit sign at the end<br />

of a long hallway.<br />


First, Visit Paris<br />


See the green pears, sweet and juicy.<br />

See the pairs walking hand in hand<br />

over the bridge.<br />

Walk the stairs, stairs everywhere.<br />

See the spare trees in their winter bones,<br />

red leaves piled underneath.<br />

See the purses, small and sophisticated,<br />

black to match every outfit.<br />

See the chairs at the bistro,<br />

beckoning me to sit for a cafe au lait.<br />

See the hair of the women blowing<br />

in the fall breeze.<br />

See the prayer shawls in the Jewish Quarter,<br />

near the Picasso Museum.<br />

Taste the eclairs!<br />

See it.<br />

See it all.<br />



Stammering Through Paradise<br />

The tongue is dry when<br />

drums rock and rattle<br />

the skin<br />

and blue notes<br />

tear up the excuses<br />

that have been in my pocket,<br />

exhausted.<br />

It’s that the only thing I think about<br />

is the tilt<br />

of your day<br />

long ago, in a past I rewind and play again,<br />

not sure if anything<br />

was said or done.<br />

Were you nodding your head<br />

and squinting<br />

I crammed the candy bars down my pants,<br />

or did you<br />

blow me kisses with eyelashes<br />

that were butterflies<br />

fluttering by<br />

on valley breezes?<br />

Did your hat blow off a pier<br />

some place<br />

and did I buy you another<br />

or was I walking the other way<br />

into a destiny named a hundred times already<br />

by the decoding the letters at the<br />

bottom of<br />

my bowl of<br />

alphabet soup?<br />

[. . .]<br />


Intrigue is such a damp<br />

activity<br />

at the end of the bed, where<br />

the socks wind up in a pile,<br />

Sometimes I have thought<br />

that sometimes<br />

I think too much<br />

when I leave the world in front of me, friends, family,<br />

planet,<br />

by staring out of a window<br />

just to wonder<br />

where the world of the senses goes<br />

when the far lines of mountains, the<br />

end of the ocean,<br />

the final<br />

searing beams of sunlight<br />

are gone,<br />

half moons stuck on bare branches in a cold twilight,<br />

I wonder<br />

about every morsel<br />

at the end of the fork, tines<br />

to teeth near<br />

the top of a world<br />

that dreams<br />

or madness<br />

reveal to us<br />

when the last guests is gone<br />

and national anthems are buried under<br />

the burst and burn of fireworks,<br />

sparkling flowers, shooting stars,<br />

We drink water<br />

and swim in the eyes of each other,<br />

a glass does not fill itself.<br />


You and I are not near<br />

the names we hung our mannerisms on,<br />

memory plays its cards,<br />

You looked into my eyes and<br />

asked if I were home<br />

and I wondered<br />

again<br />

was I ever?<br />


On Dying in Space<br />

15 seconds of drift with blood oxygen,<br />

caught on an exhale in the fading light<br />

of a distant star.<br />

Time enough time to hum Happy Birthday<br />

for the last trip around the Sun.<br />

Then,<br />

3 minutes until the last synapse fires,<br />

enough for one mind’s play of Killer Queen,<br />

remembering her every phase.<br />


I Hold a Secret<br />

from a prompt by Pat Andrus<br />


mired in puzzles and<br />

fruitless enterprise, a rigor<br />

devoured by a shower<br />

bliss, mouths conspire<br />

to conceal their labors buried<br />

under a bloom of bones<br />

I hold a secret staggered<br />

sleepless, the traffic outside<br />

minces its words with delicate<br />

spices, my own words selfindulgent,<br />

I hold a secret (weightless)<br />

tethered to a brother’s grave<br />

overgrown with disquiet, curated<br />

on my heavy breast, his words<br />

poised just beyond my reach<br />

I hold a secret separate<br />

sipping from mother’s milk<br />

becomes a phantom country<br />

a fantasy of sound<br />


Poetic Soliloquy<br />


Ah, what dreams may come? Do dreams relieve the stress of<br />

the day?<br />

Twenty years of education and I’m having a campus<br />

nightmare again!<br />

Where is the building? Where’s the classroom? I am not<br />

prepared!<br />

I misplaced my book! What’s the assignment? Credits are<br />

required!<br />

The campus is huge and no one to direct me. Horrors to<br />

recall in dream’s rerun?<br />

No Google map or iPhone’s guide. Are my ordeals a<br />

package of previous strife?<br />

Must my younger dream-self suffer every single night of<br />

the week?<br />

Sixty years of successful living after the last graduation<br />

ceremony.<br />

I wake hot and sweaty. A shower, quickly dressed, ready<br />

to confront today.<br />

Why must I envision that early stress? Must it be so until I<br />

am laid to rest?<br />


Traveling Through<br />


Traveling through characters<br />

the soul has vision<br />

to be a wisecracker or a siren<br />

Occupying fleshy shells<br />

that rant and cry<br />

Escaping death<br />

then pursuing it<br />

like the boxer who craves<br />

a knockout<br />

All for the game<br />

How queer to find life<br />

in making the goal<br />

or not<br />

Lying in pens<br />

only to spout poems<br />

or make images move<br />

across screens<br />

for greedy eyes<br />

souls look through<br />


Folding Laundry<br />


as I fold laundry<br />

I fold time<br />

it takes me back to last week<br />

when I danced the night away<br />

enjoyed an ice-cream cone<br />

the simple joys of life<br />

t-shirts will holes<br />

that I can never part with<br />

because you picked theses shirts for me<br />

green marks from sitting in the grass<br />

enjoying the music in the air<br />

dogs playing in the park<br />

stains of memories<br />

that can never be erased<br />


Coffee Reminiscence<br />


Some could call it addiction brewed.<br />

Others might prefer tea.<br />

They ask me why I think it’s so good.<br />

Well, here’s what coffee tastes like to me.<br />

It tastes sweet and somber<br />

like reminiscing with friends<br />

and discussions of when our paths will cross once again.<br />

It tastes dark and bitter<br />

like working through the grind,<br />

thoughts of assignments due, and staying up way after<br />

bedtime.<br />

It tastes smooth and refreshing<br />

like meeting for a first date<br />

and saying hello to the sun when I first wake.<br />

It tastes rich and warm<br />

like sunsets at my favorite cafe<br />

and writing poetry on gloomy Sundays.<br />

There could be something in my coffee.<br />

I could be addicted to caffeine.<br />

Yet there’s definitely some memories created<br />

when you brew a couple of beans.<br />



Portrait of a Young Chinese Man<br />

for Jung Ho<br />

In the honeyed room<br />

aglow with spring<br />

blossoms, there is distant<br />

music sweet and slow,<br />

a melancholic dirge in<br />

Minor D with such<br />

womanliness, full of<br />

the voice of my mother,<br />

my father, whispering<br />

my name in the soft<br />

tones of my infancy.<br />

I bend my ear to rehear<br />

different birdsongs from<br />

open windows, my gaze<br />

soaring elsewhere—<br />

a different room—and<br />

now this bowl bends too<br />

heavy to hold in my hands<br />

for now it holds an ocean.<br />

in the Rare Books Room<br />



Seed Tending<br />

i am a<br />

visitor here<br />

an experimenter<br />

an interpreter<br />

of moonrises<br />

a chaser<br />

of sunsets<br />

i’m not fluent<br />

but i listen<br />

i’m trying<br />

to make sense<br />

i’m remembering<br />

as memories fade<br />

as i forget<br />

i’m making<br />

to make<br />

i’m noticing<br />

what’s given<br />

in the moment<br />

i’m leaving behind<br />

things i thought<br />

i couldn’t live without<br />

there’s nothing<br />

for me to take<br />

i am a steward<br />

of the land<br />

a keeper of<br />

these grounds<br />

that don’t belong<br />

to me<br />


i’m a collector<br />

a tender of seeds<br />

i want to<br />

make less sense<br />

i want to<br />

celebrate the<br />

mystery<br />

of being a<br />

visitor here<br />

of having<br />

everything<br />

and nothing<br />


The Story of the Dress<br />

farthest corner / closet floor<br />

rests the dress / backless<br />

black lace / over<br />

silver silk / fallen<br />

from / a satin hanger<br />

note pinned / to the dress<br />

send me to the flames in this<br />



Talkin’ Posthumous Americana Blues<br />

What do you think will be left when we’re gone?<br />

Unfortunately, misogyny’s continued repression makes a<br />

legacy of integrity, say the Statue of Liberty, highly<br />

unlikely.<br />

And for me, un-post-presidential behavior has led to our<br />

flag’s reputation being forever tarnished.<br />

That being said, certainly structures like those heads on<br />

Easter Island or the Egyptian Sphinx are impressive, but<br />

what, the four grey caps atop Mt. Rushmore?<br />

Maybe something monumental like the Roman Coliseum<br />

should remain?<br />

Honestly, as a lifelong Mets fan, I could live with Yankee<br />

Stadium in ruins.<br />

And I’m not talkin’ about the Green Monster when I say<br />

right‖ now,‖ ‚I’m just prayin’ that we don’t leave our own<br />

Great‖Wall.‛<br />

Or how ‘bout something political?<br />

Like the Code of Hammurabi or the Magna Charta?<br />

Our Constitution? Well, that’s a joke.<br />

I do know one thing, it won’t be a dollar bill; paper alone<br />

burns.<br />

I don’t know if another biblical epic can ever be revived;<br />

haven’t we already seen enough sacrificed in the name of<br />

some god?<br />

Surely something patriotic could return.<br />

However, that might likely mean more infamous than<br />

famous.<br />

You know, like the Nazi swastika.<br />

Perhaps something artistic will endure?<br />

I’m doubtful.<br />

But hey, people pay good money to go see prehistoric<br />

drawings of stick figure goats all the time.<br />

What do I know?<br />


Who’d have thought a chubby faced lady with her<br />

beguiling smile would become The Mona Lisa?<br />

If something aesthetically American is remembered, it sure<br />

would be cool if it was a Bob Dylan song.<br />

Revolutionary inventions will always persist.<br />

We use things like wheels, gun powder and computers all<br />

the time.<br />

In days like these, it’ll probably be something scientific.<br />

Although, advanced technology doesn’t seem to last very<br />

long anymore, does it?<br />

Think about that new cell phone you just bought.<br />

But, I mean, how does one end the internet?<br />

Is there even going to be a need for WiFi in post<br />

apocalyptic America?<br />

Would there be anyone to send a text to anyway?<br />

Assuming, of course, that I survive?<br />

If not, I’m hoping that this elegy does.<br />



First Generation<br />

Long ago, it was believed that comets were omens of bad<br />

luck.<br />

They were a sign of political unrest and change<br />

But today comets are phenomena<br />

Trailblazers in the sky, they are brave lights paving<br />

new roads in the<br />

darkness<br />

First generation Mexicana<br />

Chicana the first to give birth to ideas of dreams<br />

I come from a farm working family<br />

I come from a legacy crossed oceans.<br />

my native tongue was cut out and paid for payment<br />

on US<br />

warships<br />

Indentured servant vital to the colonial economy<br />

Back breaking and spirit crushing a putrid existence<br />

Purging the passage of time and eaten by the California sun<br />

No wealth no pride no claims to the land but we work<br />

our bodies hunched over and aching. Weathered<br />

like wrinkled little<br />

raisins<br />

My grandparents give birth to dreams of beauty. . .<br />

to a dignified life, they believed in themselves<br />

hindered by their brownness, their dreams reduced<br />

to domestic workers<br />

My grandmother’s wrinkles tell a story.<br />

Her hands weave a galaxy so her skin is a map of<br />

constellations<br />

My grandfather is the question mark in my voice.<br />

He’s my confidence when challenging authority<br />

No one realizes comets are symbols of ourselves<br />

That as students in the universe of classrooms,<br />

your reflections leave us stardust<br />


Congratulations, you are the voices of the once silent<br />

You are dangerous to the status quo.<br />

The stereotype made real because there is nothing scarier<br />

than an educated brown man/woman<br />

Your breath smells like the fresh paper of a diploma<br />

With the still aroma of tamales<br />

Your mind sets fire in the whispers of protest<br />

You are the fuse of revolution<br />

Ancestors dancing on the fingertips of raised hands<br />

Feet stomping in the scorching sun with nothing<br />

but huaraches on their<br />

feet<br />

Backpacks filled with balikbayan boxes of pancit and lumpia<br />

Your parents, your grandparents, your ancestors sacrificed<br />

So you could do something with your life<br />

Books and supplies are illusions for those who didn’t make<br />

it<br />

The ones who worked their bodies raw so you could stand<br />

on their shoulders and<br />

scream<br />

We have all made it. . . but there’s much more work to be<br />

done<br />

So let everyone know inspiration is bilingual<br />

Let them point at you. . . like they do comets in the sky<br />

Let them know you are here<br />

This group piece was performed by Angélica M. Yañez<br />

and Joe Limer, who passed away in <strong>2023</strong>.<br />


Tears and Piñatas<br />


I wish I could break in tears<br />

just like a piñata does in sweet candy.<br />

But even cuando me golpean<br />

y el cartón se desmorona<br />

solo soy sangre derramada por grapas.<br />

I wish we could trade our problems<br />

como los dulces de la bolsa.<br />

And you’d give me yours<br />

so, I’d give you mine.<br />

But life doesn’t work that way.<br />

It’s not as simple as the mutual<br />

understanding we had as kids.<br />

Too many candles, they start to burn.<br />

Birthday cakes taste bitter and sour after <strong>24</strong>.<br />



The Father Daughter-Dance<br />

I was 7 the first time I remember feeling beautiful.<br />

Looking at myself in the mirror,<br />

my hair that has been kept short for most of my life<br />

has grown out<br />

and it is partly tied back by a silk ribbon bow that matches<br />

the pink dress I am wearing.<br />

My mother has dabbed a touch of rouge on my lips and<br />

cheeks,<br />

and she has sprayed my neck and wrists with her perfume.<br />

I feel terribly grown-up and I can’t stop staring at myself.<br />

This dress is the prettiest thing I have ever owned and I<br />

love it.<br />

I love the white flower pattern and the pink lace on the<br />

bottom.<br />

I love how the rouge looks on my lips<br />

and cheeks and that it brings out the green in my eyes.<br />

I love the ribbon in my hair that is finally long enough to<br />

be tied back.<br />

Tonight my dad is taking me to the Father-Daughter dance<br />

at school.<br />

At this point I don’t really know my father.<br />

He works late and goes on business trips often but he likes<br />

to buy my sister and I books whenever he can.<br />

The ones about dinosaurs, and pirates, and mermaids,<br />

that hold secret letters and treasure maps.<br />

Like he believes we might need them one day.<br />

My father wears a suit and we buy donuts<br />

on the way to the<br />

dance.<br />

He is careful not to get any powder on himself and I copy<br />

the way he carefully eats.<br />

65<br />

[. . .]

He doesn’t tell me not to tell Mom about this, but he<br />

doesn’t need to<br />

because I know she wouldn’t approve.<br />

The auditorium is poorly decorated and filled with other<br />

little girls in pretty dresses and their dads.<br />

There is a raffle, but Dad and I don’t win anything.<br />

Later that night I put my tiny feet on his big ones and we<br />

dance until it is time to go home.<br />

I probably would have fought to keep the dress on longer<br />

had I known by the time I would have an occasion<br />

to wear it<br />

again<br />

I would have grown out of it.<br />

I think I must have cried when the zipper wouldn’t close.<br />

Had I known my body would continue to grow as I slept<br />

I would have stayed up all night. Asking my dad to let me<br />

dance on his feet just one last time<br />

Before I got too big for that too.<br />

But I didn’t.<br />

I peeled the dress off carefully and hung it in my closet,<br />

still smelling of my mother’s perfume.<br />

I went to bed blissfully unaware of all the ways my body<br />

would one day betray me<br />

by becoming too woman.<br />

Too woman to think of myself as beautiful without first<br />

pointing out<br />

all the things I would like to change about myself first.<br />

Too woman to fit into the dresses I know<br />

would make me feel<br />

beautiful<br />

if only I were smaller.<br />

I don’t know when I became too much for this body<br />

but I remember when I was enough for myself.<br />

However brief. However long ago.<br />


I think. . . surely that little girl must still be inside of me<br />

somewhere.<br />

Still pleased with the way her green eyes look when she’s<br />

staring back at me.<br />

Still wearing her mother’s perfume.<br />

Still dancing with her dad,<br />

even if it’s not on his feet.<br />

Dandelions<br />


This morning the dandelions surprised me<br />

Ghostly spheres on spindly stems<br />

Weren’t they bright and yellow only yesterday?<br />

I pluck a stem from the damp soil<br />

Think of the dog, now without the man<br />

Watch the seeds spin away in the breeze<br />

Inhale a memory<br />


Present<br />

studio<br />


The Public Enemy record is the only thing audible in the<br />

kitchen/living room/bedroom/bathroom area of the house.<br />

This is a studio apartment. This is <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> and all<br />

anyone can afford is a studio. The whole city is studio<br />

apartments. Three people per studio. $2,500 for a studio.<br />

Everyone who lives in the studio works at a restaurant or<br />

bar and takes two community college courses a semester.<br />

Six‖units.‖‚Yeah, I‖worked‖a‖double‖last‖night‛‖is the most<br />

commonly used phrase in the city. It echoes through the<br />

alleyways. Every time it’s said, another cigarette is<br />

smoked. All waiters – sorry – servers, all servers smoke<br />

cigarettes on their 10’s and their lunches. The cute type of<br />

smoking though. La Jolla smoking. Not the COPD, lung<br />

cancer, ruin your life type of smoking. We’re talking like<br />

the‖‚127‖likes‖on‖Instagram‛‖type‖of‖smoking.‖The‖‚I‖went‖<br />

away to Humboldt State and came back after three<br />

semesters‛‖type‖of‖smoking.‖Everyone‖drinks‖in‖their‖<br />

studios. Only craft beer. Only microbrew. <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> has<br />

the best beer in the world. It’s all small batch. Everything is<br />

an IPA or a stout. If you drink a lager, you obviously<br />

haven’t been working enough doubles because money is<br />

tight. Don’t forget to use coasters in the studio. We want<br />

our security deposit back and this isn’t our furniture. We<br />

signed a 72 and three-quarter month lease for our studio.<br />

The market is tough in <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong>. Need to sign longer<br />

leases to get a better deal on our studio. There’s no rent<br />

control for our studios. Lots of homeless people in <strong>San</strong><br />

<strong>Diego</strong>. There’s a homeless man who lives outside of my<br />

studio. Must of not worked enough doubles. He is<br />

drinking a craft beer though. Small batch. Microbrew.<br />

Everyone has a dog in their studio. French Bulldog or<br />


Pitbull. 400 sq.ft. three people, two dogs. $100 deposit and<br />

$50 monthly fee for each dog in our studio. Our studio is<br />

on the third floor so the balcony is covered in dog shit. It<br />

starts to pile up outside our studio. During winter it’s fine,<br />

but the hot sun of summer increases the horrible smell<br />

outside our studio.<br />

Why did we get dogs when we work so many doubles?<br />

We’re too busy to even be at our studio. We’d move out of<br />

our studio if we could. There’s no one-bedrooms in <strong>San</strong><br />

<strong>Diego</strong>. It’s either studios or $5 million beach houses. I’m<br />

texting our studio group chat. We need more roommates if<br />

we’re going to get a house. 15 roommates altogether to be<br />

able to move out of our studio. I’ve always wanted to raise<br />

a family. Definitely not in our studio though. There’s<br />

leftovers everywhere and dirty laundry is piled to the<br />

ceiling. It smells like cigarettes in our studio. Cigarettes<br />

inside, dog shit outside. I walk downstairs to get some<br />

fresh air. The 5-freeway runs right over our studio. The<br />

cars scream at me every time I leave our studio. I found a<br />

girlfriend and she now lives in our studio. We got engaged<br />

in our studio. We got married in our studio. We had kids<br />

in our studio. I didn’t die in the studio though. I died in<br />

the restaurant. I was working a double.<br />



It Was a Bold Mustard Yellow<br />

Our tent withstood rainstorms,<br />

the quick hand of summer monsoons,<br />

shifted without collapsing—an emblem<br />

for our long running relationship.<br />

It never failed we began squabbling<br />

the minute we shook out the weighty<br />

canvas from its snug bag, soon<br />

to turn into our temporary shelter.<br />

We’d arrive with an arsenal<br />

of bad tempers dumping out nine<br />

similar aluminum poles as we argued<br />

about which ones went on the corners<br />

and which were to go in the center.<br />

Our ritual of bickering cooperation<br />

survived through countless camping trips<br />

as we honed our dance steps of taut love.<br />

Going from corner to corner to insert<br />

the pole tongues into canvas tabs,<br />

we were at last ready to raise each one<br />

to its feet, always with a flood of relief<br />

as the tent wavered, then rose upright,<br />

ready to be secured. You picked up<br />

the hatchet that doubled as a hammer—<br />

I scanned hard dirt to locate the pouchful<br />

of stakes handing them over one at a time.<br />

If the ground resisted, you pounded harder,<br />

driving each peg into a loop’s tiny mouth.<br />

On the final blow, I helped you off your knees,<br />

and we stood, bathed in a flush of camaraderie,<br />

admiring our nomadic lodging. This paradox<br />

of tempers mixed with devotion defined<br />

to this day our enduring and knotty union.<br />


J.K. WALLEN<br />

The Youngest Victim<br />

of the Winter Storm: Aeon Tocchini<br />

Goldie is gone but his light shines on.<br />

His family home is crushed and flat.<br />

Nothing is left of where he sat.<br />

Through wrecked walls<br />

the winter winds whistle and whip.<br />

Goldie is gone but his light shines on.<br />

What will remain for our children<br />

after the brutal winter storm?<br />

Nothing is left of where the little one sat.<br />

There is relentless ruin from the deluge.<br />

A feeling of doom and no refuge.<br />

Yet Goldie is not gone, his spirit shines on.<br />

Not one but three redwood trees fell<br />

brought down by the wind and the rain.<br />

Nothing could survive where you sat.<br />

There was a tragedy that winter day.<br />

Little is left for us to say.<br />

Nothing is left of where he sat.<br />

Goldie is not gone, his spirit shines on.<br />



The Escape Artist<br />

Your inner child yearns for the day when you will finally cater to<br />

them.<br />

When you are done holding on to those grudges from the past.<br />

Letting go of all of that remorse.<br />

Starting your healing journey.<br />

You have tried to start that journey countless times,<br />

Haven’t you?<br />

Knocked down by life a hundred times–<br />

And a hundred times you picked yourself right back up.<br />

You did.<br />

No one else,<br />

But that is not enough.<br />

And you know that.<br />

Your inner child sits alone behind a closed door.<br />

A neglected child.<br />

A child who craves your attention,<br />

But you are too busy living in the past.<br />

Thinking‖about‖the‖‚what‖ifs‛.<br />

What if your parents had done things differently?<br />

Thinking‖about‖the‖‚could‖haves‛<br />

Could haves. Would haves. Should haves.<br />

When you damn well know that the could haves in your head<br />

are wasted wishes.<br />

A wish upon a star gone to waste because you can’t change the<br />

past,<br />

But you are in charge of your future.<br />

You try to move towards that door where your inner child is a<br />

prisoner,<br />

But you can’t move.<br />

Your feet are glued to the ground.<br />

Shackles around your ankles.<br />

Heavy weights weighing you down.<br />


If only you could break free of that containment,<br />

You would run towards the door,<br />

Unlock it and hug that sad child that has been deprived of so<br />

much love.<br />

And let the child–<br />

No, let yourself know that you are ready to be there for them.<br />

You’re ready to give yourself what you never got from others.<br />

You finally get it.<br />

After all these years,<br />

You finally understand.<br />

The key to healing is awareness.<br />

Being aware that your circumstances led you to where you are<br />

now.<br />

But also being aware that your circumstances are not the ones<br />

holding you back.<br />

You hold yourself back.<br />

You are the glue. The shackles. The weights.<br />

But you’re also the escape artist.<br />

The most beautiful escape artist that’s ever lived.<br />

You.<br />

The people that raised you did the best with the resources they<br />

had.<br />

The best was most likely not enough.<br />

Maybe it was the bare minimum.<br />

Bottom of the barrel even,<br />

But you are here now.<br />

Healing your inner child is your responsibility.<br />

It’s the biggest task you’ll ever have,<br />

But it’s also the most rewarding.<br />

Now that you know the key to healing.<br />

What will you do with all that knowledge?<br />

I hope you shout it at the skies.<br />

I hope you start a revolution.<br />

All those neglected children living inside broken adults–<br />

Are so close to breaking free.<br />

I can feel it in the wind.<br />

Taste it in my mouth.<br />

I can hear the whispers during the embrace:<br />

‚I’m sorry I took so long to get here, but I’m‖here‖now‛<br />



Yesterday in the Garden I Saw You<br />

While knitting like a spider, some vision of the world<br />

caught my eye through the steamy window:<br />

a tender moon that is about to be immersed<br />

below the hemispheres, a land of onions<br />

and carrots and tomatoes before the rules<br />

of time are calling to harvest; the darkened<br />

figure of my father doing his rural endeavors<br />

before morning starts.<br />

Have I used the word Theory for a phantom?<br />

Barefoot, I step outside. I have brought coffee,<br />

shovels, the usual stuff. Near us, a bird<br />

travels in a flurry, and my memory follows<br />

its habit to erase, so instead I draw myself<br />

into that garden, into the untouched<br />

golden fields of the mind’s portrayal.<br />

The beautiful buried seeds begin to sprout.<br />

Supernatural symmetry that frames this sight.<br />

My father exhales a smoky cloud.<br />

I carry the basket inside, until<br />

we’re in the kitchen reunited with Mom<br />

all together, my tennis shoes muddy,<br />

their thoughtful faces for a second<br />

covered in sweat. Here, for the first time<br />

in a while, I see the end. It was sunny<br />

one evening a few years ago, the heat<br />

was touching my skin, and tanning.<br />

If I wasn’t burned, then it meant<br />

a random shadow must have been protecting.<br />

Probably the passing clouds.<br />


While knitting like a spider, back<br />

at my childhood bedroom, I finally<br />

understand that there is another kind<br />

of seeing that involves a letting go.<br />

I’m behind the steamy window.<br />

My father is two days dead.<br />

My mother knocks on the door,<br />

then slowly comes in.<br />

She wraps me in a hug, and I think<br />

it would be easier for me if this could be<br />

the same exact way, in which I’ll be enveloped<br />

and sent away, once my time actually comes.<br />

I couldn’t defy the rules of zombies.<br />

I cannot rebel against the fatality that wakes up.<br />

The sun shoots like a pistol<br />

into every world that’s around.<br />

Then I notice white specks,<br />

some sort of dry petals floating<br />

in the fields, and falling.<br />

I gaze toward the brim of my hat,<br />

a tender moon, and growing vegetables.<br />

Yesterday in the garden, I saw you.<br />


in the meantime<br />


chase sunsets<br />

have no regrets<br />

fall in love<br />

stand above<br />

be strong<br />

break out into song<br />

stare at the moon<br />

clean your room<br />

read good books<br />

learn how to cook<br />

listen to live jazz<br />

explore different paths<br />

love what you do<br />

get the tattoo<br />

break out the dancing boots<br />

eat your fruits<br />

share belly laughs<br />

create lovely crafts<br />

swim in the ocean<br />

feel all the emotions<br />

live in your prime<br />

the meantime is divine<br />



The Women Who Raised Me<br />

carry a resilient lineage<br />

I was birthed by weary mothers–<br />

women who create life<br />

from the bones they are given<br />

My grandmother fled<br />

from her father’s rifle<br />

to raise a village en el otro lado<br />

She is too familiar with blood<br />

So I’ll be damned to settle<br />

for just<br />

Any<br />

Body<br />

I am too familiar with trauma<br />

I am too familiar with what it means<br />

to carry heavy hopes<br />

in my pocket.<br />



Open Letter<br />

to the Curriculum Committee<br />

from the Ethnic Studies Task Force<br />

Why must you try to define that which is divine<br />

You’re narrow vision<br />

feels like patriarchal prison<br />

Policies politely cutting<br />

gutting<br />

leaving us<br />

leftovers<br />

still fighting<br />

for the right<br />

just to be heard<br />

So where exactly should we exist?<br />

Still we will persist<br />

To normalize is to colonize<br />

Downsized and canonized<br />

Just to comply or deny your worst fears<br />

Our creativity being weaponized<br />

Try this definition on for size<br />

Our lives you cannot define<br />

We are not your bottom line<br />

We are not just checks for your white guilt box<br />

We are here for truth<br />

and freedom unlocked<br />

Balance rarely occurs on the first try.<br />


Waking up next to you<br />


Waking up cold, next to you.<br />

The rain on the windows looks slightly frosted.<br />

The missing covers are all on your side,<br />

my sweatshirt, an arm’s reach away.<br />

But there you are next to me.<br />

Sleeping, looking tired.<br />

Your closed eyes look at peace and<br />

haggard for me to even think to<br />

turn on the heater,<br />

pull the covers to my side,<br />

move and risk waking you.<br />

I feel cold next to you,<br />

but the way you warm up my being,<br />

I don’t quite care if I’m cold.<br />


Stillness<br />


Stillness is. . .<br />

blades of grass poking up from the earth,<br />

sunflowers turning their heavy heads to find the light,<br />

green things reaching for the sky.<br />

It is sunrise and sunset,<br />

the billowing of clouds in the deep blue,<br />

autumn leaves bursting into color.<br />

Stillness is. . .<br />

when the orchestra raises their instruments,<br />

when the conductor holds up the baton,<br />

just before the music pours forth.<br />

It is the space between each note,<br />

the moment after the final note<br />

before the applause begins.<br />

Stillness is. . .<br />

falling in love,<br />

wide-eyed awe,<br />

the deep breath before words tumble out.<br />

It is the moment new life begins,<br />

a mother’s hands resting on her swollen belly,<br />

the moment a newborn takes its first breath.<br />

Stillness is. . .<br />

the deep well of peace beneath turbulent waters,<br />

the bubbling up of joy,<br />

the screwing up of courage.<br />

It is holding someone’s hand,<br />

the moment before saying goodbye,<br />

the moment of letting go.<br />


Stillness is. . .<br />

a sky full of stars,<br />

the quiet but firm tug of gravity,<br />

the silence in which the universe formed and reforms<br />

again.<br />

Grand‖Central‖Market…<br />

I hook my finger<br />

on father’s belt loop<br />


tropical storm<br />

the snail and I on our<br />

ten thousand steps<br />


Navigation<br />


One winter<br />

a new pomegranate<br />

each day split from<br />

impact with the sidewalk,<br />

and the jeweled arils,<br />

like matchstick tips,<br />

were plucked by<br />

birds and squirrels<br />

from a splintered heart.<br />

I did not gather its pieces,<br />

I only walked by<br />

not knowing what it all meant,<br />

because at that age<br />

I was adrift, and there is no map<br />

for these kinds of things, or at least<br />

not one I could orient yet.<br />

Much later, and all at once, I understood<br />

that the pomegranate ripe season is short,<br />

and that their seed colors<br />

stood in for sunsets in a bleak,<br />

but not snowy, winter<br />

while I thought I was avoiding<br />

their white piths<br />

under my fingernails (which was true)<br />

I refrained, so that the birds and squirrels<br />

could encounter the seed colors, cradled<br />

in their tough fruit skin packed-tight.<br />


This was so that they may bring back<br />

the crimsons, terracottas, and<br />

the clear seed every once in a while<br />

to their families, somewhere,<br />

as would I to mine.<br />


paper kite<br />

fluttering<br />

day moon<br />

her pigtail ribbons<br />

wrapped in the spring breeze<br />


e·fract<br />


/rəˈfrak(t)/<br />

Verb Pierce (droplet of) water by light. Watch: the<br />

light swims angled & anguished<br />

a moment of space between chaos: chaos<br />

where a prism is aching to be born.<br />

Listen. I saw a galaxy of dewdrops once.<br />

I thought: Oh, star cemetery.<br />

I thought: perfectly orchestrated rest army. I was<br />

their testimony. They existed.<br />

splayed like tiny wishing secrets.<br />

Which is to say spilled loneliness. Which is to say:<br />

don’t-dare-breathe.<br />

And some things are too bone—<br />

beautiful to be nurtured. I mean this:<br />

Can you imagine loving something so much<br />

you let it choose how to escape you?<br />

What I’m saying is: I heard the dewdrops sigh.<br />

I felt the grass bend weighted with promises,<br />

I saw the moonlight shimmer.<br />

Listen: I’m telling you that some things refuse to be bound.<br />



Advice to the Young Poet<br />

Write before you awaken.<br />

Catch your dreams,<br />

catch your desires.<br />

Fall off the cliff<br />

into the setting sun.<br />

Kiss broad Orion:<br />

archer of the sky.<br />

Submit to the shadow’s rape.<br />

Then in the shadow’s spade<br />

sit, write and read<br />

in the shadow.<br />

Fight and speak<br />

make love in the shadow<br />

on the other side of yellow.<br />


Eve and the Apple<br />


It’s such a bad rap.<br />

Oh, let us acknowledge. . .<br />

how could she have not<br />

given into temptation?<br />

That business with that Devil dude<br />

doing his mad slither thing—<br />

strictly a red herring<br />

for those shackled by timidity.<br />

See, she’d been gifted with<br />

wishing, and dreaming<br />

and a yen for some answers. . .<br />

So accountable, she can’t be<br />

for yielding to impulse,<br />

or else someone else<br />

needs to take then the hit<br />

for such an unreasonable ask—<br />

that‖‚knowledge‖is‖off‖limits‛‖bit.‖.‖.<br />

And yes, there is more;<br />

had Eve not made her move<br />

then riddle this query:<br />

would we have anything<br />

approaching those peaks<br />

of art and existence<br />

we cherish and celebrate<br />

deep down from the past<br />

and across the millennia?<br />

Of course, there’s a cost then:<br />

withdrawal of perfection and<br />

Time’s now so precious,<br />

the ultimate in notion<br />

of low lying fruit. . .but<br />

I’ve got just a hunch<br />

that Eden unedited<br />


most likely was dull,<br />

and despite built in death’s surety<br />

plus, end to Arcadia. . .<br />

Life then had more meaning.<br />

Hardest core heresy,<br />

I’m fully aware<br />

but seminal foundation<br />

for a potential that’s infinite.<br />

So leave us give kudos<br />

for Eve, that core rebel.<br />

She cost us a Garden<br />

but gained us a World.<br />


Kowit’s Coup<br />

a double-dactyl from Steve Kowit’s Notice<br />

Kowit’s coup’s Keep your smile<br />

(like Lyle Lyle Crocodile):<br />

‚Be‖kindly...‖Pass‖it‖on.‛<br />

Even for those<br />

don’t deserve? Yes, them too.<br />

Egalitarian<br />

kindness. Why? Life goes.<br />

Make much of Time.<br />


Graduate Student<br />


He carries his mother’s recipes<br />

for dumplings and fried rice.<br />

He carries his father’s blessing<br />

for success in his new life.<br />

He has uprooted himself<br />

flown across a dateline and an ocean.<br />

He transports his ambition<br />

for a career in modern science.<br />

He lugs guilt for not staying<br />

to protest the government.<br />

He moves freely in his new land<br />

while his friends wallow behind bars.<br />

The clock ticks<br />

he pursues his studies<br />

engages in research<br />

writes articles<br />

in his quest for a permanent place<br />

in his adopted land.<br />

He smiles at the vision<br />

of his grandmother<br />

as he steeps his tea<br />

sips it slowly<br />

from a thimble sized cup<br />

with memories of Kowloon.<br />

Inspired by Things We Carry on the Sea (Wang Ping)<br />

and Big Clock (Li-Young Lee)<br />



Goldfish: a Love Metaphor<br />

it’s valentine’s day<br />

a day i could bury<br />

in the dirt but keep<br />

alive for good company<br />

so i could shovel sugar<br />

in my mouth, savor<br />

a hot cooked meal<br />

made by my beloved<br />

& tomorrow return<br />

back to microwaved<br />

noodles in a foam cup.<br />

instead, my man brings<br />

home a goddamn goldfish.<br />

& i witness<br />

a small slime of life<br />

its gills glisten,<br />

flexing like bricks<br />

of gold paddling<br />

back & forth—<br />

back & forth like love<br />

on some days without<br />

water—fins feral for ocean,<br />

i know when i wake<br />

the gilled animal with<br />

its neon movement<br />

will shimmer over<br />

& over with a glitter of faith,<br />

with so much hunger to live.<br />


The New Toy<br />


So…I‖woke‖up‖to‖find‖my‖black‖puppy<br />

(only 80 pounds)<br />

doing some sort of calisthenics. See,<br />

on his bed down there on the floor.<br />

From toes to his teeth<br />

first nose to front feet,<br />

his paws held a thing<br />

that stretched like a spring.<br />

Arise went his snout<br />

in the air it did point<br />

stretched high to the sky<br />

then back to his feet.<br />

Repeat.<br />

Repeat.<br />

Repeat.<br />

Curious, I crawled from my bed,<br />

put a hand on his head—<br />

then discovered this thing<br />

‘round one front leg<br />

to paw and teeth<br />

‘twas black like he:<br />

my black bra.<br />

Arise! I commanded.<br />

He did as demanded,<br />

and wore it indifferently,<br />

ignored me completely.<br />

In drag, pup was a sight<br />

to which sister and friend<br />

took mirthful delight.<br />


During our morning coffee, He,<br />

the unconscious entertainer<br />

returned to his regular thrill<br />

stealing snot Kleenex,<br />

crawling under the table<br />

chewing feet, if able,<br />

licking the cat.<br />

Normal pup things like that.<br />

My bra, just another collar.<br />

As unimportant to him as that<br />

gentle nodding<br />

the meadow’s yes<br />

to this wind<br />


your shadow<br />

lost in the street<br />

without you<br />


object<br />


first a meeting,<br />

then compliments you want—need—<br />

how beautiful you are, the perfect lines<br />

your bones make, your sparkling eyes—insert<br />

what you will.<br />

later, calls, texts, requests<br />

to get<br />

together. think<br />

of your life, its routines set<br />

like fishing lines.<br />

think about order, let yourself<br />

lose it<br />

as you would let a dress<br />

be lifted.<br />

desire that swears<br />

you’re its sole quench<br />

out-lusters.<br />

but if fire burns, consumes,<br />

then moves on?<br />

the pursued inherits<br />

the wanting—the pursuer<br />

leaves in your care<br />

that small hungry animal.<br />


Into the Woods<br />


spring’s leafing—<br />

the sound and the fury<br />

of the plantation creek<br />

unused tracks—<br />

on the poor part of town<br />

the sun also rises<br />

tourist surge—<br />

photographing the old man<br />

and the sea he watches<br />

on the road<br />

a young hitchhiker<br />

with a sign to nowhere<br />

the moon is down<br />

below the fjord’s mountains—<br />

a shackled caribou<br />

cannery row—<br />

the smell of wood and tar<br />

and foreign t-shirt vendors<br />

separation day—<br />

a path disappears<br />

into the Maine woods<br />


Zuni Buskers<br />

RJ BLACK<br />

The hand that holds my heart<br />

so lightly turns sometimes<br />

with indecision; I hear<br />

warbling songbirds in the bushes<br />

as the chorus<br />

to the Tragedy that is my life<br />

—if only I understood it.<br />

Why is it things said and done<br />

so long ago are still exploding<br />

in my face?—I can’t go on like this.<br />

Three busking Zuni drummers<br />

are chanting on the plaza<br />

in a native tongue. I feel<br />

their sacred vibes passing lightly<br />

through my heart, and<br />

afterwards‖they‖tell‖me,‖‚Yes,‖<br />

we sing for all humanity."<br />

—And I believe them.<br />

Unless, of course, there’s already<br />

too much sclerosis of the heart.<br />


Tomorrow<br />


flooded bridge<br />

we stop and listen<br />

to the rain<br />

time glows<br />

through ripples in sand<br />

tide pool<br />

after dad left<br />

his war diary<br />

full of poems<br />


The Unseen Guest<br />


I catch the fragrance of your perfume<br />

hear the rustle of your skirt as you wander<br />

between tables listening to conversations<br />

at your son’s wedding feast.<br />

This is your house, built on the red clay<br />

of your beloved <strong>San</strong>ta Fe. Set among<br />

juniper and pinyon pine where coyotes<br />

hunt in the arroyos.<br />

You hear stories of his life,<br />

stories that you missed. Hear your name<br />

mentioned, once, twice, three times,<br />

know you are not forgotten. Rejoice<br />

that his bride, who walks forever<br />

by his side, has already delivered him<br />

out of the shadows. Did you see his tattoo?<br />

Your likeness exquisitely rendered.<br />



The Hierarchy of Horrors<br />

rests on a gossamer scaffold, international conventions<br />

designed for a world without need of them.<br />

—When and how war can be waged<br />

—Who and what can be targeted<br />

Arbitrary borders—killing’s never humane,<br />

the innocent rarely spared. Rules are futile.<br />

Schools lie in rubble, apartments razed. Uncertain futures<br />

for those who flee; others trapped, no place or means to go.<br />

But foreigners are fortunate, they don’t belong there—<br />

temporary residents blessed with magic papers,<br />

rising on silver wings. Freed from the random reach<br />

of someone else’s war.<br />



Invocation for a Season of Connection<br />

Let all voices join, all kingdoms come,<br />

all grievances be resolved.<br />

All reach across the aisle, the pew,<br />

the bench, crevices in stone<br />

within temple and mosque,<br />

the fissures in the floor of the cathedral.<br />

Let the words we find wrong,<br />

even blasphemous, be considered.<br />

Our ideas welcomed by those we love<br />

and do not love nor understand.<br />

Let us skip the litany of loss, leap<br />

chasms between lives so that<br />

for just one season we can be<br />

as trees, connected underground<br />

by roots, celebrated equally<br />

no matter the species, no matter<br />

the number or nature of our leaves.<br />



Muzot Rondeau, Rilke’s Housekeeper<br />

as a Lighthouse in Winter<br />

my spirit decants in this glass-eyed dome<br />

circling the cold hours of alone<br />

looking for a ship to love my body<br />

a lighthouse born inside longing’s lobby<br />

my legs heavy as this castle of stone<br />

when he’s gone, silence is hoarfrost overgrown<br />

I climb a golden ladder to the unknown<br />

stillness is my mirror’s only hobby<br />

my spirit decants in this glass-eyed dome.<br />

I’m keeper of the light and fire’s bone<br />

and count my missing stars windblown<br />

only what’s kept in the heart oddly<br />

like icicles melting, their melancholy<br />

ever revenant anchoress without a home<br />

my spirit decants in this glass-eyed dome.<br />


Mexican Train<br />


A tile is missing from our domino set.<br />

How long has it been gone? Unknown.<br />

We have continued to play the game<br />

sometimes losing, sometimes winning<br />

never noticing something was awry.<br />

The domino tiles are now arranged across the table<br />

leaving an obvious vacancy<br />

where an eleven tile shows its absence—<br />

a bulwark impeding progress,<br />

forbidding victories.<br />

If only our lives could be arranged<br />

like a Cardinal train upon a table.<br />

Could we then identify the lost and missing,<br />

replace them, or would we continue to play?<br />

Can we complete our destiny when parts of us are missing<br />

or do we rely on other skills to complete us—<br />

playing the game of life as best we can,<br />

taking pleasure in the company and their love.<br />


Pisces<br />


cold morning<br />

unwelcoming sky<br />

my dad’s sweater<br />

the only thing blue<br />

bass fishing<br />

in the shallows<br />

squirming worm<br />

he patiently baits<br />

my hook<br />

splashes of grief<br />

I find his old<br />

tackle box<br />


And Baby Made Three<br />


Mom was a contralto of the opera.<br />

She sang roles, Carmen to La Traviata.<br />

She also took on some comic parts<br />

in Broadway shows and other fine arts.<br />

She met my dad, a styled Vaudevillian.<br />

He wrote scripts, mostly playing the villain.<br />

She was the damsel distressed, shy and frail;<br />

they made folks laugh so they drank more ale.<br />

Together they built an act for the theater<br />

based on songs and poems to their meter.<br />

They sang and danced and played the fool.<br />

Folks thought them funny, cleaver and cool.<br />

One day it happened, wed they were,<br />

on a cloudy morning of a chilly burr.<br />

The wind blew strong as it was March<br />

And I was born past winters arch.<br />

"Eek," cried mom, "What shall I do now?<br />

I’ve not held a baby yet alone know how."<br />

But on my night in <strong>San</strong> Francisco<br />

Sophie Tucker and dad stared in a show.<br />

They dropped mom off at the hospital site;<br />

were back in the car and soon out of sight.<br />

Success was had at both venues, you see,<br />

their opening closed so came back to meet me.<br />

Aunt Sophie heard singing, "Oh what can it be?"<br />

From the car, up the stairs, they ran in to see,<br />

but laughter they met in the lobby below<br />

as I guess my mom was giving a show.<br />


Mom took a drug that led her to song;<br />

a-cappella she sang, short notes and long.<br />

It wasn’t just any, as Wagner she chose;<br />

‘twas a serious night for serious prose.<br />

Sophie rushed in and threw back the curtain;<br />

Oh yes, it was Dorothy, that was quite certain.<br />

"What are you doing?" Sophie said in dismay,<br />

‚This‖isn’t the opera and you’re‖not‖in‖a‖play.‛<br />

Then mom fell silent as they came into view;<br />

she left her new stage and was thinking anew.<br />

‚You‖think‖you‖had‖an‖opening,‖Sophie‖divine,<br />

you’ll not top this one, you should have seen mine!"<br />

Now that’s how I started in showbiz, ya know.<br />

With dad and mom with my talents to grow.<br />

We toured the land spreading laughter and glee.<br />

Just Johnny and Dorothy as baby made three!<br />



shadow and light—<br />

yes and no chase each other<br />

in circular motion<br />

don’t look, don’t tell<br />

one ambulance after another—<br />

grief stills our hearts<br />

blooming magnolia<br />

petals open into a white star<br />

with gratitude<br />


Mrs. Peck<br />


She was strict in her directions<br />

of each 7th grade lesson—<br />

the impeccable Mrs. Peck<br />

with her coiffed hairdo, A-lined skirt<br />

and high collared blouse.<br />

Sitting at her desk with crossed legs,<br />

low high heels, she’d wince<br />

if Billy Winston cursed in class<br />

sending him immediately to detention.<br />

I‖was‖the‖‚good‖girl,‛‖excelling‖at‖reading<br />

but wore short skirts she scoffed at<br />

with a very disapproving look—<br />

her pursed lips with perfectly applied lipstick.<br />

Never was anything out of place on her desk.<br />

Her pens neatly aligned in a holder, her papers<br />

filed away in a drawer.<br />

No wonder she gave me the assignment<br />

to write that straight-jacket form of haiku.<br />

But with the exact syllable count,<br />

my imagination flew and I fell<br />

into the steamy soup of poetry<br />

which carried me into my future<br />

like a life raft on a wild river.<br />

I don’t know what happened that day,<br />

but she unleashed something in me<br />

far greater than she could imagine,<br />

the prim and proper, Mrs. Peck.<br />


Lautrec, at Night<br />


The Montmartre Night is lost on me. She holds me<br />

at arm’s-length. With my failing sight, I am immobilized,<br />

non-plussed when the light dims. I envy the Paris<br />

Lautrec knew. I could have been one of his Parisiennes—<br />

I’d be on Lautrec’s arm. No stranger to shortcomings,<br />

he’d guide me gently through poorly lit places,<br />

rickety stairs, mottled conversations—show me<br />

the life he sketched in notebooks, scribbled<br />

on the backs of posters, outlined in his dreams.<br />

He’d take me into the eye of the hurricane, the quiet<br />

moment in a room packed to the beams, stinking<br />

of sweat, drink, dancers holding edges of petticoats,<br />

kicking-up heels in a frenzy, glassware be damned—<br />

all those silk top hats, all that cleavage—<br />

where everyone wants something and only the lucky<br />

few want what they can have. Some sit resting<br />

their heads upon their hands and watch. On the street,<br />

a dancer with her stocking rolled below her knee<br />

takes a break, leans against the building. Does she<br />

imagine herself caught up in different music?<br />

Perhaps she wishes that Lautrec would paint her<br />

in the countryside next time; wants to be in a meadow,<br />

reclining with only a summer shawl between skin<br />

and soft grasses, eyes closed, listening to the silken<br />

breath of zephyr. Under the lamplights, Montmartre<br />

Night grabs ahold of my coat, pulling me to her,<br />

wraps her arms around me; whispering that she,<br />

La Nuit, is the backdrop, foreground, and subject;<br />

reminds me that no matter how bright it is, I’ll<br />

always see Paris through the dark filter of her eyes.<br />


Sunday<br />


They’ve been having sex,<br />

that young couple at the bagel shop’s<br />

outdoor table.<br />

Her hair is pulled back,<br />

ribbed with gold. Her, pale v-neck sweater<br />

is open, like a funnel for her neck.<br />

His hands long to touch her curved fingers.<br />

Instead, he sprinkles sugar<br />

on the dark metal table.<br />

He has ordered the same bagel with tomato<br />

as if to remind himself that they<br />

are still close, that their bodies, sated,<br />

will digest molecules of carbs<br />

and fats and veggies.<br />

The dog, black and nervous,<br />

lies at his feet, a supple blue leash<br />

pouring into his collar beneath their chairs.<br />

They’ve been having sex, because,<br />

who else eats on a Sunday<br />

at the baker’s outdoor table<br />

in the young sunlight without having it,<br />

or dreaming of it,<br />

or remembering it.<br />


Hot Hopscotches<br />


We made hopscotches with chalk,<br />

used wet napkins rolled into balls<br />

to mark the squares.<br />

You were only 6.<br />

I was 11.<br />

You filled the hours of my summer,<br />

spent at my parents’ store in Chinatown,<br />

with the games we played.<br />

Hopscotch, rock-paper-scissors,<br />

and Chinese jump rope,<br />

most of which you taught me,<br />

not the other way around.<br />

We raced to the liquor store down the street,<br />

to buy orange creamsicles and gummy bears.<br />

You cursed the kids I told you I didn’t like.<br />

Where are you now, Virginia?<br />

Where are you, the girl hero<br />

from the sewing factory next door,<br />

with your swaying ponytail,<br />

and little head full of knowledge?<br />

I’d search the world for you,<br />

but cherish your memories instead,<br />

the sunny face that lit up<br />

the dark days of my childhood,<br />

and eased the growing pains.<br />


Con Gusto<br />


As I break you in pieces<br />

I want to feel the soft crack,<br />

lick the smudges of black velvet<br />

you leave on my fingers.<br />

I want to wrap my tongue around you.<br />

Pressed against the roof of my mouth<br />

I taste the sweetness that lies<br />

deep beneath your bitterness.<br />

Your scent of midnight fills my nose,<br />

reminds me of stolen pleasures—<br />

in a shadowed corner of my mind<br />

a gypsy bolero plays.<br />

O dark treasure in a silver dress,<br />

I will unwrap you slowly, and<br />

your music will be savored<br />

with gusto.<br />


Despair at the Door<br />

110<br />


I’d like to get away from earth awhile<br />

And then come back to it and begin again.<br />

—Robert Frost, Birches<br />

I’ve almost given up<br />

on this country the noose<br />

loose around my neck<br />

the pen too blunt a weapon<br />

the chair sturdy enough<br />

to let me hoist and drop<br />

solemn gap at the table<br />

a mouth without a tooth<br />

the pool where I swim<br />

closed to celebrate Jesus’ ghost<br />

but not Passover or Ramadan<br />

what’s not political<br />

the neighbor’s yard dug down<br />

ten feet because of something<br />

broken exposed piles of dirt<br />

shrouding the house and street<br />

all cities the same Dodge<br />

no escape the sea cold<br />

as Columbus’s slaughter<br />

coming in or going out<br />

but a mother’s arms once<br />

rescued a fragile adolescence<br />

circumference of the truth wider<br />

than the world my head was in<br />

the mind a noose hand-braided<br />

the spirit just a country with no home<br />

the future a bell rung from the rafters<br />

the truth a clapper and a rope

Metamorphoses<br />


How many times have I been broken<br />

only to find the missing part. . .that day,<br />

a week, a year later.<br />

A piece that fits into an awkward place<br />

yet with a new twist or turn<br />

of thought, of river cobble, a lover—<br />

the careful scrutiny of a layered feather,<br />

the unfolding form of an O’Keeffe painting,<br />

a human transformed from lumps of clay.<br />

The story of stones—collected, filling<br />

my home, my surroundings—pebbles<br />

from an ancient riverbed, flaked flint<br />

from obsidian, long hardened minerals<br />

in vibrant shades still swirling<br />

in their first act of becoming,<br />

archaeological sites with cracks<br />

and crevices to fill with imagination.<br />

At the end of the tunnels of found objects<br />

with their protective outer layers are<br />

the inner layers of petals, shells, seed pods,<br />

skins—the sexuality of life—finding ways<br />

to continue intercoursing with body forms,<br />

land forms, and the open space between them—<br />

a small object with a larger one – me to you.<br />

Inspired by a collaborative art exhibits of G. O’Keeffe and H. Moore<br />



Hope is a Thing with Trotters<br />

with apologies to Emily Dickinson<br />

A cloven hoof smashes the bird feeder<br />

a greedy snout devours the seed<br />

even the crows flee<br />

Broken tiles fall<br />

as the novice flyer<br />

strikes the roof in his ascent<br />

Befuddled farmers search the sky<br />

for missing stock<br />

branches fall under the weight<br />

of a new sort of nester<br />

And as for me<br />

I cheer their flight<br />

as in my heart<br />

a small hope grows<br />

For now I know<br />

that pigs can fly<br />



My Electrocardiogram:<br />

How the Heart Communicates<br />

By some mystical, unwitting process,<br />

poignant scribblings slowly filled the page,<br />

while I thrashed about, writhing in pain,<br />

the brutal torment incessantly raged<br />

as three nurses and a doctor clamped me down,<br />

pressing my shoulders and legs with their weight.<br />

Like hieroglyphics from ancient crypts<br />

where the message seems murky and compressed,<br />

the white paper and black ink<br />

are somehow designed to express<br />

the heaviness and darting pain<br />

swirling, convulsing within my chest.<br />

When the script was deemed complete,<br />

with grim scowls, its meaning was explored<br />

by a cluster of ominous faces,<br />

disbelieving, but totally absorbed,<br />

before stripping away my clothes,<br />

letting the paper flutter to the floor.<br />


Passion Speaks<br />


of blood and time<br />

and stones and<br />

river. Say<br />

ash and oak,<br />

the maple and wild sumac<br />

break air for the<br />

pieces that evolve<br />

into earth’s sanctuary.<br />

Say above any water fall<br />

secrets collect and<br />

prepare for dispersion,<br />

remembering only<br />

those of us below<br />

blind and heedless<br />

who beg for these<br />

textured lights<br />

cascading over<br />

the mountain,<br />

like a tongue<br />

filled with<br />

amazement<br />

and sacred sounds.<br />

And say<br />

later in dreams<br />

we try restructuring<br />

these events, try to<br />

decipher just who<br />

gifted us, and<br />


what we might do<br />

with these treasures<br />

that seemingly<br />

came from nowhere, or<br />

from maybe a moon<br />

visiting the neighborhood<br />

or an ant unloading<br />

its excess wisdom<br />

en route to its<br />

daily chores<br />

Dei Filia<br />


Four phased phosphorescent,<br />

spinning crescent moon,<br />

take me to the river,<br />

brushed in baby blues.<br />

Crystal glass, splitting skull,<br />

filled to brim with doom,<br />

God’s rare golden glimmer,<br />

gibbous glows till noon.<br />

Sweet, small gleaming sliver,<br />

lead me to my lover,<br />

lost amongst his brothers,<br />

past the northern star of truth.<br />


Elopement<br />


The fork as<br />

you’ve heard<br />

ran away<br />

with the spoon—<br />

their families<br />

couldn’t accept<br />

the differences.<br />

Some say he<br />

seduced her<br />

with his sharp<br />

gleaming tines<br />

but I’d bet he<br />

fell hard for<br />

her smooth curves<br />

the slender neck.<br />

The knives<br />

stood guard<br />

as they slipped<br />

silently into<br />

the night<br />

too googly-eyed<br />

to notice<br />

the shadow<br />

the cow<br />

cast on the<br />

moon.<br />


Froth<br />


Today, I treat myself.<br />

On this day, I froth my milk.<br />

Today, my cup of black coffee enjoys a soft cloud of cream.<br />

It warms my writing soul<br />

as I watch the stray clouds hang<br />

over the ocean.<br />

As the froth dissipates,<br />

so do the clouds sitting at the edge of the sea.<br />

Lines are blurred,<br />

no space between heaven and earth.<br />

Now only blurred lines and softened edges—<br />

ocean and sky, coffee and milk.<br />


Fetch<br />


In my father’s workshop<br />

a rustic structure downhill from the house<br />

heated by a woodstove which<br />

sparked fires on the shingled roof<br />

(the only water source an afterthought toilet clapped onto<br />

an outside wall)<br />

lumber piled at the rear, near the grape arbor<br />

where he’d wring the chickens’ necks<br />

and we kids dug forts, I learned to fetch.<br />

We always knew where to find him.<br />

We took for granted the plenty at our fingertips. . .<br />

grapes, walnuts, persimmons, guavas, tangerines, and figs.<br />

We had freedom to imagine, to create projects, to roam our<br />

neighborhood.<br />

We did not realize our abundance.<br />

‚Sister,‖fetch‖me‖that‖Phillips‖head‖from‖the‖bench‖there,‖<br />

will‖you?‛<br />

From the tangle of used tools coated in rich patina<br />

I learned to distinguish a ball peen hammer from a claw<br />

hammer, from a tack hammer,<br />

a drill from a bit, a rule from a ruler,<br />

a hand saw, from a band saw, skill saw, jig saw,<br />

allen wrench, crescent wrench, monkey wrench,<br />

masking tape, plumbers tape, electrical tape, duct tape.<br />

As the day warmed, he’d‖say‖‚Fetch‖me‖some‖ice‖water,‖<br />

will‖you,‖Sis?‛<br />

Long before Alexa I learned to fetch.<br />

That was my job and my pleasure.<br />

Only as an adult did I realize that he wanted<br />

companionship more than the tool.<br />



Growing up, I Wanted My House to<br />

Smell Like Sautéed Garlic and Onion<br />

To me, that smelled like a home. It smelled like time was<br />

given to a meal. It smelled like people cared. My house<br />

always smelled like dog hair and burned toast. Four kids,<br />

two working parents who gave birth to more than they<br />

could feed. To save money and time, our lunches and<br />

dinners were DiGiorno pizza. You know, those pizzas with<br />

cardboard for crust, a shy watery sauce that hid behind<br />

stiff cheese and thin pepperoni. So much sodium, so little<br />

taste. One night, my parents brought home pizza from a<br />

Mom and Pop shop. I tasted real pizza for the first time.<br />

Real pizza was a choir of ingredients harmonizing. I tasted<br />

notes of garlic in the cheese, a little pepper in the sauce.<br />

Real pizza was a family who communicated. The sauce<br />

asked the cheese and dough what they needed and didn’t<br />

judge. Real pizza was my childhood bed. The crust, a<br />

frame and box spring, the cheese a warm blanket hugging<br />

a saucy mattress. I wanted to lay my head against the thick<br />

pepperoni pillows. That night, our home smelled like<br />

cheese, garlic, and a whiff of dog hair.<br />


No One Wants to Lose<br />

after Danusha Laméris<br />


The rough knuckled boy scab-kneed<br />

stalking off the field<br />

the ham-handed politician<br />

refusing to concede—<br />

No one wants to lose<br />

what they claim as their due<br />

even when faced with a flood of truth—<br />

even when the family home is reduced<br />

to floating timber and glass<br />

and farmers’ fields dry as bones<br />

blow away in whirling dust<br />

and life savings evaporate<br />

in a fog of denial<br />

No one wants to lose—<br />

we hold tight, white knuckled<br />

squeezing breath out of life<br />

our fists filled with wind and ash.<br />

If only we’d loosen our grip<br />

let our fingers wave<br />

gently, like prairie grasses<br />

generous in their exhalations.<br />



A Poet’s Manifesto<br />

I drink the world unsweetened, hot<br />

and black. I chomp down on its burnt<br />

dry toast, catch its grit between my teeth.<br />

I work it through my system, expel the crap<br />

as I would a poison that sought my body,<br />

cramped my soul. A will to bear witness is<br />

the meat that feeds me.<br />

Stern stuff, marks me, tough leather inured<br />

by scorched days, frigid nights, a tempered<br />

steel heart. I will never surrender.<br />

Fear rejection? Nonsense! I’m a poet.<br />

I will use the word as weapon or healing balm,<br />

meet through love of language the demands<br />

a subject requires. This is my season to speak.<br />

You may criticize my grammar, my syntax or<br />

lack of profundity. You may deem my lexicon<br />

sparse, pronounce me wanting in eloquence.<br />

But I’m an elemental wordsmith, tinkering.<br />

I’ll question, surmise, work, and revise until poet<br />

and poem complete their task. This is a fire you<br />

cannot put out, no flood of rejection can stop it.<br />


Onion Soup<br />


The man wore a blue scarf, his blond hair pulled back into<br />

a tiny ponytail, a leather jacket that smelled of winters, and<br />

when he put his arm around you as you crossed Rue St.<br />

Jacques, it spoke in creaks and sighs, those sounds of<br />

history he wasn’t telling. Boston, he began, when you sat<br />

facing each other on wooden chairs in Café Beaubourg.<br />

Classic cars, he said. First marriage, he said. You didn’t<br />

talk. Not about Tom. You didn’t say Widow. You’re too<br />

young to be a widow. Widows are your grandmother,<br />

your Aunt Mildred whose husband died of what everyone<br />

called‖‚a‖heart‖condition.‛‖Everyone‖has‖a‖heart‖condition.‖<br />

You spooned your onion soup, steam warm and wet<br />

against your cheek, too hot to eat, but you take it in<br />

anyway, searing your muted tongue.<br />



Steps Down, Undressed She<br />

after: Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2 Painting<br />

by Marcel Duchamp<br />

those angles c<br />

inspiration-curving<br />

sharp i once at<br />

and swooping<br />

she<br />

a cyclone<br />

intoned metallic spinning<br />

flesh of tones<br />

lust and each<br />

b move<br />

step draws through the eye<br />

she’ s<br />

whistling out desire<br />

to capture winds<br />

u<br />

touch to power<br />

flesh coming in swoops<br />

acute suggestive<br />

fragments<br />

in2<br />

overlapping<br />

dreams<br />

through canvas<br />

descends<br />

strokes hidden<br />

t’s<br />



Haibun in Memory<br />

of Maureen Murray, R.S.H.M.<br />

Her knowing eyes met me at the front door of Marymount<br />

High School in West Los Angeles on Sunset’s cliff<br />

across from UCLA (where her tutelage earned me a Ford<br />

Foundation grant eight years later). She taught me science<br />

and religion, subjects that compelled my interest because<br />

she presented them with such passion.<br />

That‖ Maureen‖ was‖ known‖ then‖ as‖ ‚Mother‖ Bonaventure‛‖seems‖appropriate‖to‖her‖<br />

maternal care for her<br />

students. Disciplined in her lifestyle, Mother served as a<br />

role model. When this boarding student was found<br />

disobeying‖the‖dorm‖‚lights‖out‛‖rules,‖she‖saw‖Maureen’s<br />

fiery‖Irish‖eyes‖and‖got‖‚grounded‛‖for‖the‖weekend.<br />

But sophomore year she saved my grades. She taught<br />

geometry so I could understand its logic. I got my onlyever<br />

A- in math. Her grounding of my early high school<br />

education led me to a scholarship at Loyola Marymount<br />

University. There, I arrived to find her on the faculty and<br />

my physical science instructor. Again, I could comprehend<br />

mysterious scientific studies that in other situations eluded<br />

me.<br />

In time, I, too, became an educator; later, a lawyer. We<br />

continued Christmas correspondence. She led the<br />

Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary as its as its Provost<br />

in France, then, became involved with spiritual ecology<br />

that took her to farming in Mexico.<br />

In the States her heart for missions and the suffering<br />

obliged her to run two thrift shops over the decades, one in<br />

Compton for Aides-infected infants, another in Lynwood<br />

where she was also a legal advocate for the homeless.<br />


After I retired from law and returned to my collegiate<br />

interests in the dramatic arts, she and a colleague drove<br />

from Los Angeles to <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> County to see the premier<br />

of my play, Grading Graciela, at MiraCosta College. . .And,<br />

again, at age 84, she navigated her way from <strong>San</strong> Pedro to<br />

my 50 th LMU reunion.<br />

I’ve been proud to read in internet news that she<br />

signed the historic petition of religious sisters to ask the<br />

Pope to ordain women as priests, an act brave and<br />

righteous—sterling qualities always an aura around Sr.<br />

Maureen Murray, R.S.H.M.<br />

At her memorial service, her religious sisters<br />

commented‖ that‖ Maureen‖ ‚sought‖ to‖ enlighten‖ and‖<br />

enliven.‛<br />

morning solitude<br />

a butterfly lands<br />

on my shoulder<br />



Old Companion<br />


The sound of the zipper on the soft-sided suitcase,<br />

that zing going up one side the long rasp<br />

along the front edge and a lower pitch down the other,<br />

is enough to set my mind to travel. I flip it open,<br />

find one ear plug, a comb, and two band-aids<br />

in the net compartment.<br />

The rest is empty space ready for packing.<br />

But I’m not going anywhere today. Having bought<br />

new luggage, I consider getting rid of this worn<br />

and shabby bag, veteran of cargo holds, odd hotels,<br />

and relatives’ guest rooms. Yet, I feel a pang<br />

letting go of my old companion.<br />

Memories seep in, the happiness of seeing it<br />

bang onto the baggage carousel, a red ribbon<br />

on the handle so I could pick it out in the crowd,<br />

or waiting like a statue in the hotel room<br />

delivered by the bell boy. I recall the times<br />

it was lost luggage traveling without me<br />

and the relief when we were reunited.<br />

A foible of mine is giving a spirit of sorts to objects.<br />

This green valise ranks as some third-tier friend.<br />

I guess I need a ritual or some ceremony to release it,<br />

show this case fair respect for years of good service.<br />

I consider shipping it somewhere exotic with no return<br />

address, but instead enjoy hearing the re-zip<br />

before returning it to its regular spot in the closet.<br />


In the Event of Emergency<br />


So many emergencies break glass for you<br />

earthquakes open all of your cabinets<br />

mudslides crush windows and every<br />

glass paperweight you moved<br />

from your grandmother’s house<br />

In the event of bright light<br />

don’t mention the bad boyfriend<br />

who sends his glass sailing into the fireplace<br />

burning away any feeling you had for him<br />

Much later you realize that his posts were not<br />

extraneous information but rather a record of his rage<br />

Define emergency<br />

Define a go bag<br />

Sometimes a collision is just a collision<br />

a parked car rolling downhill<br />

gravity defining destruction<br />

Sometimes a bright light is necessary<br />

to redefine intention to determine<br />

the nature of the tremor<br />



Falling: a (Sort of) Duplex<br />

It’s an out-of-control thing, falling down,<br />

as in a flight of stairs—not really a flight—<br />

The stairs, we’ll say, not a flight but a descent.<br />

Maybe more like plummeting from favor,<br />

More like plummeting from the boss’s favor,<br />

falling from grace like Satan in Paradise Lost,<br />

Satan utterly lost, thrust down from Heaven’s<br />

grace.<br />

Can’t fall farther than hell though maybe despair is,<br />

Icy despair the farthest hell you can plunge to,<br />

A long dive sans anything that feels like a landing.<br />

No landing in sight, the constant whoosh of diving<br />

As into a black hole, perhaps, gravity pulling<br />

infinitely,<br />

Gravity of misery pulling infinitely into that hole.<br />

For all that, though, down’s not always bad.<br />

Not bad to ask, Are you down for a good time?<br />

There’s even falling into something good, like love.<br />

People tumble into love—that’s a good thing, right?—<br />

Or if not love, into bed for sex (not the same, of course),<br />

Though falling into sex, one can land soft on the<br />

mattress,<br />

Even for one deemed fallen, maybe reaching for a<br />

lover’s hand,<br />

The fallen woman, or let’s say man, reaching the lover’s<br />

hand.<br />

Invariably, it’s so: falling’s an experience that’s out of<br />

control.<br />


Love Remains<br />


After everything is gone,<br />

love remains.<br />

Love lives in the air that you once exhaled.<br />

It grows in the grass you danced across.<br />

It hides behind downcast eyes<br />

and glows in laughing ones.<br />

Love flows like water from the tap<br />

filling and overflowing,<br />

forming rivulets that quench dry,<br />

thirsty places.<br />

Places where fire has left sleeping seeds<br />

awaiting your touch.<br />

Love flutters like Monarchs<br />

who somehow know<br />

where their delicate, determined<br />

wings must go.<br />

That which once lived in you,<br />

now lives in me.<br />

It breathes life into every one<br />

who chooses to notice.<br />


A Quiet Passage<br />


Consumed by sadness<br />

fearful of what I might find<br />

I cautiously push open<br />

the door marked disbelief.<br />

Swirling around my feet<br />

are dusty dreams of little girls,<br />

filmy cobwebs of memory<br />

drift down from the rafters.<br />

I hear you telling me<br />

there isn’t much time,<br />

nodding when I ask<br />

if it is all right.<br />

Mysteriously we know,<br />

this must be the peace<br />

that passes understanding,<br />

while time folds in on itself.<br />

Finally, I realize you have<br />

left me to turn out the lights.<br />

I move toward the entrance<br />

finding my way in the dark.<br />


Renaissance Girl<br />


She wants to be a renaissance girl<br />

fresh out of a Waterhouse painting<br />

wearing flowing dresses with pastel tones<br />

swimming among the lotus flowers<br />

ringing her hair out in the woods<br />

meeting her knight at twilight<br />

protected like a masterpiece<br />

shaded from the sun<br />

in impressionistic shade<br />

with light coming through the trees<br />

the epitome of femininity<br />

painted by a man<br />


And in the End<br />


The Blue Collar Man lives<br />

in a punch-the-time-clock world,<br />

dons hard hat and hammer like<br />

a cowboy, stoned street runner.<br />

Muscle-bound in youth, music-bound<br />

later on, wishes he’d written 9-5<br />

or the Banana Boat song. Works<br />

with his hands, at 18, couldn’t wait<br />

to get a job, reads blueprints and fine<br />

print, uses snips and metal, filling specs<br />

all day long. His fingers don’t bleed<br />

much, works the night shift, while wife<br />

and children sleep alone. Mother-in-law<br />

sings a baker’s song; his parents’ songs<br />

weave stories with needles, thread, patterns<br />

and cloth. Together again now, they work<br />

the cloud factory in the sky. A better place?<br />

Some might say they work<br />

from home.<br />


Black Island<br />


I am the bread of life.<br />

Pulse of a bonsai, neat,<br />

reddening for caretaker’s touch.<br />

I, too, will become a ligament,<br />

observing the decadent recess of<br />

sleep under burning cheeks.<br />

The pain renders my floor<br />

a home; my carpet becomes a caul.<br />

An augury flame:<br />

children bathing in tidal pools.<br />

Eyes like opium pearls, pincers agape.<br />

I am the bread of life.<br />

That I have not been a person this whole time<br />

cannot be true—<br />

Salvation Army cashiers sing<br />

Gospel in the racks<br />

while I wait in line, holding jeans.<br />

Cramping under the Virgin.<br />


Misbehaving Child<br />


They ripped out his tongue<br />

for insubordination. To stop him from<br />

masturbating, they cut off his<br />

hands. Because he failed to look at them<br />

when they spoke, they gouged out his eyes.<br />

A neighbor warned that he might try<br />

to run away, so they chopped off his feet.<br />

Rain followed rain. Day after day,<br />

a manic drummer scourged the roof<br />

and pelted the lawn until the grass stood ankle high.<br />

His father came to the basket where he writhed<br />

and wriggled like an outsize worm.<br />

"Mow the lawn," the man commanded.<br />

Dutifully he dragged his clumsy plasms<br />

to the garage. They had an old push-type machine.<br />

He nudged it outside, but blind and missing<br />

hands and feet he could do no more.<br />

His mother stormed over, lifted the handle.<br />

"No wonder you can’t mow the lawn!<br />

Look what you’ve‖done‖to‖yourself!‛<br />



The Breezy Time of Day<br />

The sky darkens,<br />

the trees green more deeply.<br />

We have fought the day,<br />

we climbed an unnamed hill.<br />

It is time for wine,<br />

time for sighs and balm.<br />

We will go home to our lives.<br />

The world has not changed today.<br />

I am broken, beyond repair.<br />

Are you broken, too?<br />

My ancestors cry to me<br />

across the ages.<br />

I believe in God.<br />

You may or may not.<br />

Bless you.<br />

Please bless me.<br />

God’s creates<br />

during His evening, breezy walk.<br />

Hear these holy sounds,<br />

each vowel a prayer.<br />

He says to us:<br />

Buona sera.<br />


Summery<br />


sherbet sky echoes . . .<br />

the rhythm of regatta<br />

wave of fly swatters<br />

a heady zephyr<br />

overflows in henna hues—<br />

late summer bracken<br />

joy of mowing grass<br />

shines on a growing carrot—<br />

missing Lego brick<br />

lamenting summer—<br />

paler by the pergola<br />

garden flamingo<br />

a white picket fence—<br />

the lingering summer heat<br />

hums and haws all day<br />

lull of golden hour—<br />

wild summer chrysanthemum<br />

arcs with hoverfly<br />

sooty-bottomed sky—<br />

aflame at the horizon<br />

rhododendron moon<br />


Swim Lesson<br />


I didn’t relish being behind the fence<br />

at the public pool<br />

relegated there with all the parents.<br />

You’re a wisp.<br />

You come up to my waist.<br />

But I nodded my head when you asked if it was ok—<br />

gave my most precious person<br />

to Mr. Matthew, all of 19 years old?,<br />

where he would teach you<br />

and four other preschoolers<br />

to blow bubbles<br />

kick hard<br />

dive for sinkies<br />

and crab walk around the pool edging.<br />

I can say something happened that day<br />

when I cooled my nerves<br />

unfastened my worry—<br />

I loved you more.<br />

In fact I have never loved you better than<br />

watching you live your big beautiful life<br />

without me<br />

out there<br />

just a lone fence away.<br />


Encounter in a Drought<br />


Not like the scruffy ones, dirty and devious, who hiss<br />

when scolded, muddy the cat door, track wet rotting matter<br />

onto the tiles beside the food and water bowls. This young<br />

shiny raccoon, her black mask fluffy, her coat sunlit,<br />

has been living under our deck for months, sheltered<br />

from the stunning heat of the days, unseen presence felt.<br />

Half-hearted efforts at closing off the cat door, moving<br />

the bowls away, have been to no avail. Since the old dog died,<br />

there’s been no dissuading her.<br />

And now here we stand, me gesticulating, at the same<br />

time gently explaining, You have to go. You can’t live here,<br />

wild thing. We are not the same. She looks into my eyes<br />

from the desert of her need, her determination, takes<br />

another step toward the cat door. I step forward<br />

my voice rising, and she stops, sits down, and we commune.<br />

Be kind, she whispers. And I realize with a tiny jolt<br />

that she is a nuisance who has nowhere to drink, nothing to<br />

eat.<br />

This devastating drought. What is she to do? Nevertheless,<br />

I advance on her, guarding my heart, and she turns and<br />

begins<br />

to climb the little plum tree. No, no. I pick up the hose and<br />

gesture<br />

menacingly. Soberly, I think, sadly, she backs down<br />

and stands, again asking. I am adamant, and slowly she<br />

turns<br />

heads down the slope toward the back fence,<br />

regards me over her shoulder as she climbs<br />

and, before dropping to the other side, stops on the top rail<br />

gazes fully at me, taking me in.<br />


The Future<br />


The flash of your eyes<br />

and your breath like wine.<br />

Your face like a vision that<br />

I wish were mine.<br />

I laugh at the wind,<br />

follow clouds across<br />

sky, throw a kiss<br />

to the sun, knowing,<br />

what tomorrow will bring.<br />

Birth<br />

The first rhythm of soul—<br />

the beat of mother’s heart<br />

near the cradle of the womb.<br />

Where unbounded possibilities<br />

draw life into itself to pass<br />

through the tunnel of birth<br />

from mother into reality.<br />

The first cries—<br />

songs of praise and fear<br />

at the loss of the womb,<br />

the birth of the flesh.<br />


Salting the Apple<br />


A crisp Red Delicious, say,<br />

sliced into eighths, the flesh<br />

unblemished and sweet<br />

as the breast of that girl<br />

who first allowed his<br />

eager lips a kiss. Something<br />

good made better by contrast.<br />

Or if not better, then stranger,<br />

more compelling. Sweet<br />

and salty, electricity<br />

on the tongue, an entire lifetime<br />

slipping by in incandescent bites,<br />

reminders of when the air itself<br />

was ripe enough to eat.<br />


THE<br />



<strong>2023</strong><br />

Judge:<br />



K<br />

AZIM ALI is a Professor of Literature at UCSD. His<br />

recent collection is Sukun: New and Selected Poems<br />

(Wesleyan University Press: <strong>2023</strong>).<br />

Earning both the Ohioana and the Alice James awards,<br />

he is also a novelist, translator, and editor. His memoir is<br />

Northern Light: Power, Land, and the Memory of Water<br />

(Milkweed: 2022).<br />


THE KOWIT <strong>2023</strong><br />

First Place<br />

$1000<br />


At the Edge of the Lost Coastline<br />

Where my heart should be<br />

muscle is a pink jellyfish that gorges on<br />

hurt with its unmeaningful stings,<br />

and you are in there. I misidentified<br />

the queen. Please forgive me for being<br />

afraid. I wish I had known how to know<br />

how to love you. What is that<br />

flower? Jasmine, of course. The five-armed<br />

petioles meet at the center of the centerfold.<br />

Everywhere there are cliffs, and<br />

the strange sadness of strawberries,<br />

leaves seize distilled green time, landfill is<br />

landslide down to the ocean. But you<br />

still set all the boats on fire. If I am<br />

struck again, let me be the fool, please, let<br />

me open my mouth full of bees.<br />


Rocks<br />

First Runner-up<br />

$250<br />


In New England, we grow them—harvest them,<br />

stack them<br />

along the edges of fields. Good crop? Not bad this time.<br />

After spring’s lines of lavender and late roses<br />

half a year of long lament, laid as a line of stones. My<br />

life in<br />

widow world: Would he have watched this season’s<br />

harvest? Praised<br />

fat tomatoes in a bowl, purple berries, pinecones?<br />

He would. So I carry him close, as his spirit snuggles<br />

in my hip pocket, speak his name, sing louder, share a<br />

smile.<br />

When night falls, I shoulder silence, dinner for one:<br />

which‖drove‖me‖to‖delve‖and‖define‖‚inselberg,‛‖<br />

tongue-tossed by a mining geologist in east Africa seduced<br />

by the Serengeti, where lions hunt from high crags—<br />

rock knobs risen through weather and resistance. On my<br />

tongue‖next,‖the‖term‖‚monadnock,‛‖indigenous‖form<br />

for lone<br />

mountain surviving. In New England we live with our<br />

past:<br />

words absorbed from Abenaki assertion, stones heaped as<br />

walls<br />

around our burial grounds. We witness forests reclaim<br />

farms.<br />

Find old foundations of granite and grit<br />


dark, cold, exhaling radon remnants. I gave my love<br />

a marble marker for his grave, engraved with names.<br />

Geology<br />

rasps rough on this rainy evening, looking up<br />

igneous, formed from fire, blazing birth of coarse-grained<br />

rock<br />

laid down in wide intrusions at this world’s skin. I grasp:<br />

granite grows a wrap of lichens, palest green, rooting<br />

in the grains from which the stone steals its name. Words<br />

wrestle,<br />

weathered stones subsiding into soil. Widow world<br />

wanders,<br />

walking steep slopes; in loss, the gray-green lichens linger.<br />


Second Runner-up<br />

$100<br />

I Ken Him<br />


You were the legal eagle,<br />

but who was the carrion?<br />

You were the gun-dealer, the gun-toter.<br />

the loader of shotgun shells,<br />

dispenser of pills—<br />

payment for services rendered,<br />

legal opinions for illegal drugs,<br />

books cooked on request.<br />

You were the meter of discipline,<br />

the palm of punishment, the back hand<br />

of pain, the how-dare-you-smile,<br />

was-that-a-smirk at family dinner,<br />

the go-to-your-room, the drop-your-shorts,<br />

drop-your-underpants, the palm of retribution,<br />

you were the shaker and maker of cocktails,<br />

oligarch of olives, herald of hangovers,<br />

you were the overhearer of every phone call,<br />

the interrogator of every attempt to leave<br />

(a walk to the store, a breath of fresh air),<br />

you knew every inch of the house<br />

(and why not, there were so few inches)<br />

and what belonged in each and every place,<br />

you were policeman, prosecutor and judge,<br />

maximum sentence magistrate, appeals court,<br />

parole board, trustee and warden.<br />

there was no escaping you,<br />

not even when I married,<br />

not even when you died.<br />




Jet Door Opens in Flight, but Plane Lands Safely<br />


Vena Cava<br />


How to Contemplate Breast Reduction<br />


The Book of Tao<br />


A Piece of Beauty<br />


Larry Levis Leaves Us Floating Like a Lotus or a Lily Pad<br />


A Map for the Lost<br />


Catch<br />


Easter dinner and tulip<br />


In this brief online video<br />


Park Scene If You Can See<br />


Dream Where We Rearrange a Bedroom for Dying<br />


Imperial Avenue & 17th Street, <strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong><br />


Bypass<br />

[. . .]<br />


HONORABLE MENTION (continued)<br />


The Punching Room<br />


Little Haole Boy’s Family Homesteads the Moon<br />


Hotel California<br />


I Am the Ash Keeper<br />


Say Hi to Paris for Me<br />

T. R. POULSON<br />



Grazing the Charred Sky<br />


Reconstructing the Moon<br />


I want to stop pretending we have anywhere else to go<br />


<strong>San</strong> Juan Capistrano Swallows Parade, <strong>2023</strong><br />


The Fifth Largest Country<br />


Jet Door Opens in Flight,<br />

but Plane Lands Safely<br />

Headline in The New York Times on May 26, <strong>2023</strong><br />


I wanted to know if what we have been told about the<br />

price of flight<br />

is true, if landing is the cost, not the way stepping barefoot<br />

in the yard<br />

after sex with you was still sex, more like how the earth<br />

looks still<br />

from a distance but if you listen closely it is screaming.<br />

You were every unanswered thrill and dangerous thing,<br />

yet I can only remember you silent, the heave of your chest<br />

but not the sounds of your heart, but see now<br />

the jet stream and how quickly it disappears.<br />

See now the horses in the dark water or the dark horse in<br />

the sky.<br />

I used to think I was Scheherazade and you the sultan,<br />

but really the morning was the sultan and the night the<br />

story<br />

of how we must always want more, even if we know what<br />

it will be—<br />

a rush of air, speed, and sound, everyone holding on for<br />

dear life.<br />


Vena Cava<br />

to Charles Wright<br />


The books you’re reading<br />

leave dirt on your hands<br />

as yours rub dirt into mine.<br />

I’m crosslegged, safe in the lamp’s soft light,<br />

the clock is spinning slowly past nine,<br />

and my blankets have found the rough outline<br />

of my body: vague corners of shoulders,<br />

a belly’s wrinkly mound,<br />

two articulated knees.<br />

Your body’s been emptied by philosophies,<br />

and so,<br />

you rise to find<br />

its echo ringing outside,<br />

in stands of oak or poplar trees.<br />

In winter, your ice arrives fierce<br />

(even wide green rivers freeze),<br />

daggers of wind and cold<br />

clatter on the grass<br />

or hang tinkling on the east-facing eaves.<br />

These books,<br />

you wear like borrowed clothes<br />

and try them in the woods.<br />

You leave patches of fabric<br />

impaled on thorns,<br />

squirrels chewing on the ill-fitting sleeves;<br />

let them tatter and drop.<br />

when the seasons change,<br />

when the moist air of spring receives<br />

that jolt of tropical heat,<br />


a mad slash of lightning<br />

will relieve you of these<br />

rented words.<br />

the years and books passing though,<br />

at most they take their shape<br />

from your cavernous heart,<br />

they cannot undo<br />

the aperture of your arteries,<br />

or your throat’s hollow gape.<br />

your trunk is formed up<br />

to a kettle drum;<br />

let thunder purr on the mountain spine,<br />

let the summer beehives hum.<br />



How to Contemplate Breast Reduction<br />

say your body is yours until<br />

the words hurt your mouth<br />

then say it again<br />

embellish in the thought<br />

like sweet milk and tamarind<br />

twisting the tongue<br />

then trace the roundness of your shoulders<br />

watch the curve<br />

slip in and out of the rest of you<br />

remind yourself you didn’t choose them<br />

and choosing what to do about them<br />

doesn’t make you any less than<br />

a chorus or garden or thing that is whole<br />

whispering dumb ass doubt songs<br />

don’t do a thing for no body<br />

unbutton yourself and feel them on your chest<br />

let that heavy combat the weight<br />

encrusted inside<br />

chew a raisin and imagine it’s a nipple<br />

bite hard and slow and taste the pain<br />

that squeezes out<br />

hold them and wonder why you’re struggling<br />

with a thought made of milk<br />

and sweet things<br />

hold them and wonder what it means<br />

for any part of you to become smaller<br />

than it has to be<br />


The Book of Tao<br />


Even though I’m dreaming I know I’m asleep,<br />

that the moose standing in the front yard<br />

is just a ghost<br />

and its manicured bluegrass is a remnant<br />

of that meadow where the creek ran swollen<br />

with snow melt—<br />

the year I gave up fishing since I thought<br />

I’d angered God, when Matthew, Mark, Luke<br />

and John were banished to the desert<br />

and master Lao-Tzu whispered through the pines,<br />

the year the breast buds opened deep inside<br />

my tomboy plaids—the year my first blood arrived.<br />

It’s the summer after Mommy slipped away<br />

to the green-tiled hospice, came back home<br />

in a dark metal urn.<br />

It’s when Dad packed us kids into the big Chrysler,<br />

drove nonstop 600 miles to our rustic cabin<br />

near the beaver dam.<br />

It’s the recurring vision of that hot afternoon<br />

when a moose crashed through the willows<br />

where she’d hidden her calf, chased me<br />

to the logging road screaming for my mom.<br />

It’s the musky old teacher from that August<br />

in Montana—waiting in moonlight on the lawn.<br />


A Piece of Beauty<br />


My children & their friends<br />

could not believe<br />

their good fortune when<br />

in the sand next to the slide<br />

they discover a perfectly<br />

delicate perfectly intact<br />

perfectly dead<br />

Monarch butterfly. They jostle<br />

each other to drink in<br />

a better view of stained<br />

glass wings<br />

of every single white speckle<br />

of elegant legs<br />

antennae and bulbous eyes—<br />

as if finally glimpsing<br />

a thing both famous<br />

and forbidden; after all, when alive,<br />

a creature like this flits past<br />

us like a memory<br />

or an omen. Last summer<br />

after my father died<br />

a yellow and black<br />

butterfly appeared in my parents’<br />

backyard every day<br />

for what seemed like weeks.<br />

My mother would say,<br />

‚That’s him,‛ with conviction.<br />


They tend to the body<br />

with the solicitude of monks<br />

these secular children—<br />

nestling it in a palm frond<br />

surrounded by twigs, berries<br />

that only the birds eat,<br />

and torn strands of long green<br />

grass. They lay this makeshift<br />

cradle in the shade<br />

of a sycamore tree. Would we<br />

have handled this creature<br />

with such care when we were<br />

young? Or would we have taken<br />

it apart wing by wing<br />

until everyone had a piece<br />

of beauty to hoard and forget?<br />



Larry Levis Leaves Us Floating<br />

Like a Lotus or a Lily Pad<br />

Wished Gracie Chin had just shown him<br />

the ideogram for frog or log or frog<br />

jumping from a log into the water.<br />

Short stub of a pencil tracing out each<br />

brush stroke, soft as silt. How many times<br />

he tried turning numbers into letters,<br />

questions into quests for other kinds<br />

of punctuation marks. The excess of<br />

wrong answers, as if there could be no<br />

mistakes, no errors, except those that went<br />

unsaid between a father and a son, left him<br />

guessing at what to do next and sitting<br />

beside this pond calmly as the dawn<br />

and the orchard he had just walked through.<br />


Easter dinner and tulip<br />


At 3 p.m. she begins the food prep for<br />

dinner thinking of the Quattrocento<br />

and the trip to Florence in July she’s planning<br />

she pushes on the leg of lamb to confirm it’s defrosted<br />

expressing a small amount of bloody fluid<br />

she lays it on a grill inside a Granite Ware roaster<br />

her sons are fighting upstairs over a box of Saltines<br />

one can go to camp this summer and the other<br />

to Mother and Dad while she and their father are in Italy<br />

she mixes Dijon, garlic, olive oil, and salt<br />

to the consistency of paste and pats it onto the lamb<br />

she thinks of Donatello’s David his long curls<br />

and prepubertal boyish features she prefers<br />

to Michelangelo’s and hopes the trip will renew<br />

the passion in her marriage she slices the<br />

string beans at the ends and places them in a colander<br />

ready for boiling the Pyrex cup filled with rice is<br />

standing by<br />

she notices the tulip she planted months ago<br />

it has bloomed a bright yellow flower<br />

its green stem rising from the small mound of bulb<br />

exposed above the dirt a perfectly esthetic amount of<br />

exposure<br />

she decides and how beautiful in its terra cotta pot<br />

the same color as the Duomo on the white windowsill<br />

backdropped by the yard outside covered in early April<br />

snow<br />

she has always been a willing companion to winter<br />

a consilience of her inner life and the outer life of nature<br />

but in a way that’s just come upon her<br />

she looks forward to summer this year it is<br />

a new dispensation and quite unexpected.<br />


A Map for the Lost<br />


When we feel disconnected with our source of life, with our<br />

ancestors, with our traditional values, we begin to wither and<br />

become a hungry ghost.<br />


A wall of books at my back, my hungry ghost stands<br />

before study windows open to windblown trees.<br />

Sundown and rest are coming to rustle over me lightly<br />

as shushing leaves, more persistently than doves cooing<br />

or Max trains on tracks half a mile away.<br />

Rescue comes not over the heads of Korean dogwoods<br />

in blossom on the other side of the screens.<br />

One can see no horizon from here.<br />

I’ve stopped feeding humming birds,<br />

afraid to poison them, sugar water breeding bacteria,<br />

instead offer them live carnations and geraniums.<br />

Empty ghosts gather under the pall of infection they claim<br />

as a crown, just as for full moons, new seasons, a harvest.<br />

Clothed in black to conceal neediness, throwing empty<br />

wine bottles<br />

down the stairwell, weeping spread-eagled on concrete,<br />

they shatter windows, pull over statues, set fire in<br />

dumpsters,<br />

in their demand for more room,<br />

throats so narrow they cannot swallow even air lightened<br />

by rising up mountains,<br />

throats so narrow they cannot be heard, my ears tuned to<br />

close out shouts and whispers.<br />


My hesitant eyes meet my hesitant eyes in mirrors,<br />

I wonder who<br />

my hungry ghosts are and what I can do to aid their<br />

healing.<br />

Were it as simple as setting a lantern afloat in a river that<br />

flows to the sea,<br />

I’d stand at the headwaters of the Columbia River to light<br />

candles<br />

at every full moon, new season, every harvest and set<br />

them<br />

free for a wild ride. I’d watch them flickering in wild<br />

winds.<br />

She’s an old river, I hope the candles and their cargo reach<br />

her quiet places.<br />


Catch<br />


Tonight I watch rhinestones<br />

through the blackbelt sky<br />

projectiles glinting<br />

racing further apart.<br />

Our sun, now blinding<br />

our back side, is just like them<br />

huge to us but tiny spark<br />

to the multiverse beyond.<br />

Once there were no visible<br />

signs of life, just craggy clumps<br />

of carbon and hydrogen<br />

flung in a spinning disk of dust<br />

colliding into all it is now,<br />

all it will ever become.<br />

My whole life, NASA blasting<br />

probes up and out to explore space,<br />

connect the dots, claim ownership<br />

by figuring it all out. In 1977, I watched<br />

Voyager I and II launches go up and away<br />

on‖a‖25‛‖Zenith‖TV,‖best‖technology‖of‖the‖day.<br />

Those probes have jumped<br />

billions of miles since, while we’ve all just<br />

lived our gravity filled ‘80s, ‘90s, 2000s.<br />

Two tubes of human pride<br />

reaching for more lights in the dark,<br />

searching for signs of hope, for other lives.<br />


One probe carries a record of us,<br />

sounds of crickets, heartbeats,<br />

music, voices, and storms.<br />

A golden disc of‖‚Earth‖Hits‛‖<br />

hoping to get caught and heard.<br />

A frisbee inside a frisbee flung<br />

into the Earth’s endless backyard.<br />

Tomorrow, I will watch my kids romp<br />

across our yard, across 50 million blades of grass,<br />

under one billionth the wattage of our sun.<br />

The kids will toss a frisbee playing keep-away<br />

from the dogs who’ll nip the air<br />

around their jeans in clumsy puppy arcs.<br />

I know tomorrow is not promised<br />

but‖I‖am‖there‖already‖in‖the‖6‛‖screen<br />

of my mind, throwing myself forward<br />

behind closed eyes and I’ve caught it,<br />

a wormhole I can ride, a pocket<br />

where I’ve stretched and sidestepped time.<br />

You are with me too now<br />

on the lawn watching<br />

perfect swirls of white<br />

against a bright blue sky.<br />

See the red plastic disc<br />

your hands have caught?<br />

How it grounds you here<br />

for a second or two<br />

before you fling it back out;<br />

us, together on this giant lawn<br />

on this teeny perfect marble<br />

winning something crucial<br />

against an infinity of odds.<br />



In this brief online video<br />

a tottering camera is aimed at her dusty eyes,<br />

the cactus-strewn background<br />

punctuated by forked lightning at dusk.<br />

For a few disorienting seconds, her thoughts<br />

are stray tumbleweeds, her braided hair<br />

clutched by a man concealed in desert fatigues.<br />

Earlier, he’d ripped off her blindfold,<br />

ordered her to her knees; but now, valiantly,<br />

she glares back at the blurred lens,<br />

her masked captor expelling rapid-fire Spanish<br />

indecipherable through static. My co-worker<br />

tenders me this—an execution<br />

offered as present—before I realize<br />

what it captures; by then, it’s already too late:<br />

a machete gnaws through granulated pixels,<br />

her tiny body tumbling to the ground;<br />

& just like that, the clip’s finished,<br />

her defiant image replaced by a blank screen.<br />



Park Scene If You Can See<br />

The old angel,<br />

wings tattered,<br />

stands with trees in the park<br />

across the river from the city<br />

where every kid used to be<br />

taught to believe in<br />

angels gliding close by<br />

as darkness fell each evening.<br />

But the holding up<br />

of an old image, the half-fantasies,<br />

can’t be mustered anymore<br />

by this angel, still graceful but now<br />

ancient in its inner soul workings.<br />

The park with squirrels is home<br />

and sometimes a burdened<br />

person will pause on a bench—<br />

their job, family, energy, beliefs,<br />

nothing up to the old high peaks—<br />

will feel for a moment<br />

something like an angel wing<br />

wrapped around the shoulders,<br />

until each creature in<br />

its way, moves along.<br />



Dream Where We Rearrange<br />

a Bedroom for Dying<br />

Before the beds can be moved, they must be dismantled.<br />

Not the Ikea kind. We hunt for tools<br />

in the empty garage. My brother finds a Phillips-head<br />

screwdriver<br />

in the medicine cabinet to take the beds apart.<br />

I am a moving woman and observer here in my parents’<br />

bedroom.<br />

I push my wooden crib, where I bounced as a baby,<br />

into a corner flush against one wall. My mother needs it<br />

there to crawl<br />

under and cry. An ambulance in the driveway, engine<br />

running,<br />

holds my father while we move furniture in and out. This<br />

is neither home<br />

nor hospital; a liminal space in which a bed with side<br />

rails appears<br />

with my father in it. A commode floats into place; a urinal<br />

balances<br />

on the seat. The nightstand, the only real furniture that<br />

belongs<br />

in the bedroom, sits where it is supposed to sit. On it, a<br />

rosary and jar<br />

of Vicks VapoRub flank a table lamp, the only light in<br />

the room.<br />

The lamp is supposed to be here too. A porcelain<br />

Provençal statue<br />

stands on the lamp base—a farmer, with a goose in a<br />

basket<br />

hangs on his right arm, its beak chipped off long ago. He<br />

stares<br />

into the distance, for signs of a coming storm. A purple<br />

umbrella<br />

is tucked under his left arm.<br />


The Punching Room<br />


Maybe I was 13, out with my dad<br />

for the day and we had to stop by<br />

the vocational school where he worked<br />

as a special ed teacher. I followed him<br />

through the rooms in the uninterested<br />

way new teenagers do. But the padded<br />

room stopped me. Not much bigger<br />

than a closet. What’s that? I asked.<br />

Sometimes, he said, the kids here need<br />

something to punch, when a kid gets<br />

angry enough, and we want them<br />

to do it in a safe place. That seemed<br />

enough of an answer to me back then.<br />

But I’m 45 now: did I make this place up?<br />

I picture the logistics of the system:<br />

my dad shouldering an angry boy into<br />

the enclosure. And how to know when<br />

he might be safe to come out? My dad,<br />

a bear of a guy, had a heart of honey:<br />

sweet and stuck. He knew how it felt<br />

to grow in a home that stifled life.<br />

Whatever it took to coax a boy into<br />

the padded room, wore him out. Better<br />

to leave school with busted knuckles,<br />

he might have thought, as he felt<br />

the door vibrate, as he maybe heard<br />

a boy shout. My dad’s heart pounded<br />

his chest, bled out over decades, burst<br />

open in isolation and let itself out.<br />



Imperial Avenue & 17th Street,<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong><br />

Cars exit the 5 and speed past the unhoused,<br />

their tents and tarps<br />

fluttering in the moonlight<br />

like ocean waves.<br />

Every midnight, by law, Mexican radio stations<br />

play their national anthem.<br />

All waves: radio, ocean, light<br />

ignore borders.<br />

Outside a shared tent,<br />

two men huddle near a radio,<br />

listening to the anthem’s violins,<br />

the interstate’s roar, the ambulance’s screech,<br />

the rumbling bass from lowriders<br />

cruising into Barrio Logan.<br />

The two men sip coffee to stay awake.<br />

The daytime is safer for sleeping.<br />

The full moon above them,<br />

soft through the clouds<br />

powdery as snow.<br />

What does the moon look like to their neighbors?<br />

To this man passing in a BMW,<br />

maybe the moon is a golf ball<br />

nine-ironed from Torrey Pines,<br />

hit so hard it never came down.<br />


You speak Spanish, right? one of the men asks.<br />

The other nods, Yes.<br />

What are they singing about?<br />

War and God.<br />

Like that part, just then. What’d they say?<br />

His friend thinks about the lyric,<br />

about a classroom in Guadalajara,<br />

where he learned it, when he still<br />

had a family. They said, “For in heaven your eternal destiny<br />

was written by the finger of God.”<br />

Do you believe that?<br />

Yes, he says. He folds his hands,<br />

and presses his coffee to his chest,<br />

warming his body<br />

with a prayer.<br />


Bypass<br />

after W.S. MERWIN, Fox Sleep<br />


While hiking in Daley Ranch a few years ago with<br />

my group,<br />

we reached a dusty impasse,<br />

a small hill calling for a climb to the right; also, there was<br />

a path that vanished over a close horizon to the left<br />

where rocks blurred brown and red through<br />

slow growing shadows from afternoon.<br />

Air was still warm and inviting. Some<br />

ascended and marveled at the view,<br />

some went toward the groove of horizon<br />

where clouds rested on the path. At the head I sat<br />

alone<br />

on a rock, and stared at the sky, blueflecked gold.<br />

It was summer’s end. In front of me an abandoned<br />

ranch house,<br />

tattered paint and wood, small animals trotting around, in<br />

and out. Some foraged on the hilltop, some<br />

shadowed the<br />

traveling sun. I and the frail ranch house stayed in place,<br />

silent<br />

and still. Not walking any particular route, I pulled a<br />

small towel<br />

and water bottle to rejuvenate my energy, smoothed<br />

my shirt in hopes of continuing the journey onward or<br />

upward or<br />

somewhere. A crisp breeze blew through. The building<br />

wobbled<br />

and shook. Just then I stood up, determined to finish the<br />

hike.<br />

My knees cracked and ached from the weight. I winced.<br />

In pain I picked up a foot, in pain I trudged on another<br />

path,<br />


after a coyote who, not too far away, looked at me,<br />

teeth flashing like tender pearls. I rough-licked<br />

the edge of my water bottle. Wet and weary<br />

I followed the pad-foot prints of the Wild.<br />


Little Haole Boy’s Family<br />

1.<br />


Homesteads the Moon<br />

In Columbus, Ohio, a man asserts—<br />

if asked by the President—<br />

he will move to the moon with his wife<br />

and two daughters. As his patriotic duty,<br />

he will homestead the moon<br />

on behalf of his beloved country.<br />

The newspaper reporter hides his amusement,<br />

dutifully records the man’s comments.<br />

2.<br />

Mom wasn’t amused. After the reporter left<br />

to file his story, Mom confronted Dad. Dick,<br />

what an absurd idea. What will you think of next?<br />

3.<br />

My sisters rebelled.<br />

They presented a united front, decided<br />

to avoid mentioning there were no boys on the moon.<br />

Jann led with, Father, what about school?<br />

All our friends are here on Earth. How can you<br />

expect us to leave them?<br />

Kit added, And there are no horses on the moon.<br />

Dad typed a list of lunar mares, posted it prominently.<br />

Mom helped my sisters see through his subterfuge.<br />


4.<br />

As Dad finalized plans for leaving Columbus,<br />

Mom interrupted. We can’t go to the moon. I’m pregnant.<br />

You’ll have to drop out of grad school, get a job<br />

that will support a family of five. Dad, joyful<br />

and hoping for a son, replied, Don’t worry.<br />

I’ll get a job with the National Lunar Service.<br />

5.<br />

Mom and Dad divorced when I was 6. My sticking a<br />

bobby pin<br />

in an electrical outlet likely didn’t help their marriage.<br />

Who uses bobby pins on the moon?<br />

Mom moved to a larger lunar settlement<br />

thirty miles away. Jann married Bob, moved out.<br />

Kit found me sobbing inside an unused chalky airlock,<br />

comforted me.<br />

After Bob’s lunar tour of duty was over, Jann and Bob<br />

moved back<br />

to Earth. Three years later Kit followed.<br />

6.<br />

Even with Dad, on the moon I am lost,<br />

feel abandoned. Everything is regolithgray.<br />

I miss water and shades of green,<br />

without knowing what they mean.<br />

The blue marble, so close, taunts me.<br />

Impatient, I wait for the day I grow<br />

into Kit’s spare spacesuit, can use it.<br />

[. . .]<br />


7.<br />

In my forties, Mom told me, I never wanted a son.<br />

I didn’t know how to raise a son, so I hoped for another daughter.<br />

I can’t Grok the pain we caused each other,<br />

but why say such a thing, Mom, why?<br />

8.<br />

Mom interrupted, We can’t go to the moon. I’m pregnant.<br />

Dad, joyful and hoping for a son, replied, Don’t worry.<br />

I’ll get a job with the National Park Service.<br />

We’ll move to Hawai’i instead, build a life there.<br />


Hotel California<br />


You can check out any time you like<br />

but you can never leave.<br />


A golden cloud hovers above the pond<br />

in my backyard it circles like wind-blown<br />

pollen like hundreds of cycles of light<br />

like desire or dream or a swarm of flakes<br />

heat-driven today the hottest since 1877<br />

this summer the hottest on record<br />

in the hive one bee waggles its story<br />

of water falling now bees land lightly<br />

as flecks of ash black and yellow on rocks<br />

on lily pads they crawl over and around<br />

carpet the pond’s perimeter cling<br />

to reeds breaking its surface inch down<br />

the side of every exposed rock the back<br />

of my shirt wet with sweat sticks to my skin<br />

and somewhere in the sage brush and scrub oak<br />

and yarrow perhaps in the crook of a plain<br />

brown branch in the hills behind my house<br />

bees furiously fan their wings over drops<br />

of moisture cooling the hive and the heat<br />

says Welcome to Hotel California.<br />


I Am the Ash Keeper<br />


I drove Patsy to the Anza Borrego desert<br />

during the drought year that marked her decline.<br />

Parking outside an arroyo, I helped her climb<br />

a dirt mound beside the dry stream. She sat<br />

on a rock in a clump of boulders. Her feet rested<br />

on a stone slab twice the size of a Frisbee.<br />

Behind her a Desert Agave stood. Its stalk was<br />

more than five feet. Beside it grew the Cat’s Claw.<br />

Its fire-red petals matched the sun’s color.<br />

Blooming, a yucca stood on her right, and winding<br />

up the hillside, the stream bed vanished into oaks<br />

while clouds thickened over Granite Peak.<br />

Crossing her arms over the blue flowers<br />

embroidered on her white blouse, she looked<br />

skyward, her mouth slightly open.<br />

As the raw, hot wind blew sand over her sandals,<br />

the cancer and heat worked together to darken<br />

the circles under her eyes. Nibbling on her lip,<br />

she revealed her beauty, as red as her blood<br />

and brown as her eyes.<br />

Yet, each day, she grew slimmer as if a thirst<br />

thinned her as it did to the migrants crossing<br />

the desert. Because water became holy, feeding life,<br />

Patsy saw the dried flowers and yellow weeds<br />

as a promise of life after rain. I watched her<br />

as a shaft of sunlight crossed the arroyo below.<br />

Higher up, buzzards rode the updraft, and<br />

sometimes, gusts of wind shook the leaves<br />

above her, causing dust to settle on her hair.<br />


As my gaze returned to her, I could hardly look<br />

without thinking about the smooth pastures<br />

of her thighs or the blue veins crossing her ankles.<br />

Barefoot when she died, she left a rustling sound<br />

of the breeze passing through leaves.<br />

A grayness seeped into her cheeks as her mother<br />

and blood sister washed her according to their rituals.<br />

Today, I placed Patsy’s ashes into her curio,<br />

and around the base, I wrapped her leather belt<br />

with an image of Smokey Bear stamped<br />

onto her bronze buckle. Holding a shovel, he stands<br />

beside a campfire. I hung her prayer beads on the urn.<br />

Near it, I placed a picture of her and remembered<br />

kissing her cheek when she sat pale and lovely in the<br />

desert.<br />


In Heaven<br />

T. R. POULSON<br />

God serves the best burgers, beer and wings<br />

where fans watch games on windless afternoons<br />

among smoky suns on Sundays. My cousin<br />

Ken strums a harp that glows, silver. It’s strings<br />

warm his fingers as he belts out rap songs<br />

by Eminem, remembered karaoke tunes<br />

we sang once, broke and drunk. He’s still tone<br />

deaf, even dead. He’s still so fit, so young.<br />

He sets his harp on a maple bench. Looks down<br />

at storms and games below the heaven room, finds<br />

me playing pick-up hoops off Arlington<br />

Street. Curves of shots and takes. Walter Payton<br />

joins Ken. They exchange names, shake hands,<br />

shoot the shit. Walter’s harp looks like one<br />

from a claw machine. Plastic, orange and green<br />

with rubber bands. Ken says, Your poster hangs<br />

tattered over my cousin’s bed. Still, you run<br />

in her dreams. They bet my game, and the scene<br />

breaks down. I can’t say who picks me to win<br />

and who bets the other team. I’ve found every fan,<br />

Walter says. I’ve watched your cousin train<br />

on hills she named for me. I’ve seen her in wind<br />

when losing. She loses you in storms and drains<br />

eddied in ice. I’ve seen her work, and cry. Again,<br />

again we play in angled light, wet with wound<br />

and want. I don’t know which dead man will win<br />

the harp bet. One ghost will have two, and one<br />

will have none. It doesn’t matter, for in heaven<br />


harpstands abound. They can be ordered tuned<br />

for queens, or strung with phantom pain, pre-owned<br />

or new. Some are sublime, beautiful, and cleaned<br />

by satin rags. Others have been strummed and worn<br />

until their silver strings dangle frayed and stained<br />

by hands that couldn’t stop playing, broken<br />

with their own songs, their fingers stripped to bone.<br />


Say Hi to Paris for Me<br />


Two hours before the sun comes up,<br />

you’ve already been in the sky—<br />

flying over the seas<br />

is no longer remarkable.<br />

In Paris, it is another false spring,<br />

a crisp after-summer<br />

before the leaves turn gold.<br />

How could you not lift<br />

your cup to such a departure?<br />

Morning leaves even Paris<br />

illuminated.<br />

The same sun will also come for me—<br />

insisting on daylight,<br />

introducing the local weather.<br />

It is expected, of course<br />

I will greet them, politely<br />

adjourning the red-eyed hours—<br />

my arms, winging toward the alarm clock,<br />

as if reaching for you.<br />



I want to stop pretending<br />

we have anywhere else to go<br />

Sitting in a wide straddle on the floor,<br />

hands suspended over the floral carpet,<br />

today I cut my nails. Watched slivers of myself<br />

hang glide to the floor. Pinched the torn paper<br />

towel corners together, as if fashioning a purse<br />

out of puff pastry. And for the first time,<br />

rather than throw the whole delicacy in the trash,<br />

I dropped my pouch into the compost bin.<br />

I would have done it sooner but my city—<br />

sanctioned green-waste container is new and now<br />

so is my ritual. I once read a book about death<br />

and funerals and how traditions change across cultures.<br />

How in the Western World we have turned dying<br />

into a for-profit industry. But some states<br />

like Colorado and Washington are experimenting<br />

with human composting. That is, undertakers lay<br />

expired bodies in a vessel with wood chips, alfalfa,<br />

and straw until microbes turn everything inside,<br />

person and all, into a cubic yard of soil. Now<br />

I can’t stop thinking of myself as fertilizer. Imagining<br />

plants I might sustain as characters like Fred Armisen<br />

and Carrie Brownstein on the episode of Portlandia<br />

when they ask their server about the organic<br />

chicken on the menu. "Did she have a good life,<br />

before she turned into soil? Was she a freerange<br />

human?" Please, if you see them,<br />

tell them yes. I did. I was. And turning nothing<br />

into something was my favorite thing to do.<br />


Grazing the Charred Sky<br />


I had a beige Infiniti left behind by my father,<br />

a car that professed to all the Asians,<br />

and only to them, that we’re doing just fine<br />

with money—it was the last thing father left me<br />

(though he didn’t mean to)<br />

of any material worth, and it worthed less<br />

with each passing minute.<br />

But my friends and I enjoyed<br />

the car’s moon roof—we burned the interior<br />

as we missed the roof’s opening,<br />

raising our hands like we never did in class<br />

to flick ashes, as the car straddled<br />

the vanishing lane of the California 1 highway,<br />

listening to the heartbeat of the ocean.<br />

I couldn’t get cigarettes then—<br />

I was too young to buy them,<br />

so I traded other things for the spark,<br />

and I liked older men for a long time<br />

—longer than I should have—<br />

because they had brought me fire.<br />

Only if I could be sought by what I exhaled—<br />

I’d be happy, I thought.<br />

Know a family, know a life like the moon<br />

that leaked into the world<br />

because its dreaming was too full.<br />

Every cigarette I smoked lit the cold air<br />

crackling with little fireworks,<br />

ashes always falling on my face—<br />


vicious confetti stings<br />

from the cigarettes that didn’t quite point<br />

outside the moon roof, their flame-heads<br />

exhausting their passion against the blurring wind.<br />

Spat out<br />

into a salvage yard, several tickets<br />

and a hearing later, I moved the last<br />

of my belongings out of the beige Infiniti.<br />

As I touched the burnt out<br />

stars of my moon roof, the bumps<br />

of the no-tomorrow gall<br />

—smudged, peeled—<br />

still throbbed, and oh—<br />

why was I still singed by its reckless joy?<br />


Reconstructing the Moon<br />


I’m in a waiting room<br />

looking at photos<br />

of microscopic cancer cells<br />

on my phone<br />

while I wait to be called<br />

for another biopsy.<br />

They’re almost beautiful.<br />

Like the roots of a tree<br />

or a brain<br />

or an alien creature.<br />

Tentacles spiraling<br />

toward another galaxy.<br />

Atomic explosions<br />

blooming like dahlias.<br />

Some in a tango<br />

with another cell.<br />

Each wearing a flouncy gown.<br />

They suck each other’s faces<br />

like they’re starving.<br />

Last week, I watched a screen<br />

as the tech slid the probe<br />

over and around my breast,<br />

measuring the size of each lump.<br />

It looked like footage of the moon landing.<br />

I pictured my left breast<br />

floating away from me,<br />

lost in the cosmos forever.<br />

And now they suspect<br />

the right breast as well.<br />

The nurse calls my name.<br />

I follow her into the darkened exam room,<br />

undress and lie down on the table.<br />

The screen is shadows and static<br />


as the tech slides the probe<br />

over my breast.<br />

But I’m thinking about yesterday,<br />

the surgeon’s wrinkled face,<br />

how calm he was,<br />

how he listened.<br />

How thoroughly he answered my questions,<br />

never once eyeing the door.<br />

I laughed when he asked me<br />

if I wanted reconstruction.<br />

Reconstruction?<br />

I don’t have money for that.<br />

I’m just trying to . . .ya know?<br />

I threw my arms up,<br />

shaking my head.<br />

It’s covered, he said.<br />

You don’t have to decide<br />

right now.<br />

I imagine Dr. Lee in the operating room,<br />

scooping out the cancer like melon balls,<br />

filling in the holes with silicone,<br />

putting the nipples back<br />

where they belong,<br />

pulling the skin taut,<br />

checking for symmetry<br />

before sewing them up.<br />

The tech repositions me<br />

on the table.<br />

Another doctor appears<br />

explaining the procedure.<br />

Several markers will be injected<br />

to indicate where the cancer is.<br />

She sticks a needle into the side of my breast,<br />

Can you feel that?<br />

No, I tell her, I can’t feel a thing.<br />


<strong>San</strong> Juan Capistrano<br />

Swallows Parade, <strong>2023</strong><br />


Homeless live like fugitives at end of block under freeway<br />

overpass, slink past<br />

averted owner’s gaze in furtive morning/evening twilight.<br />

Glimpse of wearied<br />

eyes when caught. Did their ancestors walk this silvertarred<br />

path before<br />

declaration of independence by white man, rationalization<br />

of right to rule<br />

this western land, execute manifest destiny? Centuries-old<br />

pricklecone pine<br />

at corner of Fire and Stone flings its seeded fruit likes<br />

stones of accusation<br />

into path of passing cars—hope of future crushed to<br />

powder beneath forest<br />

scent. Swing set in playground built atop rubble of ancient<br />

kíicha village, forgotten<br />

place of rest, empty except when wind kicks up, lifts<br />

rounded plastic seats—<br />

spirits of displaced elders rocking, rocking, while water<br />

from mountain<br />

stream wanders lost beside I-5’s retaining wall, shrouded<br />

behind six foot<br />

tall chain link fence, thorning vines, masking morning<br />

glories. At midnight<br />


they denude potted orange at base of drive, turn on tap at<br />

side of house.<br />

Security cam sings alarm, catches gray figure drinking<br />

deep from garden hose,<br />

dousing hands, face, donning fresh T-shirt. Ghostly bodies<br />

fade from view<br />

as though they never were, same as cliff swallows driven<br />

from Mission nests.<br />



The Fifth Largest Country<br />

If the world’s migrant population formed<br />

a new nation, it would be the fifth largest.<br />

—Pew Research Center<br />

It might evolve its own language,<br />

like the language of that small<br />

Amazonian tribe I’ve read about<br />

who live without a future tense.<br />

Their action words inflected<br />

with one long, sad vowel.<br />

A language where every verb<br />

would be intransitive because<br />

the world itself is intransigent.<br />

It would have a vocabulary<br />

with no words for doorbell<br />

or porchlight, for houseguests.<br />

For holiday or leftovers.<br />

Every day they’d unpack<br />

their hopes and roll them<br />

back up at night. If they<br />

had a flag, its symbol might<br />

be a patch of accordion wire<br />

or a single star winking out.<br />

They’d long for storefronts<br />

proclaiming their name to<br />

the world, for streets lined<br />

with houses, for cars whose<br />

headlights stream through<br />

the dark like a river they<br />

will never have to cross.<br />



Special Section Editor:<br />



S<br />

ome poems in this special section were created in workshops<br />

made possible by a generous grant from Poets & Writers, and led<br />

by Jim Moreno at the All Tribes Charter School in Valley Center.<br />



Cherokee Nation<br />

The Law Tells Us Something about<br />

Family that We Already Practiced<br />

Not a ship but a sketch of a ship<br />

We looked at one another and said<br />

‚Community‛<br />

In every language we knew<br />

We looked and said<br />

‚Call the wind‛<br />

‚Laugh‖with‖me‛‖we said<br />

And we meant it<br />

This is not a hazelnut but a reminder of hazelnuts<br />

We can wonder together<br />

what hazelnuts know about math and sidewalks<br />

what they can teach us about weaving<br />

This is not a star but the hand of a child<br />

We navigate by stars and on this hill now<br />

here<br />

every hand together makes the constellation<br />

Home<br />

A place we have to keep making<br />

An open joy that we have to tend<br />

Together we have to tend it<br />


Pueblo Harvest Dance<br />

for Vences Tafoya<br />


I saw a wall of young warriors dancing towards my girl<br />

child & I—drum, step, drum, step—dancing towards us—<br />

drum, step, drum, step—avoiding eye contact as a sign of<br />

respect—drum, step, drum, step—lean, muscled torsos<br />

blanketed‖ in‖ summer‖ noon‖ sweat―drum,‖ step,‖ drum,‖<br />

step—sea shells like tin bells singing songs of MotherEarth<br />

and Grandmother Ocean—drum, step, drum, step—<br />

blanketing the people with blessings, effort, power of their<br />

sacrifice—drum, step, drum, step—dancing for the People,<br />

dancing in gratitude for the corn, dancing for the blessings<br />

of Mother Earth—drum step—kind, polka-dotted clowns,<br />

bodies painted white with basketball round black polka<br />

dots from head to toe, found missing regalia, cared for the<br />

young, the tired, the tousled—drum step—the thirsty, the<br />

old, the lost, and the ones in fear—drum step. . .<br />

Imagine if once a year we all danced—drum step—all of us<br />

from all tribes danced—drum, step—imagine if all of us<br />

danced in the Plaza of Love: the weak and the young—<br />

drum step—and the old and the confused were not<br />

criticized or preyed upon—drum, step—but were prayed<br />

for and comforted—drum, step, drum step—given<br />

strawberries & snow cones—drum, step, drum step—<br />

given words of encouragement and love by Clowns of<br />

Connection—drum, step, drum step—imagine all of us<br />

dancing with ancestors’ blessings, just one time, each<br />

year—drum step—to remind us of Jemez—drum, step—to<br />

remind us of <strong>San</strong>to Domingo—drum, step—to remind us<br />

to be kind, to remind us there is only one race, one raza, the<br />

human race; to remind us we are not alone, to remind us to<br />

forgive, to remind us to love—drum, step, drum, step,<br />

drum step—<br />


Imagine, if you will, that is what used to be—drum, step—<br />

what was only—drum, step—and now what continues<br />

here in the Fiesta of Gratitude, this Festival of Love—<br />

drum, step, drum, step—five days ago Jemez Pueblo<br />

drums were here—drum, step, sea shells like tin bells<br />

singing songs of Mother Earth and the blessings of corn,<br />

right here, right here, right here, in front of me. . .<br />


Another Bridge to Cross<br />


Chamarro (Guam)<br />

My sisters, Ruby, and I have a guardian angel<br />

picture hanging crookedly over our bed<br />

A translucent white-winged being<br />

guiding two children with bare feet<br />

over a rickety, splintered old bridge<br />

I feel like I am<br />

all of its parts, this unfamiliar imagery<br />

The dark ominous forest<br />

The broken bridge<br />

The rough waters<br />

flowing below<br />

I have often been lost<br />

without parent or guardian<br />

to watch over me<br />

Certainly, never a white-faced guardian<br />

At this point<br />

I have no experience of white people<br />

Only those who wanted to buy me at<br />

the hospital for a few cents<br />

This posed a real threat to a child who does not<br />

understand the nuances of a joke<br />

I can still see those few pennies embedded in her hand<br />

and have already lost a brother to the social workers<br />

and suspicious that those white dresses are responsible for<br />

separating our family<br />

I imagine myself turning back to look for help<br />

not knowing what help actually was<br />

desperately seeking refuge from the harsh world<br />

If I could only get across that bridge<br />

to the next safe place<br />

As the water rises, I lose my breath<br />

No one to help me weather a storm of this magnitude<br />

drowning in a well of lonely<br />


If You Knew My Culture<br />

If you knew my culture<br />

you’d understand why<br />

I do the things I do,<br />

why I say<br />

what I say, why I think<br />

the way I think.<br />

If you knew my culture<br />

you’d listen to me and<br />

help me.<br />

If you knew my culture.<br />


La Jolla Reservation<br />

I Am a Native<br />


Pauma Reservation<br />

I am a girl<br />

who will not<br />

cut her hair.<br />

I am a Native.<br />

I am a girl<br />

who will not<br />

lower her voice.<br />


Dirt Bikes<br />


Pauma Reservation<br />

Dirt bikes are fast,<br />

Dirt bikes are fun.<br />

You weave and dodge<br />

through problems,<br />

just like life.<br />

Dirt bikes for life.<br />

I Am Native<br />


<strong>San</strong> Pasqual Reservation<br />

I won’t lower my voice.<br />

I will not stay quiet.<br />

I will not cut my hair.<br />

The hawk is my ancestor.<br />

My ancestors watch over me.<br />

I am Native.<br />

The Big Horn Sheep helped my ancestors.<br />

My dress is a Mojave tradition.<br />

My land is healthy.<br />

I am Native.<br />


Life<br />


All Tribes<br />

The hill I climb is steep,<br />

full of rocks and trees.<br />

I must dodge and weave,<br />

all to reach the peak.<br />

The Game of Peon<br />


Pala Reservation<br />

As the fire starts, the game of Peon starts.<br />

As the fire burns, we sing beautiful songs.<br />

Our songs are sacred.<br />

We sing for our family and ancestors.<br />

As the fire rises. the voices get louder.<br />

Some people play for fun, sometimes for money.<br />

I play for my family.<br />

The reason I play for my family is to carry on<br />

the culture and the family tree.<br />

As the game comes to an end, the fire dies down.<br />


If You Knew My Culture<br />


Pauma Reservation<br />

Being Native American means<br />

keeping your hair sacred.<br />

When men Bird Sing,<br />

they are telling a story and blessing the ground.<br />

Burning sage means<br />

you’re blessing an area or person.<br />

Cutting your hair for a passed away person<br />

is showing respect.<br />

Feel Art<br />


Pauma Reservation<br />

I wish my art<br />

was blowing in the wind,<br />

just like how<br />

it makes me grin<br />

when at my desk<br />

drawing away<br />

I feel at peace<br />

and stress goes away<br />

for days.<br />



Agua Caliente<br />

I Am a Native Girl<br />

I am a Native girl<br />

I go to a Native school<br />

I have Native friends<br />

I have a Native family<br />

I feel sad that I’m Native<br />

My brother makes me sad<br />

My heart makes me happy<br />

I love my brother, I miss him<br />

Too much<br />



Captive Equilibrium<br />

in pockets of phenomenology<br />

caught up to<br />

collaboration with<br />

slows down<br />

crosses the finish line<br />

the sound of sunshine<br />

makes this still like extreme<br />

against the profile of native birds<br />

summer filled with conceit<br />

a balance between opposing forces<br />

outsider creative<br />

sometimes social mostly<br />

not so much grounded in nature<br />

plays the fire with emblazoned<br />

words penitent on certain days<br />

the sense being mostly inside and<br />

outside myself<br />

beyond light speed<br />

some insightful impressionist<br />

makes me look up I lose my place<br />

become like water<br />

kind words float amongst the crowd<br />

when I’m invisible where it takes me<br />

who would know<br />

unimaginable myth tracks my steps<br />

as a divine windswept<br />

appendage speaks out<br />

in‖enamored‖tones‖around‖‚devil’s thumb’‛<br />

with an interstellar swoon<br />

I live with illuminated folk<br />

there’s a hole in my pocket<br />


tend to run in the middle of the pack<br />

what wild horses taught me<br />

the soft notes of murmuring rain<br />

through the pepper tree teaches me<br />

intuition<br />

how the end of things bring<br />

new beginnings becoming the whole<br />

wide world embedded in all things<br />

devil’s thumb: a landmark on the<br />

Western States 100-mile Ultra Marathon<br />


When You Return<br />


The land will be waiting<br />

& the ancestors will rejoice<br />

the last flower will come into full bloom<br />

water will taste sweet<br />

full bottles of Sprite and 7-Up<br />

sit at the table<br />

on a smooth vinyl tablecloth<br />

with drawings of rich fruit<br />

milpa will be harvested<br />

chapulines too<br />

the earth ready with offerings to you<br />

cacao will be roasted over crackling fire<br />

and clayudas for your heart’s desire<br />

old faded photo albums<br />

wait to be opened<br />

with the faces of people who love you<br />

the old street dogs are<br />

waiting for a friendly pet<br />

as church bells ring<br />

calling people to mass<br />

your home is not only one place<br />

but the homes of the families who raised you<br />

the homes of people who claim you<br />

you will be invited in wherever you go<br />

because of the people you carry with you<br />

y porque vives tu vida haciendo las cosas de todo corazón<br />

nada te faltará *<br />

* and because you live your life doing things with all your heart<br />

you will lack nothing.<br />



Special Section Editors:<br />




S<br />

ome of the poems in this special section were written in<br />

workshops conducted at the Vista Detention Center, under the<br />

instruction of Joan Gerstein. This community outreach effort was<br />

made possible by a generous grant from the Poets & Writers<br />

Foundation.<br />


The Oath<br />


Obligating our very lives to something bigger than<br />

ourselves<br />

Something we believe in<br />

Something we believe, to our soul, is worthy of a potential<br />

sacrifice of ourself<br />

But on the other side of that oath<br />

lies a whole new war<br />

One we don’t train for<br />

One we aren’t briefed on<br />

One equally dangerous<br />

On the other side of that oath<br />

is where we realize just how much we really were only a<br />

last name and last four<br />

Only a military asset<br />

On the other side of that oath<br />

is where so many of us crumble<br />

Scarred<br />

Traumatized<br />

Unsupported<br />

A burden<br />

Lost<br />

On the other side of that oath<br />

On the other side of that oath<br />

On the other side of that oath<br />

Service before self<br />

But when self is nearly destroyed we no longer feel<br />

capable of service<br />

Where is the oath that was made to us<br />

It is still<br />

on the other side of that oath<br />


GOAT<br />


Greatest of all time<br />

A few come to mind<br />

Only one for me<br />

jumping from the free throw line<br />

Open for debate<br />

but you better have facts<br />

Points rebounds championships<br />

you know stats<br />

Always on time<br />

when it comes down to the clock<br />

he was never afraid<br />

to take the difficult shot<br />

To me there’s just one<br />

in the game of basketball<br />

Your Airness, 23<br />

Michael Jordan<br />


The Healing Platoon<br />


It was Uncle Sam calling out my name.<br />

My future was to be a soldier.<br />

To be a Veteran, Honorable Discharge with MST, *<br />

45 years ago.<br />

With no explanation, no understanding of who I am.<br />

With visions of our flag, and marching cadences<br />

in my head.<br />

Endurance of my training will push to survive,<br />

Shhhh, or you’ll get no respect.<br />

Decades pass, just proud to survive. Not once, twice,<br />

three, nor four times, all five, misunderstood for far<br />

too long.<br />

I’m born again. This time I’m not alone. Thank you, God,<br />

for bringing me back to my path.<br />

We are One, sharing our stories. It’s ok to be proud,<br />

my brothers and sisters.<br />

Thank you for your service, a Veterans treatment plan<br />

begins. My backpack filled with the correct tools<br />

to find myself walking tall, getting sharper,<br />

a place of healing where we meet.<br />

Survivor no more.<br />

I look forward. I look left and right.<br />

That’s me back in Bravo Company, moving on.<br />

I am loved, Army strong. Now march! Go out and bring<br />

home<br />

another soldier.<br />

Thank you all for your service.<br />

I am so thankful to my mental health team.<br />

They are the healing platoon.<br />

*<br />

MST: Military Sexual Assault<br />


Night<br />


The night of the day my son died,<br />

there were no stars to gaze,<br />

no moon to light the dark,<br />

no wind against my skin,<br />

no music entering my ears.<br />

I wish I could have gone with him.<br />

I’m partly there, as many times I return.<br />

No stars.<br />

No light.<br />

No wind.<br />

No music.<br />

The daily struggle to go on<br />

is fueled by love from others.<br />

Their belief in going on<br />

carries me through darkness.<br />

Not all is lost.<br />

It took time and work,<br />

lots of tears.<br />

I can’t believe it:<br />

I saw a star,<br />

I caught a glimpse of a crescent moon,<br />

the wind brushed my sole,<br />

a bird sang a song of hope.<br />


Just Because<br />


I’m standing still<br />

doesn’t mean my mind does not give guidance<br />

and my spirit sits in silence.<br />

Just because<br />

I’m treading water<br />

doesn’t mean I can’t swim life’s seas<br />

and storms won’t uproot trees.<br />

Just because<br />

I’m on solid ground<br />

doesn’t mean the sand won’t be washed away<br />

and loamy soil beneath it lays.<br />

Just because<br />

I’m honor-bound<br />

doesn’t mean trials won’t beset me<br />

and cause an odd destiny.<br />

Just because<br />

I’m falling fast<br />

doesn’t mean years are flying past<br />

and I will finish last.<br />


An Ordinary Guy<br />


How will life go on when I die?<br />

I have to do my part to make it right<br />

like everyone else on this planet.<br />

There’s no one perfect in this world.<br />

On unbroken ground here I rest,<br />

not like you but I did my best.<br />

Tremble<br />


River banks are moved<br />

not by some enormous wave<br />

but many small tugs<br />


Ode to My Skin<br />


I love my skin<br />

So soft<br />

without a crease<br />

like fresh hundred-dollar bills from the mint<br />

My overcoat’s caramel-colored<br />

Lush as sable<br />

like sand dunes of the Sahara<br />

But wait let me tell you<br />

I have to love my skin<br />

because so many hate it<br />

I lather with soap<br />

rub with lotion<br />

soo it can shine bright<br />

like a brown diamond<br />

in the eyes of the racist<br />

You see<br />

my melanin is beautiful<br />


Nascar 95<br />


Lightning is fast<br />

Lightning is mean<br />

It can be scary<br />

Shine like bling<br />

There are songs about it that people sing<br />

Also makes some of us howl and scream<br />

It comes before thunder during the storm<br />

Makes darkness plunder<br />

Given me inspiration<br />

thrill and wonder<br />

chills at the flash<br />

Being first is<br />

being<br />

fast<br />


Fate<br />


The screams of a soul’s pain,<br />

eternal strife aboard a pitch-black train,<br />

the beast sits upon the track.<br />

No matter where I go<br />

or what I do,<br />

I am controlled by an evil puppeteer.<br />

Meth’s his name,<br />

misery’s his game.<br />

He wipes away my tear.<br />

You try to cry<br />

but his claws are sly,<br />

always giving you an answer,<br />

that telltale sign,<br />

eyes evil shine.<br />

Of course, you think you’re fine.<br />

All of my life’s loves,<br />

the shores of Styx,<br />

blend together as the needle pricks.<br />

I have no control.<br />

I know only hate.<br />

I am only an insect<br />

about to be crushed<br />

on the windshield of fate.<br />



Cross<br />

Oh Lord<br />

Thy Father<br />

who has<br />

given us<br />

His only begotten son. Your love is<br />

warmth like the sun. Please allow<br />

the Holy Spirit to run through my veins.<br />

Only greatness can come from praying<br />

to Your name.<br />

With You,<br />

everything<br />

is possible.<br />

I will stay<br />

close to You<br />

at all costs.<br />

I will pray<br />

and serve<br />

the cross.<br />


Steel Resolve<br />


Steel adorns fixtures inside this prison<br />

while slamming metal plays the soundtrack<br />

Cells packed with untapped potential.<br />

Letters, phone calls, reminders of what’s missing.<br />

Uncertainty looms, dark clouds that never disperse.<br />

We hold on to who we are, muddled with who we<br />

want to be.<br />

Ending scripted before it ever begins.<br />

Slave to our laundry list of sins.<br />


What Writing Means to Me<br />


I’ve journaled for most of my life & found it was an escape<br />

after a long day while underway.<br />

My entries were mostly about the day, Port & Starboard<br />

watches, Vertrep etc.<br />

It wasn’t until I enrolled in Professor Lober’s class did I<br />

realize that poetry helps connect with me. By doing this I<br />

can say things without speaking. Sharing my truth, being<br />

vulnerable & letting others in.<br />

My deepest relationships are rooted in acceptance.<br />

Sometimes writing is all it takes.<br />


A Peace You Can Feel<br />


To walk among them, these near immortal giants of<br />

nature, and breathe in the air fresh from mother earth’s<br />

lungs—this is where we begin and where our healing song<br />

is sung.<br />

For this is where one can escape the chaos of this modern<br />

world’s rat race, for it is here among nature we find<br />

rejuvenation and grace.<br />

For it is among the mist and fog where heavy is the air, we<br />

can taste the dew of the morning and be freed from the<br />

sorrowful hearts mournful care.<br />

It is among these tower giants, the living sentinels of our<br />

planet and keeper of her history of ancient days, where we<br />

can be at peace, finding again grounding and reprieve<br />

from the hustle and bustle within the maze.<br />

She will take from you your depression of yesterday’s<br />

sorrow, your heartache and your pain, your anxiety of<br />

tomorrow, as in her flowing streams it is all washed down<br />

the drain.<br />

So you will experience what it is like to heal, to finally let<br />

go and be at peace in your soul and again whole, filled<br />

with a completeness not obtained by any meal, to<br />

experience the ethereal beauty almost unreal and this, this<br />

is what the Healer came to feel.<br />

For it is here deep among her silent groves where the air is<br />

thick and still, you can start to recover, recover purpose<br />

and will, the will to not only survive but to again flourish<br />

and thrive.<br />



My Writing<br />

My writing is always words and beats<br />

to share with you my being<br />

I use the sounds from deep inside<br />

My soul is what you’re seeing<br />

I cannot paint, nor can I sing Still,<br />

try to reach your mind And<br />

maybe make a moment<br />

with thoughts that help us bind<br />

Expressing feelings keeps me sane<br />

and drives away the dark My<br />

words are just a little stream<br />

trickling through the park<br />

I’m Stone<br />


I joined the Army to go to war<br />

I went to war and came back less than whole<br />

I search and search<br />

but I’m yet to find the missing parts<br />

I find myself, but less than whole<br />

Who knows but someday soon<br />

I may stumble and group it this and that<br />

and still long to find the missing parts<br />

But I wait and wait to find the missing parts<br />


My Child<br />


A laugh and a giggle,<br />

a chuckle but with a smile.<br />

You run and scream, but not in fright, just pure delight.<br />

You’re happy, you’re safe, you’re free!<br />

To be an eye inside your mind,<br />

I often wonder what I’d find,<br />

but for now I’m content knowing you’re delighted with<br />

my company.<br />

Your face says it for the world to see:<br />

I’m happy you chose me.<br />


Peace is the Purpose<br />

Purpose is what we need to feel.<br />

When we return, what do we bring?<br />

Pain and anger. . .a warrior’s kneel.<br />

Hearts and minds. . .in a sling,<br />

though across the bridge of treachery lies truth.<br />

The march continues—we must believe!<br />

What is in our path is our youth.<br />

Ahead is peace that we can achieve.<br />



Cirrus the AI Authors Papers<br />

on navigating the ungendered pronoun.<br />

They compose paintings of intention, nuance.<br />

Review films,<br />

then give me the name of my older brother<br />

I decide I never wanted.<br />

Suffering’s other possible lives.<br />

Cirrus, enough of my others that aren’t.<br />

Every second I branch into a million hypotheticals,<br />

who I would be if I were everyone.<br />

Cirrus, you only give by taking my ignorance<br />

that this is the best of all possible worlds.<br />

This star stuff molting from my fingers.<br />

This ordained fireskin of opals I’ve worn all my life,<br />

a street common thing now I wish to god<br />

I never knew.<br />


Feral, But Not Unloved<br />


I hear sometimes they call me a worthless feral stray<br />

just because I have no home, a loving place to stay.<br />

I sleep wherever I can find and scrounge for every meal<br />

but if you feed and water me, with you I’ll make a deal.<br />

I’ll watch for mice that could damage your nice house.<br />

I may like to sleep but I’m far from a louse.<br />

Please don’t get angry o’er a dead animal I’ve gifted.<br />

I’m just saying thank you for my spirits you lifted.<br />

You showed me you care that I have what I need,<br />

that perhaps my short life matters indeed.<br />

I don’t feel so homeless as I make nightly rounds<br />

knowing there’s a place where friendship abounds.<br />

It gives me a reason to keep my fur clean<br />

in case there’s a chance on your banister I’m seen.<br />

I may not seem friendly or respond to a name,<br />

but you touched my heart all the same.<br />


No Spoken Word Was Heard<br />


No spoken word was heard.<br />

The sound of silence was so loud.<br />

The ringing continues constantly in my head.<br />

The scars are all within.<br />

No one knows my story.<br />

And many don’t really care.<br />

Stars and stripes the flag,<br />

I held so proud.<br />

The sound of silence is so loud.<br />

No spoken words were heard.<br />

Barbed wire seals my mouth,<br />

surrounds my heart,<br />

as I stand apart.<br />

No spoken word was heard.<br />

The ringing in my ears,<br />

so loud.<br />

Lord, may I get some sleep tonight<br />

or take my heart.<br />

No spoken word<br />

was heard. . .<br />



I Write Like How I Talk<br />

from words out of thin air with each breath<br />

the artists way fragments run-ons become<br />

worthy opponents make sense somehow<br />

from the brain inside the heart<br />

from the flight-line to the landing<br />

chalk it up to another conscious thought on a<br />

flight deck to share with one another with god<br />

intentions awakened from a lucid dream of my<br />

own imagination<br />

a world in which we all care about everything<br />

conceiving more than ourselves<br />

the honor guard of one love<br />


Triggered<br />


‚I’m triggered,‛‖some‖say<br />

at the mere hint of discomfort,<br />

as though the declaration itself will shame others<br />

into behavior that’s more accommodating.<br />

First jump, Airborne school, Fort Benning, 1988:<br />

500+ soldiers, less than 20 are women.<br />

The best fitting equipment is a men’s small;<br />

the best we can do is try to fit into the men’s world<br />

in body and mind.<br />

I jump out the side door of the C130<br />

into the prop blast.<br />

It hurls me across the sky<br />

like a potato chip thrown out a car window<br />

on the freeway.<br />

My men’s Kevlar helmet blows off,<br />

dangling behind my head<br />

held by the chin strap<br />

that has slipped across my neck.<br />

The parachute lines are twisted into a thick rope<br />

between my head and my helmet,<br />

tightening the chin strap across my throat.<br />

I grab the lines and kick<br />

bicycling myself in a circle, untwisting the lines<br />

until I can breathe.<br />

Stay calm, stay calm. . .<br />

ETS, 1990, still having the desire to fly.<br />

I’m at Otay Lakes, indulging in freefall<br />

every chance I can afford, and even when I can’t afford it.<br />

A woman is visiting; she’s in town on business.<br />

She states that some people travel with their golf clubs—<br />

she travels with her parachute.<br />

She’s tiny but mighty.<br />


She exits the airplane, but her harness doesn’t tighten<br />

enough for her small body.<br />

It sits crooked on her back, causing her to spin, faster and<br />

faster<br />

until she’s in a flat spin.<br />

When it’s time to pull her chute,<br />

the centrifugal force has her hands<br />

flung hopelessly outward<br />

unable to reach her rip cord.<br />

She manages to deploy her chute<br />

just in time to slow her down<br />

before hitting a pile of soft sand,<br />

saved by fate or the luck of the draw.<br />

‚I’m‖triggered‛‖is‖a‖flat‖spin,<br />

a potato chip out a car window<br />

a separation from a world<br />

where nothing fits,<br />

the only hope to ride it out<br />

and try to survive.<br />



To Live in the N(ever) O(ver) W(ar)<br />

Now,<br />

it wakes with me.<br />

Following footsteps<br />

pacing to the shower.<br />

Tracking sand and mud<br />

everywhere.<br />

I close my eyes<br />

to the facing mirror.<br />

Reminded,<br />

it’s done.<br />

Now,<br />

we try to talk<br />

above the past,<br />

it’s past we always<br />

come back to.<br />

To mud and sand.<br />

To red eyes.<br />

To the facing mirror.<br />

Now,<br />

it sits shotgun.<br />

Mumbling mistreatments<br />

through glass.<br />

Babbling berating beneath<br />

everything.<br />

In the mud.<br />

Always beneath anything alive.<br />

Now,<br />

we meditate.<br />

Together.<br />

A forced relaxation.<br />

Breathing. In.<br />

A welcomed labor. Out.<br />

A birthright.<br />


Now,<br />

hatching its escape.<br />

It’s bad breath<br />

and cursing,<br />

fighting to remain,<br />

fighting but losing.<br />

Only breathing<br />

remains.<br />

Through discipline<br />

is freedom.<br />

Now,<br />

my wife’s-friend’s-coworker’s-husband<br />

asks me.<br />

‚Have‖you‖ever‖killed‖anyone?‛<br />

Now,<br />

we answer:<br />

‚The only animals I’ve ever hunted and<br />

killed‖were‖people.‛<br />

Now,<br />

we cackle in the silence.<br />

Some say that<br />

the war<br />

is never<br />

over.<br />


Sticky<br />


I am existing in a sea of peanut butter. Grief makes every<br />

step a sticky quicksand struggle.<br />

Fear of loss and fear of winning are equally paralyzing.<br />

Thoughts of real events morph into scarier nightmares that<br />

follow me through the day like little pixie vampires,<br />

sapping my strength as I trudge through molasses days.<br />

Bright spots of marshmallow fluff like friendship, God,<br />

twelve steps, dogs, beaches, sunshine, therapy, self-care,<br />

but still sticky, slow.<br />

Walking, one-step-at-a-time, resting every once in a while<br />

to wash my feet in the ocean and walk easier for a while.<br />

Cold, wet feet don’t get so sticky.<br />

Thank God for the ocean.<br />



Mind’s Flashing Lights<br />

Thoughts flashing in my mind like an ever-changing TV,<br />

mixing and matching,<br />

twisting and turning,<br />

hoping and praying,<br />

dreaming and considering,<br />

never knowing yet always knowing,<br />

wanting to, yet not wanting to,<br />

mixing my heart,<br />

matching my soul to yours,<br />

twisting fate with the flick of the wrist,<br />

turning my life over,<br />

hoping that it would end,<br />

praying that it never would stop,<br />

thinking it was over,<br />

wishing that it wasn’t,<br />

dreaming of its coming,<br />

considering letting it steal within<br />

never knowing if it’s true,<br />

always knowing that it’s there,<br />

wanting to live in the light,<br />

not wanting the light to come.<br />

The love of another,<br />

the dreams of someone close,<br />

remembering what you used to feel.<br />

Can it come back if you pray so?<br />


Raw<br />


I accept that I am not who I was before combat.<br />

But you know what? Combat sparked my journey to find<br />

my true self.<br />

I will not give up on my true self,<br />

for my true self has been suppressed and told not to<br />

freely express herself.<br />

I will love who I have evolved to become.<br />

I do love who I have evolved into.<br />

I will forever and always love my true self who has finally,<br />

finally come<br />

alive. . .ahhh: true freedom!<br />

Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, Rosemarie<br />

Ader is free at last,<br />

for Truth (in Yeshua) has set her free!<br />

The Scar<br />


See how the flesh grows back over a wound,<br />

leaving a scar that heals too soon.<br />

Beneath the veins, the true story is told.<br />

Why it left me feeling so cold.<br />

It’s just a protector shielding me<br />

from all the things I don’t want you to see.<br />


Pink Ribbon<br />


She did not know this would become a permanent trip,<br />

Same masters, same control, different faces, same grip,<br />

Leave me alone, no. . .hold on. . .don’t you want to know<br />

me?<br />

Oh. . .see, I’m just a burden, a mere absentee.<br />

The shame grows, my grief morphs into a set belief.<br />

I can’t wait for these drinks to finally provide me some<br />

relief.<br />

Go away depression, why do you linger?<br />

Yes, I was their toy, their momentary joy,<br />

an easy sinker, just a mere drinker.<br />

All that’s in the past, why must you make it last?<br />

The dolls ribbon has turned black,<br />

it’s time to stop, give me some slack.<br />

I don’t want this. I wasn’t meant to be their rag,<br />

a mere brag, sitting there quietly waving a flag.<br />

An undiagnosed malignance is what I had.<br />

Who knows, I might just surrender,<br />

give my heart to a happy lad.<br />

Am I wounded or scarred?<br />

I do not know. It is what they feared.<br />

Is this why they leave? Am I really this weird?<br />

Pass me the drink, so I can turn my bow pink.<br />


Naked<br />


Born into the world we are vulnerable and naked.<br />

Naked and carefree, the bliss of a child,<br />

unaware of the trauma, of hurts and dangers<br />

brought forth in the world<br />

from loved ones and strangers.<br />

Now aware of the scars<br />

brought on when we’re naked,<br />

we start to hide, searching for cover,<br />

the pain and the scars brought on by another,<br />

as life moves forward, no longer carefree,<br />

now guarded and feeling ashamed.<br />

Layers and layers, you keep up your guard,<br />

keep adding them on, to hide where you are scarred.<br />

You break out in a sweat, you grapple with fear<br />

as the enemy approaches, you reach for your gear,<br />

your weapon, your Kevlar, your gear for the field,<br />

your combat boots tight, war paint all smeared,<br />

all armored up, as you head off to war,<br />

no longer can you just stand there and take it.<br />

You want to be free, you want to be naked,<br />

but a moment so brief, an encounter with fear<br />

that brings you right back, in full metal gear.<br />

No longer do you want to stand there and take it.<br />

You want to be free, you want to be naked.<br />

You reach for the stars, you cover the stars.<br />

You put on a great big smile, but finally home alone,<br />

you sit down and take it, the quiet, the calm.<br />

You’re free to be naked.<br />


Escort<br />

K MACE<br />

He said I sounded like an escort<br />

Deep and throaty<br />

a little gravelly in the back<br />

I mean, I had been around the block a time or two<br />

I was pretty exhausted<br />

but I am a woman<br />

and that’s something we don’t want to hear<br />

He said he didn’t mind<br />

It wasn’t keeping him up at night or anything<br />

and he had been with an escort before<br />

He had slept with even worse<br />

That was not helping<br />

I wanted to be sexy<br />

Yes<br />

And beautiful<br />

Yes<br />

And treated like I was worth a million dollars<br />

Yes<br />

But compared to an escort<br />

No<br />

I was never sleeping with him again<br />

He said I snored<br />

all night<br />

Not like a Mercury Cougar<br />

but like a Ford Escort<br />

Like that’s better<br />



I Was an Airborne Sensor Specialist<br />

In my room, curtains bulge with<br />

the <strong>San</strong>ta Ana wind. It causes the closet door<br />

to begin knocking against the jam. I open<br />

the door to stop the racket and see<br />

three boxes on the top shelve. A picture of<br />

Hunt’s tomatoes is on one. Another has<br />

Staples in red inscribed diagonally,<br />

and the third has Mickey’s Big Mouth Lager<br />

in green across its end. There is nothing better<br />

than an empty twelve pack for storing<br />

army odds and ends.<br />

Emptying the box, I find my unit patch—<br />

an eagle carrying a camera in its claws—<br />

two pins designating my rank, a calendar<br />

from 1970 and a stack of my DD 214s.<br />

In the darkest corner, there is a letter.<br />

I hear it breathing like a long-distance runner.<br />

Did it arrive fifty years later in a panic?<br />

For a second time, I pick it up. It feels brittle<br />

as a glass-blown bird. Outside of the northerly<br />

window, the sun shines on the leaves<br />

of the avocado tree.<br />

I turn to the east window. The curtains open<br />

to a partially cloudy sky above the Chamise<br />

running along the ridge. Flipping the letter,<br />

I find the seal broken. Did I ever read it?<br />

I do not remember. Vietnam was so long ago.<br />

Sometimes, a crevasse appears between Monday<br />

and Tuesday, but 50 years pass in a second.<br />


Now, time leaves it up to me to connect point<br />

A with B because time flies like a Bald Eagle<br />

riding an updraft. Today, the wind reunited me<br />

with a letter that came a long time ago.<br />

I set the envelope on a calendar full of<br />

a forgotten past and an unknown future.<br />

Sounding as if it’s out of breath, the letter<br />

calls me like one survivor to another.<br />



Navigating My Way Home<br />

for Ruby<br />

keep my thoughts between the lines<br />

know the asphalt has no memory of me<br />

although I sweat into it<br />

walked over it<br />

cried into it<br />

and drove south<br />

hoping the lane only went in one direction<br />

I travel north today<br />

hope rises in me like the smooth hills<br />

low at first<br />

coming on slow<br />

I hope she is there<br />

navigating my way<br />

left off the freeway<br />

right at the stop sign<br />

left at the next<br />

breath tight as I look for the telltale signs of home<br />

the only house on the street with an island<br />

she is my island<br />

a stacked stone oval filled with daffodils and daylilies<br />

a bright rainbow pinwheel and a yellow dump truck<br />

signs of cheer and children<br />

is the car parked on the other side of it?<br />

I used to sit on that island<br />

applying make-up<br />

chatting with friends<br />

doing homework<br />

waiting for her to return from work<br />


there was one time she waited for me<br />

to return from a physical and spiritual distance<br />

a war that took me on an unwanted journey<br />

when she sat on that island<br />

she wanted me to hurry<br />

she wanted me home<br />

I pull into the driveway behind her car<br />

exhale<br />

she is here<br />

she thinks I come home to this house<br />

I know<br />

I come home<br />

to her<br />


For those of us who. . .<br />

For those of us who<br />

served, sacrificed and survived,<br />

we have memories. . .<br />

Some of them are true<br />

like facts in a book of facts,<br />

while others are false. . .<br />

Some of them we choose<br />

to remember, others not,<br />

those that are nightmares. . .<br />

For those of us who<br />

served, sacrificed and survived,<br />

we have memories. . .<br />



POEMS<br />

FROM<br />


Special Section Editor:<br />



P<br />

oems in this special section were written in workshops<br />

conducted at Detention Centers within the Juvenile Court<br />

and Community Schools, an educational arm of the <strong>San</strong><br />

<strong>Diego</strong> County Office of Education.. Under the instruction of Jim<br />

Moreno, this is a recurring community outreach effort for the<br />

SDPA.<br />


My Little Angel<br />

LINDA MAY C.<br />

You’re my child now,<br />

I shall raise you the way she would’ve wanted.<br />

We’ll drive on the freeway with the windows down,<br />

So you can scream your pain out to the world that has hurt<br />

you.<br />

I’ll teach you what she has taught me.<br />

I’ll pick up where she left off.<br />

I’ll come home soon.<br />

I’ll teach you how to endure your pain.<br />

I’m your sister, your friend, and now, your mother.<br />

You’re my child now.<br />

Loyalty<br />

LESLIE Z.<br />

love is loyalty and a unique feeling<br />

me personally I believe in love because<br />

I have faith in people changing their ways<br />

and changing for me.<br />


Two Writing Prompts<br />

HANNON P.<br />

The 4-year-old boy who sings Mariachi music<br />

affected me by making me smile,<br />

It completely changed my mood from irritated to happy.<br />

I would like to see more videos of him because that<br />

was truly impressive.<br />

In my language we say, Hafa Adai! to say hello<br />

in Chamarro.<br />

SHAMYA B.<br />

Bad Choices; Broken Hearts<br />

Bad choices come from not thinking<br />

Bad choices come from not thinking<br />

and not caring<br />

Broken hearts come mostly from bad<br />

choices<br />

Broken hearts come from mistakes<br />

Bad choices come from mistakes<br />

Broken hearts and bad choices<br />

Bad choices and broken hearts<br />


Great Grandma<br />

GENESIS P.<br />

When I sang she would smile<br />

The smell of popped corn comes to my mind<br />

She told me what I can eat off of the bush<br />

She planted fruits<br />

I still see the fig tree in the front yard<br />

I miss her smile<br />

I hope she misses my singing<br />

Life Is a Journey<br />

of Passion, Faith & Wisdom<br />

KIMORA J.<br />

Love makes you do crazy things.<br />

But love, you have to have faith in it.<br />

Passion, you have to make of it.<br />

Family is what you make of it.<br />

Commitment is everything if you<br />

make it everything.<br />

You admire and desire the ones you<br />

love.<br />

Don’t break that bond or it won’t be<br />

no trust.<br />

Life is a journey of passion, faith, & wisdom.<br />


All Gone Now<br />

DAIONA F.<br />

You’re all gone now<br />

why won’t you stay<br />

You’re leaving me now<br />

but you’ll come back one day<br />

but by that time it’ll be too late<br />

as fast as feelings came they went away<br />

in my bag and out the way<br />

it’s better I guess, because my heart has decayed<br />

but really who else can make you feel this way<br />

guess you’ll realize it all, one bittersweet day<br />

I mean if you really love her<br />

how could you fall for me?<br />

Your same old love with her<br />

let me tell you what I think<br />

you will never find anyone better than me<br />

not sexier than me, not wealthier than me<br />

could never find a huntress as stealthy as me<br />

like that ‘lil vine said, ‚you‖needa‖get‖you‖one‖of‖these.‛<br />

‘cuz sooner or later you will get bored<br />

just like you did that time before<br />

and when you turn to me I won’t be there anymore<br />

‘cause the same way you get ‘em is the same way you<br />

lose ‘em<br />

faded me once shame on you, can’t fool me twice<br />

cause I like everything new<br />

I don’t want to fake love, you give to take love<br />

it really don’t take much for me to lose feelings too<br />

So if you left because of me, real conniving<br />

heart been dead, feeling weak<br />

anger issued, schitzo freak<br />

wanna get out but stuck to the streets<br />

lock me up but I’m still free<br />

Imma get rich or Imma die trying<br />


Can’t say I hate you, ‘cause I’d be lyin’<br />

Could never chase you, not on my timin’<br />

Standing ovation, go head take a bow<br />

Amost serendipity<br />

but I’m all gone now.<br />

Amor<br />

Nicole J.<br />

My love is real<br />

but the pain is worse<br />

I wish you understood<br />

just so we could work<br />

Don’t Yell at Me<br />

KAY G.<br />

I’m sorry I laughed in your face<br />

I’m sorry I ignored your stare<br />

I just have a lot on my plate<br />

I know it feels like I don’t care<br />

But still you’re making it hard for me<br />

So maybe I should just speak honestly<br />

Remember it’s a want not a need<br />

We haven’t got there yet so don’t yell at me<br />


My Guardian Angel<br />

ALEXA F.<br />

When I feel life starts to turn around<br />

I won’t give up, I won’t give in<br />

‘cuz I know someone’s always watching over me<br />

When I’m in the dark<br />

there’s always a light at the end<br />

waiting for me<br />

At night the sky is blue<br />

One bright shining star and<br />

I know she’s watching me<br />

My Guiding Star<br />

My Guardian Angel<br />

Her Debt<br />

MIA A.<br />

She has paid her debt<br />

but the feeling of remorse is still within her<br />

There are many more days to come<br />

What’s in the past is the past<br />

Some things never last<br />

and some things are never-ending<br />

Life is an unexpected adventure<br />

so expect a crazy future.<br />

Because she has paid her debt.<br />


Momma, Momma, I’m Sorry<br />

2’NIYAH J.<br />

I’m sorry I’m not the daughter you wanted me to be<br />

but‖Mom‖what’s wrong with just being me?<br />

I’m sorry I’ve caused you all this pain<br />

Maybe next time I’ll use my brain<br />

I’m sorry, I know you’ve tried your best<br />

but now just give it a rest<br />

I’m grown, now it’s time to flee the nest<br />

I mean you probably know the rest<br />

Momma, Momma, I’m sorry<br />

I let you suffer all these years<br />

I’ve never cried so many tears<br />

I lay up looking at the moon<br />

sometimes feeling like a fool<br />

I promise Momma Imma keep trying<br />

but Momma I feel like dying<br />


Mixed Feelings in Love<br />


I must not forget to walk toward<br />

love, freedom, and peace.<br />

I must continue walking and never drag my feet.<br />

I must not forget to walk toward battle<br />

like life. My life and other people’s.<br />

If you really knew me you would realize<br />

that I gave love to get love and that<br />

I push through every situation life throws at me<br />

like grief that always comes and always goes.<br />

These days it’s hard to realize<br />

there’s love in darkness and love in light<br />

and that the fruits and the spirit of love<br />

will always shine bright. Love in darkness and light.<br />

Don’t leave my sight, because I wanna fly<br />

high as a kite and be free like waves at sea.<br />


Self-Made<br />


If you really knew me you would<br />

understand the way that I’m<br />

the way that my brain just understands<br />

even the most little<br />

things<br />

It just knows<br />

I guess it does because I always<br />

made it work 10 times harder & smarter<br />

than it should at my age<br />

I chose the fast life, I shouldn’t have<br />

but I still did<br />

I’m not proud of it but<br />

it’s taught me to better myself<br />

in a way no one would understand<br />

At the age of 15, I stay self-made<br />

and I forever designed<br />

myself<br />


GENESIS P.<br />

I Made a Mistake, I’m Not a Mistake<br />

I’m only a human being<br />

I’m 15, I’ve made many mistakes<br />

And I know I’m young<br />

but I’ve seen more than people twice my age<br />

I’ve made many mistakes<br />

My mistakes don’t define me<br />

I want to do better<br />

I’ve wanted that for a while<br />

But it seems like I don’t want it badly enough<br />

because I keep doing the same thing<br />

I feel like a broken record<br />

I want to do better<br />

It’s easier said than done<br />

I am not a mistake<br />

women are powerful<br />

LYLI B.<br />

i refuse to believe the lie that women are weak<br />

women are strong women are powerful<br />

i refuse to believe the lie that women are stupid<br />

women are intelligent women are powerful<br />

i refuse to believe the lie that women are inferior<br />

women are leaders women are powerful<br />

i refuse to believe the lie that women are of less<br />

value<br />

women are equals<br />

women are powerful<br />


Lots & Lots of People<br />

R. T.<br />

Lots and lots of people are getting treated unequally,<br />

lots and lots of people are not getting treated with respect,<br />

this is due to the color of our skin,<br />

the color of our mindsets,<br />

the color of our personalities,<br />

that we aren’t able to do certain things.<br />

Due to our actions and the way we handle things.<br />

We don’t think this is fair enough for the people<br />

living in the world today.<br />

We make mistakes, yeah,<br />

but we also deserve second chances<br />

and deserve to get taught equally and fairly.<br />

I made a lot of mistakes in my life<br />

but I will change and I will learn<br />

to change my actions.<br />

I will learn from my actions<br />

as a young black lady<br />

and prove to everyone in the world<br />

I can make a change.<br />

I also can help others make changes<br />

or want to make changes in their lives.<br />


Fade Away Mary Jane<br />

AUBREY B.<br />

Mary Jane, Mary Jane, you got me<br />

going insane<br />

like a dealer dealing cocaine<br />

she is always in my lane<br />

always making me sane<br />

always healing the wrong pain<br />

It’s getting to my brain<br />

I’m thinking there is no rain<br />

but when it goes away<br />

it’s like another rainy day<br />

but it only makes the pain<br />

fade away<br />

for only half the day<br />

My Mother’s Voice<br />

KATIE<br />

My mother’s voice is pretty,<br />

my mother’s voice gives so much advice<br />

knowledge and experience.<br />

I have my mother’s voice,<br />

but nothing will give me the motivation like,<br />

my mother’s voice.<br />


Fly Away Just Like a Dove<br />

JOSELYN E.<br />

I made a mistake, I’m not a mistake<br />

I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life<br />

But I’ve learned from them and improved<br />

My mistakes are a part of me<br />

But they do not make me<br />

My mama always told me<br />

I could be whoever I want to be<br />

But I must choose<br />

We all have a choice to make<br />

To be real or fake<br />

The drugs we take make life fade away<br />

We hide from reality<br />

but it doesn’t make it less real<br />

It doesn’t change how we feel<br />

We all have to face our demons<br />

but when we do we have to choose<br />

To let them take us away<br />

or let them slowly fade<br />

Fade away and learn<br />

what they have to teach<br />

To reach the goal of life and love<br />

so then they’ll fly away just like a dove<br />


Humility<br />

MAX C.<br />

The worm in the apple, wiggling<br />

its way through our souls,<br />

telling us dark is light & light is dark.<br />

Humans are the top, not only some.<br />

It started at the beginning of culture,<br />

some are less than human,<br />

others are associated with overall evil.<br />

Generalizing leads to genocide,<br />

propaganda through our land.<br />

We are skin and bones<br />

u r the same,<br />

but we tell our kin to leave them alone.<br />

The duality of man,<br />

splits us like firewood<br />

and burns us of all life and beauty<br />

into a dust that will be lost in time.<br />

To escape is the wise man’s first dream,<br />

the spirit of the earth,<br />

peace and love and the spreading of truth,<br />

music as a communicator.<br />

The wise man’s second dream, the true purpose,<br />

to be in the present to change the future,<br />

to turn your escape into reality.<br />

You are the devil, your people should die.<br />

How do we know if they spread the lie?<br />

Life is orchestrated by greed,<br />

spread to generations again & again,<br />

to incite hate for physical possessions,<br />

to control for your own pleasure,<br />

to see one dying on the sidewalk,<br />

drunk and high,<br />

and to walk by with your head held high.<br />

Is this the human way?<br />


How We Write Our Story<br />

MATEO<br />

Everything in life happens for a reason.<br />

You neglect your health, you feel your worst.<br />

You neglect your appearance, you look your worst.<br />

If you don’t learn, you don’t grow.<br />

Everything is entirely subjective, I know that,<br />

but you can’t expect to be a millionaire if you don’t grind.<br />

To make six figures, you must think,<br />

think like a person who makes six figures.<br />

A sequence of events involving your actions occurs.<br />

The less you acknowledge that, the more it shows<br />

in your health, your personality, your relationships<br />

even in your looks and occupation.<br />

This is how we write ourselves<br />

and this is what people generally read or see in us.<br />

By My Side<br />

TAMILA C.<br />

I know you’re there<br />

but my world is so bare<br />

nothing is standing in your way<br />

I’m hoping you can make it one more day<br />

Our relationship has grown so strong<br />

Where could we have gone wrong<br />

You were there when I needed you<br />

Now I’m here for you to need me too<br />

My love for you will stay the same<br />

Never will I forget your name<br />

By my side you will always stay<br />

I’ll think of you day by day<br />


CADILLO O.<br />

They Told Me Stay Home<br />

They told me stop hanging<br />

around the wrong people<br />

They told me stop drinking<br />

They told me stop smoking<br />

Now I’m locked up Now I’m<br />

reminiscing on the choices I made<br />

Hope is all you got in here<br />

Hope is all you need in here<br />

Hope to be a free man one day<br />

Hope for the time to go fast<br />

Hope for your family to be there<br />

when you get out<br />

Trying to Bring Me Down<br />


They trying to bring me down.<br />

They keep trying but I won’t let them bring me down<br />

because I’m trying for far in life. That’s why they’re<br />

trying to bring me down. Because they know I’m<br />

gonna make it far in life.<br />


La Bella Poesía<br />

SAHERA I.<br />

Sometimes,<br />

when I hear a poem<br />

it makes me remember someone special<br />

or sometimes it makes me reflect,<br />

It even makes me<br />

identify with it.<br />

Peace<br />

PABLO C.<br />

Peace feels like a friend comforting you when you are sad<br />

Peace is like a flower opening and the beauty is shared<br />

with everyone<br />

Peace gives the ocean a color like no other<br />

Peace is a song that brightens up your day<br />

On the Day of the Dead<br />

ADRIAN<br />

On the Day of the Dead I remember<br />

all my memories with my past loved ones<br />

Unforgettable moments<br />

like being with them<br />

one more time<br />


Other Roads<br />

ATHENA C.<br />

I have taken many roads<br />

But none got me to where I want to go<br />

Yet I feel like I’m on the top of the globe<br />

and everyone feels so low<br />

looking at nothing but a star<br />

that lays there with a glow<br />

The Table Full of Smiles<br />

ADMED<br />

The sun, the water,<br />

the hot and wet day at the pool<br />

Then carne asada, the nice cold soda<br />

the table full of big smiles all across the back yard<br />

the young kids running around the table<br />

the smoke and smell coming from the nice and fresh meat<br />

The table full of smiles<br />


How to Be a Poet<br />

DIEGO<br />

Write a poem just because you want<br />

It can be right<br />

But do a poem just because you can<br />

It can be awesome for your mind.<br />

Write a poem just because you have to do it<br />

You hurt your soul<br />

Write a poem any time you want<br />

Not just because you’re a poet and have to think too much<br />

How to be a poet is a hard question for my mind<br />

The Road<br />

RAMÓN<br />

I have taken so many roads<br />

that have caused pain and rage upon myself<br />

but as my ship sank and my blood boiled<br />

I have realized that everything is going to get well<br />


Many Words<br />

ALEXA L.<br />

I know women of many words. . .<br />

women who speak as if they could<br />

fly like a bird<br />

many words<br />

but have you really heard?<br />

Woman being beaten<br />

Woman being hurt<br />

Woman with men just<br />

to flip up her skirt<br />

I know women of many words<br />

help<br />

stop<br />

no<br />

why me<br />

please<br />

treat me like the lady I am<br />

me.<br />

I know women<br />

who breathe<br />

love and dreams<br />

women<br />

with means<br />

women<br />

who feign<br />

pure affection<br />

and love<br />

I know women of many words<br />


Love of My Life<br />

EMANUEL B.<br />

I found the love of my life<br />

She makes me really happy<br />

I love her and she loves me<br />

I’m looking forward to a future<br />

with her<br />

She’s the love of my life<br />

One day we’ll have our family<br />

We’ll live happy till we grow old<br />

together<br />

I plan to make her really happy<br />

give her everything she needs.<br />

The Good Mexican<br />

DIEGO S.<br />

I call my culture Mexicano because my family is Mexican.<br />

My blood is Mexican, my skin is Mexican,<br />

my heart is part of one of the best cultures in the world.<br />

The people I grew up with are Mexican.<br />

The place where I learned how to be a man is in Mexico<br />

with my Mexican people. That’s why I’m so happy to be<br />

part of my Mexico lindo y querido, nice and dear.<br />


Two Syllables, One Word<br />

ADAM S.<br />

I’m hungry too, but I’m searching<br />

for something more personal than food.<br />

Something growls, there’s a sharp pain,<br />

but it’s not coming from the depths of<br />

my stomach.<br />

Anguish and fire deep inside my heart<br />

growl and rumble for something more<br />

than love.<br />

Determination.<br />

My soul is burning but not a flame<br />

is seen. The heat is so powerful it<br />

extinguishes the darkness within me.<br />

Not pride, not hope, not power, but<br />

love. It overpowers the hate, the sadness,<br />

the demon. Love isn’t a superpower, it’s<br />

two syllables, one word.<br />


ORLANDO C.<br />

I miss the outs,<br />

I want to go home.<br />

Why did I make these decisions?<br />

My grandma always told me to stay home.<br />

Now I stare at the ceiling in my locked room,<br />

reminiscing on the mistakes I made.<br />

My whole life until five years ago<br />

was like hell on earth.<br />

I grew up with nothing but torture<br />

from a specific person.<br />

But it’s not anyone you would expect.<br />

This person should be nothing but loving,<br />

protective, nurturing, but was nothing but<br />

crazy, abusive, life-threatening, and a druggie.<br />

I fought for my life until I was 11, and finally<br />

escaped her prison.<br />

Keep fighting for yourself and never give up<br />

on life.<br />

.<br />

AVERY S.<br />


My Mother & Father<br />


My mother is Japanese.<br />

The food of my culture nourishes me<br />

like a guava tree under the sunlight,<br />

but does not get grim when the rain hits.<br />

My father is Sinaloense and<br />

his hardworking blood from working<br />

on the tomato fields endlessly<br />

burns the anticipation of ever being<br />

lazy and irresponsible.<br />

Becoming Something<br />


And you’ll eventually be running home<br />

for now you’re all alone<br />

in a place far, far away from home.<br />

From the streets of N.C. *<br />

All the death and terror<br />

it caused me.<br />

It’s actually frightening<br />

how much has been seen.<br />

How much has been done<br />

from the hands holding a gun.<br />

So many losses taken.<br />

Now I have awakened.<br />

Started from nothing,<br />

now barely becoming something.<br />

*<br />

National City<br />


Mexican Heritage<br />

ASAIE R.<br />

My culture is of Mexican heritage<br />

I love the food of my culture<br />

I love the hynas *<br />

My culture is great<br />

I wish my culture was recognized more<br />

* girls<br />

The Gates<br />


Last night felt like if I was born.<br />

Felt like I was in a car seat going<br />

home to where I grew up.<br />

As every night goes by, I’d be thinking<br />

how is it gonna be when its my time<br />

to go?<br />

And when I do, I want the most beautiful<br />

woman to open the gates for me,<br />

and I will be in peace.<br />


Fake Friends<br />

LESLIE Z.<br />

Homies fade away, fake friend.<br />

No loyalty, no trust, all hate, fake friend.<br />

He was there for them, but where were they? Fake friend.<br />

Homies don’t visit him, fake friend.<br />

His‖friends‖say,‖‚Free‖him!‛but‖never‖wrote‖him,‖fake‖<br />

friends.<br />

He showed them loyalty, they gave him hate, fake friends.<br />

He feels everyone who he ever called homies turn their<br />

back on him. So why have fake friends?<br />

Every night he sits and wonders why.<br />

My Family’s Pride<br />

XAVIER H.<br />

When you say my name, say it correctly,<br />

say it right.<br />

My name has meaning.<br />

It is who I am. It is what I respond to<br />

when someone calls me.<br />

My name has history too.<br />

From Mom, to grandpa, to my ancestors.<br />

So when you say my name, say it right.<br />

It is my family’s, not just mine.<br />

I like my name because it makes me who I am.<br />

My family takes pride in our name.<br />


I’m Gonna Do Good<br />


My father is excited, I’m coming home.<br />

Soon, I hope he means what he says.<br />

His words in the present contradict<br />

his actions in the past.<br />

He locked me up.<br />

Eleven months in a rehab in Mexico<br />

against my own will.<br />

I trust him now, so I hope he doesn’t<br />

take advantage.<br />

I miss you Mom. I’m sorry for my present<br />

actions that led to where I am now.<br />

I regret it all. I regret to say that I wish<br />

he wasn’t alive but he’s all I got now.<br />

So I take it back. I’m gonna do better now.<br />

Pop’s for Mom, for you and me.<br />


I Am Not a Victim<br />

KAYLA A.<br />

If you really knew me you would know<br />

that I did not end up in the position I am in<br />

because of a mistake.<br />

Nor because I wasn’t brought up right.<br />

My upbringing was filled with much love<br />

and support. My friends and family are<br />

all very close. Mistakes are a key to learning<br />

right, and I would be lying if I said I’ve never<br />

made any. I feel strongest about the people<br />

I love. I will do anything in my power to<br />

protect them when it’s needed.<br />

Society can be cruel. Society is full of bad people.<br />

Even tho’ of course that doesn’t refer to everyone<br />

in society. Where I’m from, there’s a lot of people<br />

in a lot of ways who fall under that category.<br />

I am not a victim.<br />

I am not denying my actions.<br />

I am simply stating that I am not a criminal.<br />

I am not a criminal or mistake because of my actions<br />

of that night. And when it comes to my loves ones,<br />

especially the only one who’s going to be there<br />

in the end,<br />

I will do it all over again.<br />


Forgive Her<br />


How can I just forgive her<br />

when she did all these awful things to me?<br />

How can I look in her face and just say,<br />

Sorry, Sister?<br />

How can I just say, I love you, Sister,<br />

when we never said that to each other?<br />

How can I look at her and speak to her<br />

when we haven’t talked in months?<br />

How can I look her in the eye, when she<br />

left a scar on my eye?<br />

How can we speak to each other when<br />

we lack all these things?<br />

Sometimes I think how different things<br />

would be if this never happened.<br />

Sometimes I think how would it be<br />

to have a loving sister. I hear people talking<br />

about having a good relationship with their<br />

sister. And sometimes I wish our relationship<br />

can change.<br />

How can I just forgive her?<br />

When she did all those awful things to me?<br />

I just wish she could say sorry to me<br />

so we can talk again and we could be a family<br />

again.<br />


The Witches of Time<br />


The witches of time drag on clock’s second hands.<br />

My minutes feel like hours. I slowly sink in the sand.<br />

Routine doesn’t change, the days run back again.<br />

I do my best to maintain, but the pain runs deep within.<br />

Can I grow in a dark room with bullet-proof panes,<br />

with the things I was shown as a child being raised?<br />

Can I live a different way for my son day by day?<br />

Give him the life I never had, do I have what it takes?<br />

Every day on my knees praying to God for the strength<br />

to make it out of the streets before my blood spills on the pave’,<br />

do my best to maintain, I can’t see an early grave.<br />

Me and my family spent time behind bars like modern day<br />

slaves,<br />

My father spent his whole life inside a concrete metal cage.<br />

So as the witches of time drag my minutes through the day,<br />

I’ll think how I’ll change, and with my family, make a way.<br />



Special Section Editor:<br />


<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Poet Laureate<br />



"This heavy stone in my hand"<br />

Poets Respond to Steve Kowit’s Intifada<br />

O<br />

n the evening of Thursday, November 9, <strong>2023</strong>, as the<br />

world continued to bear collective witness to Israel’s<br />

U.S.-backed genocidal campaign against Palestinian<br />

people, land, and culture, I joined seven local poets—<br />



ZEEST HASHMI—at Space Bar Cafe & Wine Bistro in La Mesa,<br />

California to humbly perform Intifada (Caernarvon Press, 2005),<br />

the still-resonant and ever-powerful poem by the late and<br />

beloved Steve Kowit. The performance blended voices from<br />

disparate and relational poetics, performance aesthetics, and<br />

lived histories: a genuine call for solidarity.<br />

In these times, I urge you to seek out Kowit’s poem. You will<br />

find in it an impassioned Jewish critique of Zionism. You will<br />

find in it the conditions of possibility for love, historical<br />

reckoning, coalition, and liberation. You will find in it a speaker<br />

no longer silent: "I stand with this heavy stone in my hand:<br />

unbending, defiant." After our performance that night, we<br />

shared poems (some of them included in this folio) in response<br />

to Intifada.<br />

I offer this folio as collective documentation. And while I<br />

imagine that my fellow poets and I all showed up that night for<br />

various reasons, some shared, some different, some personal,<br />

some political, I trust that we all understand that this was a<br />

moment that demanded we grapple with power and fight for<br />

clarity and truth through language. This is still that moment.<br />

This is a moment of relentless struggle, a moment that demands<br />

this witness, demands this language. . .Until Palestine is free—<br />


January 20<strong>24</strong><br />


<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong> Poet Laureate <strong>2023</strong>-<strong>24</strong><br />



The Way of War on Native Land<br />

1. Usurp the land: greedy / gringo / gold digger / terraform<br />

/ poison / air / water / soil / call it civilized / attempt to<br />

slaughter its people / think it sane<br />

Colonizer, you forget that stolen land<br />

will always remember<br />

the brown hands that feed it.<br />

The people, the color of dirt and mud,<br />

create temples from earth and<br />

make peace with its beauty.<br />

2. Draw lines in the sand: call them legal / code for brown<br />

people keep out / unauthorized / alien<br />

Colonizer, you forget we have walked<br />

with cracked feet upon our mother<br />

for more than a millennium,<br />

border walls do not recognize us.<br />

3. Declare us immigrants: strangers in our own land /<br />

assimilate / desecrate / historical amnesia / white washing<br />

Colonizer, you forget we are not foreign.<br />

We are here—<br />

because we have always been,<br />

this dwelling holds our oldest prayer<br />

in the deepest part of our marrow.<br />

4. Criminalize our bodies: attempt to make our movement<br />

impossible / deny our ritual migrations / divide the land<br />

Colonizer, you forget<br />

that we are a people<br />

that move to a sacred rhythm,<br />

to the thunder in our bellies.<br />

Our kids will know<br />

bean, corn, and<br />

the history of homeland.<br />


5. Target our children: terrorize / kidnap / force them into<br />

cages / separate our families / imprison our spirit / steal all<br />

that we know / cultural genocide<br />

Colonizer, you forget we will hold you accountable<br />

for the tears you compelled from our children—<br />

each a battle cry echoing through history:<br />

from the detention centers along the U.S.-Mexican<br />

border<br />

to the lingering legacy of Indian boarding schools,<br />

to forced acculturation in Africa,<br />

sorrow of the Stolen Generations,<br />

injustice of Japanese internment,<br />

haunting memory of slavery,<br />

plight of children in Palestine,<br />

cultural imposition in the Philippines,<br />

torture and trauma inflicted by the School of the<br />

Americas<br />

to the insidious school-to-prison pipeline.<br />

6. Sickness: In the 16th century you debated if my people<br />

had souls / stories of / savage / serpent / sinister / spiritsucking<br />

Colonizer, you forget you describe yourself.<br />

Ravenous racist tumors in your head and heart,<br />

stale air to choke your humanity.<br />



To Build Peace, Bake the Bread of<br />

Peace: in the Legacy of Steve Kowit<br />

You, Poem, again, woke me from sleep!<br />

You want me to build a poem of peace<br />

for those who won’t be heard? So many<br />

voices for peace fall on deaf ears,<br />

deaf ones with selective non-hearing<br />

who know that war is terrible,<br />

but terribly profitable.<br />

Poem, you tell me to help build a nation of<br />

peace by baking the sweet bread of peace;<br />

you say begin to knead the dough of listen,<br />

with hands of kindness, blend waters of empathy<br />

as you gently knead the tribe of connections.<br />

You know this on account of how you’ve swam<br />

through the sea of experience. You learned to start<br />

with the multicolored flour of love and light,<br />

mixed with the yeast of diplomacy,<br />

so we can rise to the challenge of change.<br />

Add the salt of the Earth, the innate wisdom of<br />

MotherEarth that guides us to care for one another.<br />

The rainbow flowers of our hearts wish no harm to any man,<br />

woman, or child. In that way we are all from the same<br />

tribe: the tribe that loves children.<br />

Jihmye Collins, Jihmye Collins, Jihmye Collins<br />

was my brother from different mothers,<br />

a Black Army veteran who lived in peace,<br />

who believed that the world was one big family.<br />

Poem, you remind me that the ancient lands have<br />

two peoples who are both descendants of Abraham<br />

who continue to recreate Munich of 1930,<br />

instead of Munich of <strong>2023</strong>.<br />


Jihmye Collins loved the Cala Lilly. It was his<br />

Flower of Peace. On October 7, <strong>2023</strong>, he would<br />

never, never, have sent thousands of rockets to the<br />

holy lands, he would have sent thousands of Cala Lilly’s<br />

to honor both sons and daughters of Abraham.<br />

Poem, you woke me to ask us all to be<br />

from the tribe that loves children,<br />

Love Is Not Abuse!<br />

Poem, you remind us that a parliamentary<br />

government can choose leaders who<br />

love the Cala Lilly,<br />

Leaders who follow the recipes of peace,<br />

who bake the bread of Peace for the People.<br />

When you feed your people with the<br />

sacred bread of peace you always remember<br />

that Love is not abuse.<br />



The Palestinian and Israeli War<br />

I believe war is merely murder sanctified by God and the<br />

State, which is why every soldier throughout history has<br />

learned the old lie—It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s<br />

country. In basic training, they taught us that it is good to<br />

die for God and country, but it is better to kill the enemy<br />

than to die. Killing is murder, and having God or state<br />

sanction it does not change the immorality of the act.<br />

Because soldiers carry out orders to kill, and in war, they<br />

see their friends die, they suffer a permanent affliction<br />

from it.<br />

A WWII veteran, my uncle Bob died at 95. He bore<br />

bayonet scars running the length of his thighs. During his<br />

last months, he suffered nightmares of hand-to-hand<br />

fighting and would wake crying, ‘I did not mean to kill<br />

him. I had to.’ Killing is evil, and soldiers return from war<br />

with psychological disorders. We call it PTSD—Battle<br />

Fatigue—Shell Shock, and this condition destroys the life<br />

within the family and themselves. Although this is not<br />

always true, when governments declare war, they forget<br />

about the well-being of their people, who suffer and die.<br />

I care not because I have friends on the Israeli side and the<br />

Palestinian side of this war. They know people who were<br />

killed, injured, raped, or brutalized, and how can I choose<br />

one side or the other? How am I to feel? I care about the<br />

marginalized people of Israel and Palestine. Although one<br />

side blames the other for the war, atrocities exist on both<br />

sides. I refuse to argue which one has the moral or<br />

historical justification to continue to murder people.<br />


According to the Dalai Lama—Martin Luther King—<br />

Christ—Rumi—Hikmet—and the great Crow Medicine<br />

Man, Chief Yellow Knife, the only cure for state-sanctioned<br />

murder is compassion and respect. There are plenty of<br />

examples of malicious intent directed at American citizens<br />

in the United States. Examples are many: our treatment of<br />

Native Americans—African Americans—Mexican Americans—Chinese<br />

Americans—Japanese Americans, and the<br />

list goes on. Today, the news reports the attacks on our<br />

Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters in the US.<br />

In the United States, every racial and ethnic group has<br />

contributed to this country. I hope we do not become deaf<br />

and blind, enclosed in an armor of obstinacy and willful<br />

ignorance. I wish that we refuse to slip into anti-semitic or<br />

anti-Palestinian language as we offer our support to the<br />

oppressed citizens of Palestine and Israel.<br />


Psalm 151<br />


Please forgive my profane prayers<br />

for my beloved’s dagger,<br />

for his lie.<br />

What excuses I have lifted and<br />

held at my neighbor’s throat!<br />

Forgive my rote oremus et pro perfidis judaeis.<br />

Forgive me this poem.<br />

Forgive my silence in<br />

the presence of another’s pain.<br />

Forgive my dry eyes when<br />

tears were due.<br />

Forgive my time wasted sorting tears for<br />

hostage or civilian.<br />

child or draftee.<br />

Forgive my defining<br />

human shield or genocide<br />

collateral damage or genocide<br />

self-defense or genocide<br />

Israel must exist, I was taught from the pulpit,<br />

so The Messiah can return.<br />

‚Every‖eye‖will‖see‖Him–even those who‖pierced‖Him.‛<br />

While online, every eye can see every piercing replayed,<br />

every family separated by a bullet,<br />

by a wall,<br />

by an MK-80.<br />


The palm fronds beneath the donkey’s hooves<br />

have become The Second Coming’s rubble of<br />

mosques and orthodox churches. Make way, make way for<br />

The‖Messiah‖who‖asks,‖‚What‖need‖for‖communion‖with‖<br />

so much blood<br />

soaked‖into‖Gaza?‛‖Who‖can‖withstand‖the‖wrath‖of‖<br />

Athens,<br />

of Rome,<br />

of London’s never-setting sun?<br />

What tribes survive inside secret ceremonies?<br />

What families will rise in DNA’s double helix?<br />

All the innocent blood shed without a thought to<br />

remembrance,<br />

will be remembered.<br />

All the silenced testimony will be spoken.<br />

The ethically deaf will hear, the morally blind will see and<br />

all borrowed tears will be repaid.<br />


The Ride<br />


We coast along the road, tires grazing,<br />

skidding against Tuesday’s bath.<br />

The stained remains of my neighbor’s<br />

child through tattered bits of dirty red.<br />

The doll her father gave her on this<br />

bloody ‘Eid all that is left.<br />

Alongside me: my new friend, al Amīn,<br />

the Truthful, orphaned in a fortnight, too.<br />

The younger one of us, he speaks with<br />

wisdom I wish not to seek.<br />

His mother’s severed head, you see,<br />

rests upon the very bed<br />

on which he used to sleep.<br />

Rubble everywhere we go, so we take<br />

another road. Clean up time again<br />

before the wired silence breaks<br />

the brutish breath of dusky air,<br />

in the intimacy of death’s toll.<br />

At every turn it is the same.<br />

No peace, except the still<br />

faces of the slain.<br />

This July the wind feels warmer than before,<br />

but what is above spurns what is below.<br />

The clear sky, its blue bright, says nothing<br />

of the crimson sheet that bonds<br />

the living to the un-dead.<br />

Another day gone, another night come,<br />

signs for those who think save one<br />

whose wings stretch through bloated clouds<br />

as the Angel’s Horn again explodes.<br />



When the Smoky Skies Shift<br />

We forget again the simple things, how much<br />

they mean: morning tea, sipping<br />

from an unbombed balcony. We<br />

forget again the power<br />

of power, phone signals,<br />

Internet available<br />

to call someone.<br />

We forget again how to truly connect,<br />

how to wrap someone we love with a<br />

hug–not a body bag or bed sheet.<br />

Because everything that once was<br />

is now obsolete.<br />

Wala, Wala!<br />

There is nothing but<br />

this unrest. We forget again to put<br />

a speaker to the voices<br />

of the oppressed.<br />

The terrorized,<br />

the trapped, the<br />

left behind,<br />

The siren’s wail<br />

drowning out their cries.<br />

We forget again to uplift voices<br />

like poet Mosab Abu Toha’s.<br />

Trapped in Gaza, he writes,<br />

I see wounded women and children bleeding<br />

from their faces and chests. A big fire is burning.<br />

I find a pharmacy, check my body for injuries,<br />

and try to help those around me. We survive,<br />

again.<br />

[. . .]<br />


And we forget again the courage<br />

of journalists, of photographers,<br />

Like Samara Abu Elouf,<br />

who will do anything<br />

to bring a smile to a child’s face,<br />

like Malak, who grins big<br />

as‖she‖wears‖the‖‚press‛‖vest<br />

and helmet. Hay nako! And this is why<br />

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why<br />

we forget what self-defense means.<br />

It does not mean killing<br />

Children, bombing hospitals, burying<br />

in the dust: building after building.<br />

What are we even building anymore?<br />

‘Cause now we can never forget:<br />

The frightening whir of the drones hovering over debris<br />

the dead, the dread, the scarred,<br />

the disappeared. All this unfathomable fear.<br />

Yocheved Lifshitz, freed from captivity,<br />

but no release yet<br />

of Hannah Katzir, Yagil Yaakov,<br />

the foreigners, the dual nationals.<br />

For all the damage<br />

that cannot be undamaged,<br />

we mourn.<br />

For the scarcity of water<br />

and the bellies that beg for biscuits,<br />

we cry.<br />

For the make-shift hospitals<br />

scattered on the streets, tenting the innocent<br />

Our fists unfurl<br />

and fist up again in frustration, condemnation.<br />

I can’t help but think<br />

of Noor Hindi’s poem<br />

the‖one‖entitled‖‚fuck‖your‖lecture‖on‖craft,<br />

my‖people‖are‖dying.‛‖Oo,‖sige!‖It’s true.<br />


Who can boast<br />

about consonance and alliteration<br />

and glorify the flowers and the moon<br />

When the body counts are this high–<br />

as high as the damned moon?<br />

The bleeding is not in buckets but in craters.<br />

Nerves of pain stretch<br />

from Israel and Gaza to all sectors of the world—<br />

We are here, shocked and shaking.<br />

And yet, somehow,<br />

We must remember again<br />

the power of ourselves, the power<br />

of one, how important more than ever:<br />

when the smoky skies shift<br />

to give us clarity into kindness:<br />

mabuhay tayo, mahal kita.<br />

If I give you my hand, will you take it?<br />

Will you walk me to your homeland—<br />

the one before the shattering?<br />



POEMS<br />

2<br />



Rainfall<br />


Mist fog, not real rain—<br />

I drive to the library,<br />

wind swells shop awnings,<br />

chairs and tables lay on their<br />

backs, ride toward the pier.<br />

The world is lighter than the rain.<br />

I float out of the car past flooding<br />

gutters, blurred storefront signs,<br />

the dark coming overhead reflects<br />

me standing at the glass doors.<br />

This town I grew up in, left,<br />

have come back to again. I enter<br />

and children crowd me to pass. What<br />

are they reading? I return the book<br />

of poetry the other poet told me<br />

to read. Her poems drowned<br />

the lights of a town in the distance<br />

at night where she did not want to<br />

return. I did not want to return<br />

here, but I think I am supposed to<br />

be here, walk this beach where<br />

I learned to swim, where whales nudge<br />

my sleep, migrating south,<br />

making the ocean parental and<br />

the rain keeping everyone<br />

here safe, inside, together, now—<br />


The Storm<br />


a front is coming in from the sea and the salted wind<br />

continues to move through the bougainvillea that looks<br />

aside I wish for cold rain and the sting of wind to come<br />

through the clouds but worry about the hummingbirds<br />

they must be hiding in the manzanita tree that is currently<br />

slapping the hidden sage it hasn’t heard the storm<br />

has found its voice and sings off key<br />

loud and away the last remaining slash of blue a<br />

reminder that time has come to shut the door I feel<br />

the rift sparrows call from somewhere I hurry out<br />

as the storm overtakes the coast it needs nothing from<br />

me but what in heaven’s name does it mean to love<br />

the violent strength that can hurt small birds even now<br />

I’m done with roofs and doors and beds<br />

face to the rain humming<br />

so I walk on<br />


Washed Away<br />


She’s up there in her baggy military fatigues, greasestained<br />

t-shirt, John Deere hat, and scuffed combat boots trimming<br />

the tall hedgerow, preparing it for holiday lights. Homage<br />

to her father who left her the property, humiliation for her<br />

husband<br />

who suggested we hire help. There’s always the chance the<br />

ladder<br />

feet won’t hold as I look at the timer for the sprinkler<br />

system.<br />

I stand there beneath her as she shouts and points through<br />

the trimmer’s din at its little gas tank. I turn my gold ring<br />

on the way<br />

to the garage for gas, my knuckles oversized and red. By<br />

the time<br />

I return from the empty garage, from the gas station where<br />

I thought again<br />

about just filling up the car and never coming back, she’s<br />

feeding the shrubs<br />

strings of lights like a high tide delivering colored glass. I<br />

hear the outside<br />

shower and she’s standing there, her thick hair half-way<br />

down her back,<br />

soaped up. She looks over her shoulder like a lioness, and<br />

I’m lost in the<br />

golden high grasses again.<br />


somewhere else<br />

TIM RAY<br />

in between<br />

two lanes north<br />

and two south<br />

a two-lane<br />

black ribbon<br />

of fresh pressed<br />

asphalt<br />

not hauled<br />

from the plant<br />

we voted down<br />

a mile back<br />

the highway<br />

it came from<br />

somewhere else<br />


Flipping the Switch<br />


When you’re passing you’re not supposed to look but<br />

when you’re being passed you can look all you want so we<br />

go down the road like that passing and not looking then<br />

looking when we are passed but I always stare both in<br />

passing and being passed because I dislike imitating<br />

patterns I like stirring the proverbial pot when I say<br />

stirring I mean people are uncomfortable as I stare when I<br />

say when I say I mean conversation when you are the<br />

speaker or I am the speaker incredible conversations when<br />

we did have conversations when I say when we did I<br />

mean you looking at the mirror and turning away when<br />

we were in the car and you stared at the red Volkswagen<br />

as we passed because the driver gave you the finger<br />

because when you’re passing you are not supposed to look<br />

when I say not supposed to look I mean at home when we<br />

are in the bedroom and it is raining and you’re passing me<br />

and staring at the mirror and looking away and left<br />

because when I really look at you and separate your eyes<br />

from your mouth there’s no connection between what you<br />

say and how your eyes are when you talk it looks like your<br />

eyes are looking at me for the very first time when I say<br />

very first time I mean I am looking at you like it is the very<br />

first time and I turn away.<br />



Powdered milk and rice cake<br />

My once<br />

brilliant father,<br />

now dull with dementia,<br />

forgets to drink water. Dammit,<br />

this drought.<br />

Online Shopping<br />

ANN M. ALVES<br />

I like it.<br />

I tap my phone.<br />

The next day, it is at my front door.<br />

But it is just one more thing that isn’t you.<br />

12 lipsticks, similar shades.<br />

Still searching for that perfect Red.<br />

Maybe I’ll try the Dior?<br />

But it’s just one more thing that isn’t you.<br />

I could eat spaghetti with meatballs or (and?)<br />

a pint of vanilla fudge or a mango sticky and sweet.<br />

But it’s still not your lips on my lips, urgently. I cannot be<br />

full.<br />


Did You Hear Me?<br />


Our son bought a rotisserie chicken<br />

& a bunch of bananas from Costco<br />

placed atop the kitchen granite<br />

just like you always did<br />

I flip them upside down<br />

These are the most practical items<br />

your words float across the house<br />

again, although you are gone<br />

we disagree on the best way to store<br />

the precious and easily bruised fruit<br />

the arch bends, neck pointed up<br />

or, pointed down<br />

but we both understood<br />

the dangers of trickle-down<br />

finance and being as parents<br />

who says<br />

it doesn’t matter<br />

when to stop<br />

which way is right?<br />

Bill,‖did‖you‖hear‖me‖say,‖‚I‖nearly‖love‖you?‛<br />


Dear Sylvia Plath,<br />


I have never been good at spelling your name. Not the<br />

Plath part, but the Sylvia. I always want to make it SLYvia.<br />

I have to read it slowly to get it right.<br />

My great aunt Alice also stuck her head in an oven. Do<br />

you‖find‖it‖offensive‖when‖people‖say,‖‚stuck‖her‖head‖in‖<br />

an‖oven?‛‖I‖understand‖that‖it‖makes‖you‖sound‖like‖you‖<br />

did it on a whim or by mistake, or like you’re a turkey. I<br />

just haven’t found a more comfortable way to say it.<br />

My friend Scott’s ex-girlfriend asphyxiated in her garage.<br />

Michael Hutchence died from auto-erotic asphyxiation.<br />

Scott hanged himself.<br />

Anyway, I’m sort of proud that my great aunt Alice stuck<br />

her head in the oven. I feel like it puts me a few degrees<br />

closer to you. It’s sad, though, because she did it after<br />

multiple miscarriages.<br />

Peace,<br />

Alison<br />



Don’t Die in June for God’s Sake<br />

We’re next-door neighbors<br />

standing outside our apartments talking.<br />

I don’t like my doctor, Doris says.<br />

I overheard him calling me,‖‚that‖little‖old‖lady.‛‖<br />

I’m little, and I’m old, and I’m a lady<br />

but that made me mad. She’s got<br />

a pushcart with a canvas pack attached<br />

ready to go to her part-time job at an OB<br />

jewelry shop. I watch her toddle down<br />

the walkway in her sunhat and loose cotton outfit.<br />

See you later, I say.<br />

The next morning heading out for my walk<br />

I see her door ajar but don’t see her. Unusual.<br />

Later I ask the apartment manager to investigate.<br />

She comes out the door shaking her head.<br />

Doris is dead. Never woke from sleep. Isn’t<br />

that how most people say they want to die?<br />

But not in June with Jasmine in bloom<br />

and before they’ve had a chance<br />

to kick their doctor in the pants.<br />


Losing you in español<br />


I didn’t think it would be so hard<br />

to learn the word brother.<br />

Not to say it—<br />

not to know it and remember it<br />

aprendo<br />

comprendo—<br />

but to feel it<br />

in my body.<br />

To say it out loud to others<br />

and not cry<br />

after an awkward pause after<br />

¿Y cuantos tienes en tu familia?<br />

¿Y tienes la familia grande?<br />

Mi. . .hermano. . .<br />

To watch you leave us<br />

bit by bit over the years<br />

but especially this September<br />

as the leaves turned burnt umber<br />

and light yellow, trapping in the sunlight,<br />

and orange and hazel mixed with deep green like your eyes.<br />

Leaves falling in soft piles under the oak trees we climbed as<br />

children.<br />

Soy de Michigan—<br />

Somos de Michigan.<br />

I can see the dirt road<br />

the collie under the tree waiting for us.<br />

Busca. . .pero<br />

We are no longer there<br />

just charcoal drawings in my mind. . .<br />

And you are no longer here.<br />

I am trying to learn Spanish to help catch kids who are falling<br />

or maybe failing—<br />

caught between two worlds—<br />


falling as you fell from so many trees<br />

from fast cars<br />

from close calls<br />

so many moments of your life—<br />

Unbearable.<br />

We—all of us—<br />

tried to catch you—<br />

hands outstretched.<br />

Todos manos—<br />

Me, yo, tu hermana pequeña<br />

y tu padre,<br />

y tu madre, nuestra madre,<br />

La madre quien te ayudes todos el dias<br />

Todos tus dias.<br />

Mi hermano,<br />

Te amo.<br />

Mi hermano con pelirojjo, tanto y solitaro, alto y muy inteligente. . .<br />

Y broken. . .<br />

¿Cómo se dice broken en español?<br />

‚broken‛<br />

and mean—broken in the heart? Broken in the body. . .?<br />

Mi hermano has fallen. . .<br />

El ha caído.<br />

Like the leaves have fallen. . .<br />

Las hojas han caído. . .<br />

Mi hermano ha caído.<br />

Nosotros buscamos tu<br />

debajo de los árboles.<br />

We look for you<br />

under the trees.<br />



So Many Times I Have Leaped<br />

A sweet shortcut past a steer,<br />

but suddenly he came for me.<br />

I sprinted ahead of his pounding and snorting.<br />

Then. . .I came to the edge of a ravine.<br />

(We pause here for a veterinary note: when little bulls<br />

are Burdizzo-ed into neutered steers, sometimes they<br />

accidentally<br />

get‖‚proud-cut‛—leaving more bull than anybody wants<br />

to deal with.)<br />

I jumped off into the whatever at the bottom,<br />

knee-deep in branches.<br />

Keeping one ear out for the fresh hell behind me,<br />

I scrambled up the other side<br />

while a galloping thousand pounds of beef<br />

skidded to a stop back at the lip of the ravine,<br />

planting his hooves, huffing and swinging his head,<br />

Annoyed to miss running up my back<br />

to savage me with his horns.<br />

So many times in my life, I have leaped.<br />



Walking Down the Street<br />

I passed him in my car, slowed down and parked.<br />

A young man the age my son was, dressed in black—<br />

shirt, pants, boots, all black.<br />

But the beard was red,<br />

like my son’s had been.<br />

He held in front of his chest<br />

a baby, skin so soft and smooth,<br />

like a fresh-peeled egg,<br />

aimed forward, like you’d carry<br />

a Rolex camera, carefully, close<br />

for protection, steadiness, keeping it safe.<br />

He looked so proud, faint smile on his lips,<br />

tiny precious package at his chest,<br />

sharing his joy silently with passersby.<br />

It’s been five years today.<br />

And the pain is still piercing.<br />

Death takes not only what was.<br />

It takes what might have been.<br />


Now<br />


I give up my place at the table<br />

push back my chair<br />

fold my napkin<br />

lay it beside my plate made empty<br />

a hearty helping of life enjoyed<br />

to leave for others now<br />

the game to play<br />

a place to be<br />

Freedom I take for change to come<br />

No more to sit and argue<br />

The way I think it should be<br />

Life is to be walked, breathed, felt<br />

No more emotional feeding on it for me<br />

To do is to live, no waiting for the next moment<br />

Or tomorrow<br />

No more, no less than the breath now<br />

to open my eyes<br />

stretch out my arms<br />

embrace the beating heart that comes<br />

tear away the bramble, the awkwardness<br />

give rise to a chest made full of life<br />

my foot free and steady<br />

pulsating with life, moving forward<br />

Raise me to the sun as light gives to the darkness<br />

Blind away the feeble anxiety for a new day<br />

Fall, rise in time with the breathing earth<br />

In this body made temple housing thyself<br />

I set forth to never take my place back there<br />

away from now<br />

Push, push away from the table<br />

to where the bee swarms<br />

where stones polish the water white with foam<br />

where sound gives rise to sea and salt of the womb<br />

There you will find me on a dew-laced morn<br />

singing, thank you, thank you, thank you<br />


Ms. Blum<br />


At recess, we watched her at the end<br />

of the marble hallway where she smoked<br />

and chuckled, while Mr. Zino, the stocky<br />

sadist with the comb-over who taught Shop,<br />

held his hand on the wall just inches<br />

from her hips. We all dreamt<br />

of bullet bras and thigh-high seamed stockings,<br />

the spot where the see-through hem met<br />

the garter clip, the strip<br />

of bare skin, and beyond that the lace<br />

holding the hub of the universe.<br />

We gawked at that flash of white silk<br />

when she crossed her legs in the chair<br />

by the blackboard. At 35<br />

she seemed ancient, like a fresco,<br />

yet endlessly magnetic in the tautness<br />

of her sweater and skirt,<br />

the lucky gap between the front teeth.<br />

She taught Math and Gym, a mix<br />

as common then as a pair of shoes<br />

hanging from a telephone wire. Nothing<br />

but shorts and tank tops as she propelled<br />

our butts over the horizontal bar.<br />

We couldn’t tell what it was we saw<br />

in her face when she turned away<br />

from our little infernos, put<br />

that whistle between her lips<br />

and blew.<br />


Penis Poem<br />

inspired by Dorianne Laux’s Face Poem<br />

Your cock. Your one-eyed snake.<br />

Your pink cigar, pocket rocket, pork sword.<br />

Penis that I envy, penis that you whip<br />

out to whizz behind a tree<br />

when the porta-potty line is too long<br />

or when you feel the urge on a trail<br />

and you kneel down into the brush,<br />

to drain the main vein,<br />

no up-splatter on your skin.<br />


Your dick. Your anaconda. Your manhood.<br />

Your throw-around penis. Your pissing-contest<br />

penis. Your comparing-dick-sizes penis.<br />

Your johnson. Your rod. Your hot rod.<br />

Penis that earns 20% more than<br />

the cooch it corks, the taco it hammers.<br />

Pen15 that writes the rules, a knob<br />

on the glass-ceilinged door, a joystick<br />

in a predetermined game.<br />

Your wang. Your chode. Your ding-dong.<br />

Your little-head thinking, custard-launching<br />

dipstick. Penis with the single-minded<br />

focus of a meat-seeking missile. The ruin<br />

of many a man, livelihoods sprinkled<br />

like dust in the wake of the uterus unicorn.<br />


Cadence<br />

PM FRANK<br />

The speaker spoke the words and spoke them again/ she<br />

repeated the words once then twice then three times to<br />

make sure everyone heard all she said/ they half-listened<br />

the first time she spoke the words/ then half-listened again<br />

the second time/ the third time some rose from their seats<br />

and started to leave the room/ when they reached the door<br />

she spoke again/ at the door some turned to listen/ and she<br />

smiled/ those remaining at their seats were now standing<br />

with their right arms raised above their heads/ hands<br />

formed into fists/ as she spoke the words a fourth time<br />

those with raised fists/ spoke the words with her/ then<br />

they spoke the words a second time as those at the door<br />

turned and left the room/ the words echoed behind their<br />

retreat a third time/ then a fourth time—until the words<br />

became song with a cadence not unlike the nighttime<br />

cacophony of animals in the woods.<br />



Arthur Murray’s Boite de Nuit<br />

Through the years my thoughts<br />

of Dorothy were centered on 1957<br />

Dubuque and our Arthur Murray<br />

dance class. Dorothy with no tits,<br />

black frame glasses, brown tie oxfords.<br />

Plainness hiding a beauty that flowered<br />

three years later like the last tulip<br />

in an Iowa spring. Dorothy, in a<br />

class we all hated, sweating in a<br />

cramped studio on Bluff street.<br />

The box of the night our parents<br />

delivered us to like protesting<br />

prisoners of dictators. There to<br />

learn the basic box step—the key<br />

to unlocking the cool foxtrot<br />

in 4/4 time. A lesson repeated<br />

endlessly to I’m Available,<br />

Margie Rayburn’s only hit.<br />

Partners changed and there was<br />

my secret love, Dorothy, followed<br />

by her hyperventilation cured by a<br />

paper bag kept ready by Lucille, our<br />

sexless instructor. At our 40th reunion<br />

Dorothy laughed as we remembered<br />

the past. I had thought of her often<br />

when I watched my groceries go<br />

into a paper bag. My steps would<br />

slow in the parking lot, stop, then<br />

start with my left foot and in<br />

silence I would do a box step and<br />

think of the girl that got away.<br />


Dancing<br />


If by chance you come looking for me,<br />

I’m on the pier where a laughing gull and a pelican<br />

are in the mists of entanglement.<br />

I will never regret that tomorrow becomes morning<br />

and morning becomes the nighttime.<br />

I’ll dance between my bed sheets, thinking<br />

about you with your stellar gloryhallastoopid wings<br />

that watch over me. In this jive-ass turkey world.<br />

Zippo Man<br />


George Blaisdell is famous as the<br />

inventor of the Zippo cigarette lighter.<br />

His career happened in the East, but he<br />

retired, a multi-millionaire, to Lemon<br />

Heights, in Tustin, California. My friend,<br />

Craig, invited me to go swimming in<br />

Blaisdell’s pool. Supposedly, Craig’s<br />

mother knew George Blaisdell from<br />

church, but I think their relationship had<br />

more to do with Craig’s mom’s bathing<br />

suit. The inventor talked for hours about<br />

his industrial success, never taking his<br />

eyes off her, as we played blind man’s<br />

bluff and soaked him with cannon balls.<br />



God, I Love Peanut Butter<br />

Sometimes, I want to ignore the rules, shotgun a Miller,<br />

and piss on the tablets of tradition.<br />

I feel like Vince Staples, arguing in a corner that ‘90s Rap<br />

was not the Golden Era. On a similar scale, Shakespeare<br />

and William Blake are boring.<br />

I want to have fun writing poetry.<br />

Let me write<br />

a mess of words.<br />

Let me layer my lines<br />

like a million spreads of peanut butter on Wonder Bread.<br />

Crunchy and soft,<br />

Unnecessary but—satisfying.<br />

I declare myself ruler of<br />

nonsense, The Peanut Butter King<br />

and I wish to jumble a bunch of words together.<br />

Don’tstuffablackcatintoadarkcloset.<br />

Youwillmissthelightingstrike,<br />

worryingifyouwillcatchitonvideo.<br />

Thescratcheswilllaybeneathyourskinandtheywillsparklein<br />

thesun.<br />

Andthemoldwillcontinuetogrowunderyourbed.<br />

Whowillbemorethristyatnight? YouortheFeline?<br />

Dehydratedthedesertbegsforarareblanketofwovenrain.<br />

Asthenightinggalesingsandthecarsloudlydriveby—<br />

twobeingswilljoininbedcoiledandwarmed,<br />

twoloaves, aprimateandfelinebakedtoperfection,<br />

silencingallexpecatationsandnightmaresintoanovenof<br />

peace.<br />


three<br />


let them whisper next-door—<br />

let them say succulent things<br />

with mouths not tired from jawing,<br />

mouths still and never full<br />

let all the sky and its clouds gossip<br />

as if rain were a thousand pleasant words<br />

and winter all sharp disapproval<br />

the sun all radioactive praise<br />

(let the words pull and push you,<br />

let you be a space-child a moment too)<br />

let the pots and pans chitter-chatter<br />

all day long as you move from soap to oil,<br />

then soap again, scent hanging heavy as talk,<br />

and dinner as fulfilling as any other mouth’s work.<br />

let them talk! so what—<br />

let us all feast on each other,<br />

stripping, slurping, while<br />

the flesh is hot, while it all<br />

still steams, boiled tea,<br />

braised meat.<br />

then after what they call, digestif,<br />

may all the mourning open sweet casks,<br />

your muddied mind, risible as it is,<br />

will grow heady, pink, satisfied at last.<br />


Rest Note<br />


In musical notation a whole rest, symbolized as a rectangle<br />

sitting beneath the line, signals the absence of a sound for a<br />

defined period of time.<br />

The girl learning to play the violin<br />

recognizes the black bar<br />

as a whole rest, the presence in musical notation<br />

signaling a rhythmic moment without sound<br />

a respite from stretching fingers to reach<br />

high notes on the E string.<br />

She takes lessons from the beleaguered<br />

professor, who suffers her lack of talent<br />

as her promising classmate,<br />

smartest boy in her age group,<br />

finds ease in the movement of hand and bow.<br />

She feels shamed by his genius.<br />

Yet later he will die when a cliff collapses<br />

beneath him while his father,<br />

standing just inches to the left,<br />

will survive.<br />

The violin and the rest bar<br />

make up another story,<br />

one when the girl’s father<br />

becomes enraged when she<br />

props a book on the music stand<br />

to read Nancy Drew rather than practice.<br />

The violin disappears.<br />

This man has no Sabbath in his<br />

theology, snapping his fingers<br />

when he enters a room, commanding<br />

those sitting to stand, a force field<br />

of anger and unremitting ambition.<br />


Her life without a violin nonetheless<br />

becomes a study in rhythm.<br />

She thinks of rest as a physical location<br />

at the bottom of a sound wave, the trough<br />

where one can curl one’s back<br />

before the wave rises again and carries her forward.<br />

This is a place of surrender.<br />

A moment without ambition or fear of death.<br />

Conjured up as respite from the frenzied haste<br />

to live too much in the upper register.<br />

As if to seek the comfort of a bird<br />

who sinks her head under a wing<br />

to shut out the world<br />

and create a soft night.<br />


A meteorite of music landed on me when I was young and<br />

never left<br />

Music that massages my inside and cleanses my guts<br />

That addiction I know is a nugget of gold I can indulge in<br />

A shower of sound<br />

So vibrant it makes waves in my chest<br />

Roots coming out from my limbs<br />



Inside Me is a Tango Dancer<br />

Beautiful tango, take me by the hand.<br />

Beautiful tango, until you make me dance,<br />

how sweet it can be if you make me dance.<br />

How long will it last, baby if we dance?<br />

—Hindi Zahra<br />

Look at those sparkly silver pumps on the dancers’ feet.<br />

There are no mistakes in tango like in life.<br />

Tango is a passionate dance.<br />

I am a passionate woman, give me a chance.<br />

Why did you have to go?<br />

It takes two to tango.<br />

Tango Solitaire, I’m alone in the front row.<br />

Life is not supposed to be like this, don’t you know?<br />

Dreaming I was the dancer being twirled,<br />

her leg wrapped around his with her side slit,<br />

beautiful red gown,<br />

then he picks her up with her legs off the ground.<br />

For the finale, he brought her to his chest,<br />

This move was the best.<br />

No more passion,<br />

no more pleasure,<br />

nothing more to treasure.<br />

Play the Tango al Dente song.<br />

That means, firm to the bite.<br />

Let’s continue the show.<br />

Listen to me, let’s dance tonight.<br />

The music has stopped, one last dance.<br />

Take a chance.<br />


The Sound of Snow<br />


Alone and still in the countryside’s crispness,<br />

the falling snow benumbs me. It shrouds<br />

everything like a quilted comforter<br />

and mutes it like a broken speaker.<br />

The flurries are a boundless<br />

kaleidoscope of white butterflies<br />

flitting down from the monochrome sky<br />

and landing where they please, never to arise.<br />

Simon and Garfunkel sang to me<br />

of the sound of silence. I finally get it.<br />

In this lovely landscape, I discover<br />

that the sound of snow is the sound of silence.<br />

Cosmic Joy<br />


inspired by images from NASA’s Mars rovers<br />

Oh, breathless wonder<br />

Of sunsets and star-rises<br />

On a distant world<br />


My Contemplation<br />


What does my heart really want?<br />

Do I want kindness?<br />

I’ll give that one a yes.<br />

Do I want empathy? Yes siree!<br />

Whenever you see the proclamation,<br />

Be kind because everyone is going<br />

through something challenging.<br />

Do we heed that?<br />

Some do but others don’t.<br />

Do we want to send that kindness<br />

in a ripple? Most of some don’t.<br />

I want to be over the rainbow and<br />

behind me, where troubles melt like<br />

lemon drops.<br />

My heart wants peace, most of the<br />

time.<br />

Those caught up in the realm<br />

of materialism, never find their peace.<br />

My heart wants to be acknowledged<br />

as a good person. I try not to get caught<br />

up in materialism.<br />

It only hurts other life.<br />

My mantra is: Do no harm.<br />

It gives me peace to know, I do no harm<br />

to other life and my peers. My heart<br />

wants love and peace, maybe when we<br />

give and the ripple moves forward, that<br />

will give us peace.<br />



Sleeping here isn’t that heavy<br />

heavier was walking barefoot at knifepoint<br />

or being chased in dreams by a drug trafficker<br />

who threatened our kidnapping in Mexicali<br />

Begging for money on the way wasn’t that heavy<br />

heavier was the baggage we carried from abroad<br />

so we got rid of the clothes that were hindering us<br />

like in a movie scene where everybody cries<br />

but me<br />

Eating here isn’t that heavy<br />

compared to the seven-ten-twenty days<br />

that I resisted not eating the rocks on the path<br />

trying to forget thirst is a bitch<br />

Being here isn’t that heavy<br />

not after being thrown out of the first shelter<br />

because of my kid before the pedophile<br />

‚He‖could‖rape‖him‛—they said<br />

and the excuse to kick me out to the street<br />

that I no longer remember<br />

Waiting to cross to the United States isn’t that heavy<br />

compared to the last bus station<br />

that made me grow a supple umbilical cord<br />

from which I fed the baby with warmth until sunrise<br />

And still my tent gets dense in the shelter<br />

it sinks me every night into the two-inch mat, and I stop<br />

breathing, agitated<br />

so the woman next to me<br />

won’t get upset by the gaps in my story.<br />

translation of Dormir aquí no pesa tanto by Marlon PV<br />


The Pain Scale<br />


I’ve managed to fool everyone so far. As far as Phoenix to<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong>, the distance from childhood to college, from<br />

burning asphalt to burning sand, sun to marine layer to<br />

newfound migraines.<br />

‚What‖level‖is‖your‖pain?‛‖the‖labor‖and‖delivery‖nurse‖<br />

asked.<br />

As far as Kansas City, its jazz poetry and museum walks,<br />

my first snow days and pre-dawn café shifts, rotated bones<br />

and bent disks.<br />

‚You‖wouldn’t‖still‖be‖smiling‖if‖it‖was‖an‖eight.‛<br />

As far as Lafayette, its wild festivals—Mardi Gras, giant<br />

omelets, ducks, boudin—its swamps and dear friends who<br />

never meant to stay.<br />

‚I’ll‖still‖be‖smiling,‛‖I‖said,‖‚when‖I’m pushing out a<br />

baby. That’s‖just‖how‖my‖face‖works.‛‖And‖later‖that‖<br />

night, my body on fire, I looked over at my nurse and<br />

grinned.<br />


Dia de los Angelitos<br />

Day of the Little Angels<br />


Do you see their sweet faces made of clouds,<br />

their hands as light and soft as cotton candy?<br />

Here they come. Dry your tears.<br />

This is the one day of the year when the spirits<br />

of children come to visit for just twenty-four hours.<br />

Secure an invisible wall around them so we can<br />

corral them, coax them to stay longer.<br />

One day is not enough to hear their singing,<br />

to see them taste baked confections and<br />

sip hot chocolate on what will be a cold<br />

November night—the stars will count<br />

each child, remembering when they ran<br />

free in and out through rolling tumbleweed.<br />

Ready your altar to please these playful spirits.<br />

Make it colorful. You know how children love color.<br />

Show them photos of their childhood<br />

here on earth. Bring smiling sugar skulls,<br />

marigolds, glowing candles, statues of La Virgen—<br />

her blue gown, her kind face. Make these offerings,<br />

and they will take care of you.<br />

Give the children grains of corn to plant fields<br />

along their way, wind at their heels.<br />



We should raise our babies together<br />

Womanhood is sharing a laugh<br />

with a circle of pink cheeks and hair frizz—<br />

asking the other when it will all pass<br />

and not being scared to tell her that it is<br />

not so simple; that it may never be painless.<br />

Womanhood is toasting to our wrongs,<br />

then cursing cruelty with our soft lips.<br />

Do you remember just how long<br />

we’ve been friends? Enough to grow four sons<br />

in high school, in the clubs, on the teams,<br />

whistling at girls, wanting to be mean<br />

to the women around them—to their moms<br />

who once dreamed of throwing baby showers<br />

and birthday parties with their girls at happy hour.<br />


Adversity, Equality, Intrusion<br />


Brown, black, white—I don’t care.<br />

I do not regard them as equals<br />

and I have not been kind<br />

in response to intrusion.<br />

I admit to being unfair<br />

and I know it’s probably impossible<br />

to reduce them to extinction.<br />

Knowing these things<br />

and knowing what I know about hate<br />

includes knowing that the roots of hate<br />

are planted firmly in fear.<br />

And when you hate rats<br />

as much as I hate rats,<br />

knowing that my hate is rooted in fear. . .<br />

as soon as I see those little Tootsie Rolls<br />

in my house on a shelf or on the floor. . .<br />

the thought of rats in my space<br />

makes me feel like pulling out<br />

the roots of what’s left of my hair.<br />

I become irrational.<br />

Crawling through sewers,<br />

spreading disease—<br />

the thought alone makes me queasy.<br />

Sneaky, smart—<br />

extremely fast—<br />

I wish my fear of rats<br />

was part of my past.<br />

[. . .]<br />


Running around at night<br />

inside the walls—<br />

they eat whatever they find<br />

from aluminum foil<br />

to stinky moth balls.<br />

Kill them with poison or glue<br />

and they get fatally sick<br />

or they die flailing and stuck.<br />

After the panicky squeaking and squealing,<br />

you have to carry them out to the trash<br />

to be carried further away<br />

by whoever happens to be driving<br />

the big garbage truck.<br />

A spring-loaded trap<br />

can dispatch them quickly<br />

and splatter their guts.<br />

But last week at my house<br />

one rat’s hind leg was the only thing caught<br />

when the trap snapped shut.<br />

I thought about finishing him off<br />

with a rock or a brick<br />

but I decided to be nice<br />

instead of deranged.<br />

It was as if something inside me<br />

had changed.<br />

I went to my neighbor<br />

and bought some cocaine (she’s a dentist).<br />

I made a diluted solution,<br />

soaked one end of a Q-tip<br />

duct taped to a yard stick.<br />


I let the rat lick<br />

the cotton for a minute or so<br />

then I used the other end of the yard stick<br />

where I’d duct taped a dart<br />

(and I know this doesn’t exactly qualify<br />

as quality art) but I stabbed the chemically compromised<br />

creature<br />

enough times to make him a movie star<br />

in a Walking Dead feature.<br />

He no longer steals my Ranch Flavored Doritos.<br />

He no longer eats my Chili Cheese Fritos.<br />

And no bubonic plague infects my Flaming Hot Cheetos.<br />

If Heaven and Hell exist for the rats,<br />

I hope they’re outnumbered<br />

by big hungry cats.<br />


Decrescendo<br />


the sound fades as<br />

her expression empties<br />

and her fingers<br />

lift<br />

from the keys<br />

connections lost<br />

between axons and dendrites,<br />

hammers and strings<br />

leaving spaces gaps<br />

silences<br />

music and musician<br />

no longer as composed<br />

forgotten notes rewritten<br />

events misremembered<br />

transposed<br />

I know if I ask her<br />

to start again<br />

‚anything‖you‖want‖to‖play‛<br />

she will do so with joy<br />

I also know<br />

she does not recognize me<br />

she does not know<br />

that I am hers<br />

Yet with grace<br />

mistakes can be reframed<br />

as improvisation<br />

history revised<br />

without sacrificing dignity<br />


so I tell myself to listen with my heart<br />

as well as my ears<br />

to surrender and<br />

wait<br />

for the memories<br />

she can no longer summon<br />

and there<br />

bittersweet<br />

I may see her<br />

my beloved mother<br />

both as she is now<br />

in that moment<br />

and as she once was<br />

the woman who taught me<br />

to create color and beauty<br />

from black and white<br />

sitting side by side<br />

on a bench<br />

playing melodies<br />

of love<br />

loss<br />

and longing<br />

measure<br />

by<br />

measure<br />


Love from Every Angle<br />


As a poet<br />

I’ve examined love<br />

from every angle.<br />

I’ve let it drip from the ceiling<br />

until eventually<br />

I get the feeling like<br />

I’m floating in a room.<br />

I’ve dug it out of soil<br />

and skin<br />

until my hands no longer<br />

felt like mine or<br />

even hungered for the morning worm.<br />

I’ve dived deep,<br />

way down deep<br />

into the depths of love’s<br />

nebulous sea and discovered<br />

creatures never beached<br />

on my hot, sandy shores before.<br />

I’ve jumped many times,<br />

and with no parachute,<br />

just for the view,<br />

the ground screaming towards me<br />

and I,<br />

well, I screamed back.<br />

I’ve washed its mouth out<br />

with soap<br />

when it spoke the words<br />

it shouldn’t have, even<br />

after knowing what’s at risk.<br />


I’ve showered it with attention<br />

and never once mentioned<br />

just how tired<br />

I’d become.<br />

Now, again, as a poet<br />

I re-examine love<br />

so I can love again<br />

anew.<br />


gendered pheromones<br />

the scent of boy is heavy<br />

addictive<br />

i wonder how weighty i smell<br />

if she breathes me in<br />

expecting leaden air<br />

but all she gets<br />

is a wisp of girl<br />

easy to quit<br />

like a drag of helium<br />

making her light<br />

light enough to drift away<br />


A Lost Tomorrow<br />


Today a grown man fears his sorrow<br />

Dreams held high through time decay;<br />

a hopeful love will lose tomorrow<br />

First love blooms; sweet summer follows<br />

—only to senesce with autumn’s gray<br />

So today, a grown man nears his sorrow<br />

Even years ahead will hear his wallow<br />

A winter breeze blows them that way<br />

where still his love has lost tomorrow<br />

The thought of friendship burns if swallowed<br />

For three words he knows she’ll never say<br />

So today a man appears in sorrow<br />

Because from spring, time can’t be borrowed<br />

And for believing something gold could stay<br />

today this grown man cries in sorrow<br />

For my hopeful love has lost tomorrow.<br />


Friendly Fire<br />


I never wanted you to change,<br />

only to soften,<br />

to meet me at the gates of us,<br />

to whisper open the lock,<br />

to forehead kiss the fear out of me.<br />

I wanted to plant love on land where<br />

wars had been waged.<br />

If we could soak the blood from old wounds<br />

maybe we’d have a chance<br />

but you showed up in full armor,<br />

indifferent eyes peaking through.<br />

You sharpened your words when you felt threatened,<br />

you were careless with them too.<br />

Aiming to either hurt or charm,<br />

I never knew where they would land.<br />

I swore off bleeding for love, but I took<br />

your words like daggers to the heart.<br />

I told you the quickest way to kill me<br />

would be by saying things you don’t mean.<br />

You threw around promises,<br />

I thought if I could catch them,<br />

they’d be mine.<br />

Still,<br />

after‖all‖the‖‚I‖love‖yous‛<br />

that left your lips,<br />

I only believed you<br />

half the time.<br />


lood meridian<br />


they are watching<br />

watching as we bear the cold ghost of those before us,<br />

devoid from our dawn,<br />

our dwellings and laws nothing but trodden path in the<br />

gaze of their ruin—marble and jade echoing the jeered<br />

laughter, thunderous clouds of clodded hooves<br />

surrounding<br />

we were born unto this, sons nestled into the undoing<br />

arms of a mother<br />

and pinned against the too-large imprint of an absent<br />

forefather<br />



Solving Zeno’s Paradox<br />

I could only bare to open my curtains halfway<br />

today<br />

and only put away half my clothes<br />

I’m only half hungry,<br />

half full<br />

Fast broken, half eaten<br />

half rested<br />

My body,<br />

half washed<br />

In school, I used to bring double the lunch<br />

to give half of it away<br />

Pisces, martyr,<br />

the self-undoing sign<br />

Half the glass is half the battle<br />

and you don’t know the half of it!<br />

I only want more<br />

to give more away<br />

Half dream, half literal<br />

Half the truth, half a lie<br />

by omission<br />

Half a sip of water,<br />

half-swallowed<br />

If I had half a mind,<br />

I’d stick this out,<br />

but she’s doubled herself<br />

just to give half the body away<br />

Two halves of the same whole<br />

waging a war in the dark<br />


Our Gas Station<br />


Dilapidation is the first thing that comes to mind.<br />

I returned home to find the large old house<br />

where we used to play has dirt and vines all over it.<br />

The green door rotted out and won’t hold much longer.<br />

Frogs, rainwater, and plants fill the pool.<br />

The gas station where we used to walk to<br />

in order to buy little candy sticks<br />

that looked like cigarettes, so we could press<br />

them to our wet lips to act like the older kids<br />

before the booze and cocaine and opiate pills<br />

and then later the dope that swallowed<br />

up too many of my friends. Nearly all of which<br />

I stayed away from to keep my mind straight<br />

so that I could one day write like the great poets<br />

who I’d read at night. The whole act some<br />

secret operation, so I wouldn’t be ridiculed.<br />

That was such a long time ago though.<br />

Recently, I found my oldest and best childhood friend<br />

hunched over a staircase. His lips were blue, and<br />

his breathing had slowed. He was unresponsive<br />

and minutes away from death, overdosed on heroin.<br />

He looked thin as a candy cigarette<br />

after it had been sucked on for too long.<br />

I thought if I touched him, he would snap,<br />

but still adrenaline made me heave him over<br />

my shoulder and run. I called his mother<br />

and the paramedics. It wasn’t the first<br />

time or the third or the fourth or fifth.<br />


That gas station though is what I meant to talk about<br />

before I started on about the rest. It’s old<br />

too now and been just about replaced by two other<br />

newer gas stations within a mile span.<br />

That gas station—our gas station—sits in a shopping<br />

complex<br />

that was the new thing when I was a kid,<br />

but now it looks like some red stucco and brick relic,<br />

and long, stringy weeds have claimed much of the<br />

sidewalk.<br />

Somebody though keeps the lights on.<br />

I guess the shops do just enough business to get by.<br />

Maybe, that’s how God feels when he looks down.<br />

But still somehow<br />

He too decides to keep the lights on.<br />


Muddle<br />


1.<br />

It’s early morning.<br />

The sunrise pours like orange juice<br />

onto scattered sheets<br />

of half-written<br />

poems,<br />

that have been accumulating<br />

on my desk forever.<br />

2.<br />

There’s a vase by the window.<br />

It has no water<br />

and the flowers in it<br />

are now dead,<br />

dried-up, crumbled, dark and<br />

contorted like over-cooked bacon.<br />

3.<br />

There’s clutter all around me.<br />

It feels like I have<br />

been tossed onto a sizzling pan<br />

where scrambled eggs<br />

are ferociously cooking.<br />

4.<br />

My wife.<br />

She likens my unkept<br />

office to a sink<br />

full of green,<br />

moldy dirty dishes.<br />


5.<br />

The flies.<br />

They fly chaotically<br />

around me and keep landing<br />

on my skull,<br />

buzzing belligerently,<br />

apparently attracted<br />

to the sweat<br />

oozing out from my forehead,<br />

that stinks like sour milk.<br />

6.<br />

I am stuck in the muddle.<br />

All my unfinished projects<br />

mock me,<br />

torture me,<br />

like an army of regrets outfitted<br />

with dull knives,<br />

annoyingly stabbing and slicing<br />

my pancaked unresponsive<br />

consciousness.<br />

7.<br />

With profound longing.<br />

I wait for the hand of God<br />

to come toss my muddled world<br />

into a dishwasher.<br />

Then,<br />

and only then,<br />

I can start<br />

my poetic process<br />

freshly anew,<br />

on a spotless,<br />

shiny,<br />

pristine plate.<br />


The Pianist<br />


A typist in the throes of inspiration<br />

clicking and clacking across the board,<br />

up and down, fingers retracting from a hot plate,<br />

like the spatter of oil in a searing pan.<br />

As the tempo rises, the pianist pulls at newly frothing<br />

dough<br />

stretching and snapping from sticky<br />

fingers, a yeasty indulgence pitted for olive and oil.<br />

She slows and steadies now,<br />

a spidery release of flour across the counter or<br />

an expert crease along thin origami sheets,<br />

each glissando creating crisp corners and gentle folds that<br />

take<br />

flight as a crane through the melodic blue.<br />

Back and forth,<br />

back and forth,<br />

a pass along the loom,<br />

cords of thread, chords<br />

of note, weaving<br />

together a textile of song.<br />

She dips and she rocks,<br />

eyelids softly closed,<br />

nodding in time to a great oration or<br />

bobbing mildly like a boat on a quay.<br />

And then the beat!<br />

and she’s landing a cannonball in the water,<br />

weighty then weightless, a slow harmonic rise<br />

to the surface.<br />

Like wheat on the plain, she sways in the traveling winds,<br />

waves of amber across ivory,<br />

a prairie tune that carries her up<br />

up up<br />

into the symphonic sky.<br />


But aching wings must land sometime<br />

and her needling fingers must draw to a close.<br />

Her elbows flare above the keys,<br />

a descending heron before the creek,<br />

and with a final gust—<br />

a forte pitch—<br />

the soaring pianist alights<br />

upon her stage.<br />


certainties and certainties<br />

there used to be an answer sheet<br />

and all the streets were paved<br />

they had names and cross-streets<br />

and if i didn’t know them, someone did<br />

but deer make their own trails<br />

and trees fall on ours<br />

and what looks like a stepping stone<br />

proves to be a slipping stone<br />

and if we aren’t soulmates<br />

i choose you anyway<br />


Dragon Flowers<br />

for my mother<br />


It’s not a Hallmark emotion<br />

written in perfect Mormon handwriting<br />

with perfect Mormon flowers,<br />

perfect cursive wishes,<br />

perfect pink wedding buds<br />

ready to explode into<br />

thousands of perfect pink petals.<br />

It’s more like our little garden<br />

the cement wall worrying itself<br />

into pieces of mortgage, food, bills.<br />

It’s what you grew—<br />

pansies, roses, dragon flowers,<br />

strawberries, children . . .<br />

It’s what you made:<br />

‚mud‖pies,‛<br />

dinners,<br />

the house clean,<br />

yourself tired,<br />

your hands old—<br />

which could brush<br />

branches into Vivaldi’s spring<br />

and wash away the tombstones<br />

with painted concertos<br />

chasing from your canvas<br />

all the garden snails<br />

all the dark-closet lions.<br />


It’s your best friend—<br />

the German Shepherd angel incarnate<br />

whose sad, dark eyebrows arched themselves<br />

into curious acceptance of us<br />

who guarded me from the chest of gargoyles<br />

carved into Dracula’s<br />

foreboding<br />

opening like a coffin of faces<br />

glaring at the instrument<br />

of regret<br />

made louder by denial<br />

yet still in tune with my<br />

syllables of souvenirs,<br />

symphonies into poems—<br />

of sighing frozen glass<br />

spelling memories<br />

through boiling spaghetti fog:<br />

scents of basil and turpentine;<br />

oil paint on the furniture, rug<br />

green on my toes, clothes<br />

in my eyes hazel<br />

garden green<br />

dilapidated wall of green<br />

renaissance.<br />


Transmutted<br />


Drips of candle wax<br />

quicken as night falls,<br />

slide through caged fingers.<br />

Shadows part like impatient viewers.<br />

You never regret; it’s a wasted emotion<br />

that’s sure to carve away and deprive of air.<br />

Instead, you bravely stretch jaws like an open vise.<br />

By midnight, the scent of potent truth nectar wafts.<br />

Dusty wick crackles high, and fear burns low.<br />

Your words pool while you confide in me.<br />

Trust rises like smoke, as does the Sun.<br />

Once wax rests, its residue is proof<br />

that life matures, hardened<br />

and risen, come morning.<br />


Intermezzo<br />

a dream<br />


The skyscraper built in translucent<br />

blue glass was immersed<br />

in Debussy’s Sonata in G minor.<br />

Comet-like others attired in black suits<br />

trailed along the hall diffused in blue light<br />

seeping in from the surreal windows.<br />

A man in a blue checkered tweed suit<br />

benevolent and conducive, led me<br />

to the threshold of my new self-contained<br />

home across the woolen carpeted hall<br />

towards‖those‖‚Flats‖of‖Transcendence‛‖<br />

designated by a western arrow.<br />

The skyscraper built in translucent<br />

blue glass was immersed<br />

in Debussy’s Sonata in G minor.<br />



The Tongue Has No Bone<br />

I thought I heard you<br />

calling in the night<br />

Was it a dream?<br />

Some cats downstairs were yowling<br />

in the alley<br />

They sounded a million years ago<br />

Did you call again? again again<br />

Cats in the night, calls, night calls<br />

me to the phone<br />

Something’s not right—I can<br />

feel it in my bones<br />

Dogs are howling, I speak<br />

and there is no tone<br />

I listen, breathing in out in out<br />

Something’s coming, I know it<br />

A rap on the door, there you are<br />

windswept hair, answered prayer<br />

We are on the floor<br />

Your rock-hard passion<br />

knifes me like a stone<br />

What did you say?<br />

I thought I heard you<br />

whisper in my mouth<br />

the tongue has no bone,<br />

the tongue has no bone<br />


Spray<br />


webbed feet<br />

sand<br />

down<br />

grained<br />

sand<br />

salt lick skin<br />

salt lick<br />

dear<br />

gull feather<br />

foam foam foam<br />

gull gull gull gull<br />

foam<br />

web<br />

feather<br />

beak<br />

BEAK squawk<br />

water<br />

water<br />

water salt<br />

He buries my feet in the sand<br />

before he sets out to the water<br />

waves licking his toes as I<br />

ponder the weight of mine<br />

I think the earth cannot be carried<br />

he says this way we can be sure<br />

I stay<br />

where he wants me<br />


Beyond Science and Religion<br />

Beyond science and religion<br />

the evolution of belief<br />

Now come let all division<br />

be joined in loves relief<br />

As energy, transforming,<br />

unfolds the sacred truth<br />

No measurement or microscope<br />

could ever hold the proof<br />

Beyond all particles and waves<br />

encompassing the sun<br />

Truth not in science books or graves<br />

the Truth is We Are One<br />

This moment holds infinity<br />

intangible and uncontained<br />

Let’s dance around the mystery<br />

One love began and One remained<br />


This poem was inadvertently omitted from last year’s edition.<br />



You, Shapeshifter (on Grief)<br />

All they saw was a bit of jelly falling from a biscuit.<br />

Hand you a napkin, clean yourself off.<br />

This grief is just a warm, dark glob<br />

cleaving from you.<br />

Grief is your hand in a bowl of salt.<br />

Just notice the craving.<br />

Grief will wait until you’re softer<br />

than itself to dissolve<br />

you<br />

best served<br />

on a chilled plate<br />

with coffee or wine—<br />

or both at the same time.<br />

See, the meat you serve is yourself.<br />

Grief needs to be held—a livid infant—<br />

another’s flesh<br />

slapped onto your bones.<br />

Be the casket.<br />

Be the velvet, but<br />

don’t lug around the carcass.<br />

Bury it already.<br />

Grief can feel like whiplash.<br />

Just a moment ago you were plump with life<br />

warm and wet inside.<br />

Suddenly you’ve been sucked dry. Grief<br />

is being mummified<br />

wide awake.<br />

Prepared for your unraveling.<br />

Limbs wrapped gently.<br />

You will return.<br />

You don’t have a choice.<br />

You’re not done here.<br />


What Lies Beneath<br />


You tell me this plant,<br />

these small white flowers<br />

growing out of the green leaf<br />

closing like a hand upon itself,<br />

is bloodroot,<br />

and it got its name<br />

because of the color of the liquid<br />

that comes when its stem is broken,<br />

though neither of us<br />

will break the stem<br />

to see if it is true.<br />

I’ll just have to trust<br />

that everything you tell me,<br />

and what we read in the guidebook,<br />

is also true—that a flower this simple<br />

would never tell a lie.<br />


Running after death,<br />

holding a cake<br />

blowing candles,<br />

filling cups<br />

with candy sticks.<br />

The cheering trumpets,<br />

the shiny confetti,<br />

two gold number balloons<br />

flapping in the sugary air.<br />

Happiness gushing out<br />

of all the smiley faces.<br />

Hour after hour, I am inching closer to the end.<br />

No whipped cream, please.<br />



A Force of Nature<br />

My body is a winding road<br />

My eyes a green ember<br />

My stretch marks sewed<br />

My cellulite soft as the snow of December<br />

My feet strong as heavy weights<br />

My fingers know and remember<br />

My mind a keeper of dueling fates<br />

My body a sacred presenter<br />



The Most Antisocial Man in the World<br />

When he walks into an empty room,<br />

loneliness says it needs a little time to itself.<br />

Panhandlers cross the street to avoid him.<br />

He asks employers about their marital status,<br />

files harassment complaints against HR,<br />

and leaves car salesmen waiting<br />

while he talks to his supervisor.<br />

When he goes to the dentist,<br />

the drill needs Novocain.<br />

Cranberries take him with a spoon of sugar.<br />

Telemarketers hang up when he answers the phone.<br />

COVID gets vaccinated against him.<br />

He is<br />

the most antisocial man in the world.<br />

‚I‖don’t always drink beer but when I do<br />

I prefer Egotistical Bastard Ale.<br />

Stay‖bitter,‖my‖friends.‛<br />


Moonrise Before Sunset<br />


All day the leaves tumbled, drifted, their breezy dances<br />

unplanned as tomorrow’s prayers till as the sun settled<br />

all the soft winds hushed and the half moon rose up,<br />

silvered like a sister’s pride, while the sun aimed low,<br />

gilding the hills in deep amber, hushed reassurance.<br />

Every Tuesday I mail two postcards: one bright picture<br />

to a writer’s mother in a final nursing home,<br />

the other to my friend’s sister fogged and frail<br />

as dementia wraps its coils more snugly<br />

—still, she savors the colors I send and I know she<br />

rubs a fingertip along my long row of XXXX.<br />

Hope may be mailed in a stamped envelope today<br />

with my note to you. Last week you mailed another<br />

to the origami heart of the village we build,<br />

one folded page after another. Number our notes.<br />

Yes, it takes a village to hold our love.<br />


Sea Glass Miracle<br />


In spite of a looming recession,<br />

I overspend—gifts, groceries,<br />

five-foot Douglas fir, twinkling lights<br />

all overpriced. On Christmas the unwrapping<br />

of too many gifts by kids who insist<br />

they’re on the nice list,<br />

Italian feast—focaccia,<br />

lasagna, two servings of Tiramisu,<br />

leave me feeling stuffed, uninspired,<br />

wearied by the word <strong>San</strong>ta.<br />

The next day, as my husband and son fixate<br />

on Super Smash, I escape<br />

with my youngest to the beach<br />

where we find below the high tide line<br />

abundant beds of shells bearing sea glass—<br />

frosted gems once trash<br />

until tumbled<br />

by the ocean. My little girl<br />

usually thrilled to glimpse<br />

even a single brown, green, or clear bit, dances<br />

as she drops, one by one, into a yellow pail<br />

what must be 200 smooth pieces,<br />

her fav, an aqua bottle<br />

bottom.‖‚It’s‖a‖Christmas‖miracle,‛‖<br />

she sings as the sun, waves, blue sky<br />

with wispy white clouds, her tiny frame<br />

attired in a Little Mermaid shirt, send<br />

a surge of joy to my soul so that it seems<br />

the highlight of the season<br />

is her song soon swallowed<br />


y the tide.<br />

When vacation ends and she’s back in class,<br />

I comb alone the beach debris—styrofoam,<br />

sticks, plastic, other storm garbage for a sliver<br />

of sea glass as elusive as the moment<br />

so many polished pieces filled her pail.<br />

Rise Up<br />


Rise up, my darling ones!<br />

Stretch your new legs,<br />

two or four, commence the<br />

wild warm-blooded dance,<br />

or spread your leathery<br />

wings in fresh morning’s joy.<br />

Celebrate this day Jurassic!<br />

Quickly now, while young<br />

Sol still arches across<br />

a clear saurian sky,<br />

before the long fall,<br />

before the dark<br />

night of Chicxulub.<br />



Lava Tube<br />

Lava River Cave, Bend, Oregon<br />

Newberry National Volcanic Monument<br />

I descend into<br />

the dragon lair,<br />

a mile long basalt belly,<br />

black inside blacker<br />

so dense it presses<br />

against my eyes<br />

with a damp chill<br />

that embalms my body.<br />

My spirit hangs<br />

like a bat<br />

upside down from<br />

the cave’s canopy.<br />

Unsettled,<br />

my ears flair as I walk,<br />

straining to hear echoes<br />

of strange sounds.<br />

The cold stillness<br />

oppresses and intensifies<br />

lost sight.<br />

Shape-shifting phantoms<br />

crawl under faint flashlight.<br />

Shadows hover over arches,<br />

outline bleached ribs<br />

of ore and other minerals<br />

staining walls with color<br />

that will never see<br />

the light of day.<br />

Water trickles<br />

through overhead cracks,<br />

falls into small lava bowls<br />

hollowed out<br />

on the cavity floor.<br />


I gasp as a drop<br />

finds me, fearful. . .<br />

that this dank<br />

serpentine body<br />

will wrap me in<br />

its folds,<br />

absorb every molecule<br />

of warm blood.<br />

Shivering,<br />

I stumble back<br />

to the entrance –<br />

where emerging into<br />

a darkness of day<br />

imagine our Milky Way<br />

and me,<br />

standing on the edge<br />

of a black hole,<br />

the only real way out<br />

this poem.<br />

This poem was inadvertently omitted from last year’s edition.<br />


One Worker’s Inquiry<br />


Where was all this free time<br />

people had to finally write that novel?<br />

Whatever became<br />

of all that hoarded toilet paper?<br />

Who pays for the time<br />

it takes for you<br />

to work on yourself?<br />

Who pays for<br />

the strange ways<br />

the wealthy choose to die?<br />

Who paid for Rhodesian chrome<br />

and who pays for Israel’s dome?<br />

Who breathed a sigh of relief<br />

when Malcom was gunned down?<br />

Who demands the blood sacrifice of non-violence?<br />

In what year did America become land-of-the-free?<br />

Who’s to answer and who speaks for me?<br />


Massacre of Wool<br />


Imagine the mountains of earth were<br />

carved out to be the heads of pins,<br />

the homes of your sisters and brothers decay<br />

alongside their precious bodies.<br />

A howl bellows out, and immediately<br />

a giant rubs his thumb and pointer together.<br />

Dirt roads mix with salty ocean waters,<br />

creating a gritty texture that extends to his palm.<br />

A whole bloodline is terminated.<br />

Wolves using sheep as shields,<br />

wool falls victim to missiles.<br />

But the wolf is never caught.<br />

A cloth-covered civilian lies face down in the beige dirt,<br />

carrying his only son,<br />

two pairs of lungs tainted with chemical residue.<br />

Blonde men, wearing denim jeans and sporting hair gel,<br />

bend over to take a picture.<br />

Dead flocks riddle these once lively streets,<br />

and the wolves are never caught.<br />



This Star Trek Poem of Mine<br />

Once upon a time when I was a bus<br />

driver navigating that metallic behemoth<br />

thru the brassy jewel box of Downtown<br />

<strong>San</strong> <strong>Diego</strong>, I used to glance to my left<br />

like a wis