Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Poetry Expressed Vol 2, Spring 2017

Poetry Expressed Vol 2, Spring 2017

Poetry Expressed is the on-line Magazine voice of Poetry Express Berkeley.

Poetry Express Berkeley is a 15 year-old venue meeting every Monday night with featured poets and lots of open mic time. We meet all Mondays except major holidays at Himalayan Flavors, 1585 University Ave. Berkeley, CA. 
Check our website for any holidays, who is featured, any exceptions to the schedule, other information, and for links to other venues.

During our Vol 1, 2016 issue, we published work which our participants and audiences voted as the best poetry read at Poetry Express Berkeley.

In this, Vol. 2, 2017 spring, we the hosts of Poetry Express Berkeley, have chosen from work read in early 2017 at our venue plus work nominated by audiences since our last issue in 2016.

See our About page for submission info.

Edited by the hosts: Jim Barnard, Jan Dedrick,  Bruce Bagnell, Jennette DesBoine.

This issue published March 14, 2017


Oakland’s Ghost Ship         by Jan Steckel

Light poured through the grille from a confessional,
through interior windows, stained glass,
over pews, banquettes, overstuffed chairs,
ottomans, leatherette couch, Naugahyde recliner,
made it all glow. Tiffany lamps shone.
Strings of golden lights, votive candles,
parasols and pagodas, tassels and tapestries,
Persian rugs, batik, inlay, mosaic, macramé.

Crazy brilliant children played 52 pianos,
guitars acoustic and electric, rattles,
a Telefunken cabinet radio with shortwave
that could tune into Russia at sunset,
a drum set, bodhrans and bongos. Turntable,
vinyl records, brass bells, bamboo flutes,
giant speakers with godzilla subwoofers,
a lit-up jukebox, a washboard,
animal horns blown like shofars.

As the music got going, madonnas swayed.
Ganeshas waved arms. Silver and gold
Buddhas cavorted. Balinese and African
masks descended from walls,
circled faster around wild players.
A great papier maché head bobbed.
A manticore screamed. A bicycle spun
its wheels in air. A string of painted birds
flew in tightening elliptical orbits.

A Northwestern Native American totem
pole disassembled itself, figures
jumping down one by one to dance
around maniac musicians. Dozens
of skulls, human and animal, jigged
in concentric circles, clockwise
and widdershins. A grandfather clock
that never chimed struck at last,
and all the other clocks ran backwards.

They’ll say it was exposed electrical wires,
lianas of extension cords, a wild child
defying the No Smoking sign, igniting
propane tanks attached to the camping stove.
Witnesses know better. As the music rose,
dragons of stone and dragons of wood
shot fire from mouths, smoke from nostrils,
igniting pointed pickets from demolished fences,
paintings, engravings, stacked rolled carpets,
nineteenth-century photos, throw pillows,
and the makeshift staircase of wooden pallets.

Dream-catchers, reversed swastikas and books
burned. Wagon wheels, a round piece of wood
with a painted eye, signs reading “TATTOOS,”
“Star Wars,” “Welcome to Satya Yuga,” and “CHAI”
all made fine kindling. Canopic jars
of paints and solvents exploded. Canvasses curled.
Purple curtains smoked, sparked. Windows exploded.
Night air roared in and fed the conflagration.

The roof collapsed onto people holding each other.
Ashes were identified by dental records and DNA.
Reporters asked who was to blame.
Politicians offered thoughts and prayers
where the stench of burning lingered.
Survivors bedded down under bridges,
moved to Vallejo or back in with their parents.

Now 36 ghosts play 52 pianos on a ghost ship
floating down the estuary to the bay.
Its gunwales are strung with Christmas lights.
Tibetan prayer flags flutter from the masts,
though there is no wind. The figurehead
is a trans girl DJ bare to the waist. Silent foghorns
warn their music is leaving Oakland.
Answering music pours out every city window.

This poem first appeared in Poets Reading the News 

Jan Steckel
Author of the Lambda Literary Award-winning book
The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011)


Ancestor’s Cry   by Camille Miller

In this maze of
Space and time
It seems we haven't
Taken the time
To remember the cry
Of our ancestors,
Fingers blistered from
The thorns in the cotton
Sheets have lolled us to sleep
Dulled our memories
To the sounds of whips
Snapping across bodies
Skin broken, red stripes
Like liquid pain
Rolls down our faces
When faced with human price tags
"Darkies on sale today"
Examining out teeth, our breasts, our hips
Estimating our worth
By the color of our skin
Tones, of every shade
Separated by darkness
Some in the big house
Some in the field
But all servants, slaves
To a system of cruelty
Meant to rape us of our dignity
Is rooted in our ancestry
Descendants of Kings and Queens
It's in our bloodstream
It is our God given destiny
To overcome
And we shall overcome
We build our bridges
On the backs of those who have
Before us
There is the promise of a brighter day
Echoed in
"Still I Rise" and
"I Have a Dream"
That we wake up
And break off
Slavery mentality
Stop believing the lie
That you're not good
'Cause the God who made all things said
"It is good!"
Let us not forget
Where we come from
The moan of our ancestors
To the tune of this generation
There is a melody
A new song to be, sung
Sing your songs of freedom!
© Camille J. Miller

Camille Miller is a poet who resides in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been active in the open mic scene for three years.  Her favorite poets are Maya Angelo and Langston Hughes. She enjoys entertaining a crowd with lyrical and thought provoking verse.  She is an active part of the Valona Poetry community in Crockett.


ordinary language    by David Zeltzer

people speak ordinary language even when they’re bleeding,
when they throw these words on voyager into space,
as if these recorded voices at heliopause
would sound like god and calm the martian moons.

people speak ordinary language even after the cop
has pulled the garrote tight, and fills the room with death.
a small child on barren fields of snow cries once,
and its mother, filled with grief, clasps it to her breast.

people speak ordinary language into phones, buckets
filled with tar and birds who will never fly again,
into tiny models of the titanic with detailed holes,
and a wooden glider about to crumple on kill devil hills.

people speak ordinary language and remember
clouds of floating seeds that buried the candy store near their school,
all those dinosaurs that slowly walked away,
and little children who grow up and still wonder.

people speak ordinary language when they lie,
when they build a trap for all the crawling things in the dark forest,
when they tunnel into one dream they never remember when they wake
and sing so quickly it’s impossible to understand the wind.

i’ve piled boxes of ordinary language in the garage and never look in them,
but i hear them yelling all night long and it scares me,
keeps me awake, until soaked with sweat and utterly exhausted,
sleep overwhelms me as i slowly mouth ordinary language.


David Zeltzer started writing poems in grade school and  never stopped. He says; “My writing continued but slowed down in grad school, and during my years in Boston working on human/computer interface design.   I’ve returned to the Bay Area, writing at full speed, and reading everywhere I can."
When  living in Eugene, Oregon, Zel;tzer co-founded the editorial collective that published 10 Point 5: A Magazine of the Arts, which published 7 issues from 1976-78, including poetry, images, and interviews with local filmmakers, dancers, Robert Bly, and the novelist Ursula Le Guin. David’s poems have appeared in Troubador Anthology, The Goodly Company, Mr. Cogito, Echo, 10 Point 5, Uut Poetry and Fur-lined Ghettos. He has a my digital chapbook, Realtime Babies, available from iBooks, Barnes & Noble, and amazon – or you can hear him read all the poems in that volume at www.realtimebabies.net.   On May 30, 2016, He was the featured poet in the San Francisco Open Mic Poetry Podcast TV Show on youtube, in the segment hosted by Clara Hsu.


No Weapon, No Cover     by Adele Mendelson

Our conversations are like the hum
of bees in an abandoned yard,
the residents long evicted

Our bed drifts on a sea of fatal flaws,
and we will never see
the tiny architecture of our children’s feet

Hungry, we find in the refrigerator
an unripe peach, a few unkept promises
The money in the coffee can is gone

And even while we offer up our tenderest secrets,
I am remembering the stairway to the third floor,
books heavy in my arms, the lockers smelling of dust
and embarrassment. I’d be remembering how
we were always Indians in the white man’s camp,
no weapon, no cover

  Adele Mendelson was born in Cleveland, Ohio and now lives in Oakland, California.  She writes both fiction and poetry and has produced three volumes of work.  Her strongest conviction about writing is that it should never bore the writer or anyone else, that it should be sexy, have something at stake, and the dark side should be lurking just beneath the cover.

To My Son at 17       by Adele Mendelson

We stand at the foot of the stairs, your gaze
angling down to mine.  We’re in conversation

about your cello lesson, the essay due, the ride
you need home from your basketball game

when I am struck by how complete
and how separate you have become, and how,

despite a certain shared history beginning
with my body and a seed, we have diverged.

You roam and strike for independence,
I threaten and demand obedience.

We negotiate spending money,
household chores, driving privileges,

you, with your eye on the future when
you will be free,

I, with my eye on the future,
when you will leave me.  I am the harbor,

watchful and staid, fearful of storms,
destinations beyond the edge.

You are the ship, new made and splendid,
sailing out to sea.
 Adele Mendelson, April ‘16


stacking rocks                       by Jeannette "JD" DesBoine

one boulder at a time…
heaved over the left shoulder like that errant pinch of salt…
salt spilled over resistance
salt poured over truth
salt set ablaze with the flint of a careless tongue…
salt rubbed into an open wound and spread like viral infection

one boulder at a time
scattered like sheep across the wilderness
like chimneys in a tornado
like high ideals stacked against non-supporting walls
like prayer issued up by split tongues

the sound is babble
but discerning ears detect a distinct rhythm
click / clack – as one brick slams against the other
click / clack – as it smacks its own deceit
click / clack – as it drops the mountain on the molehill
click / clack – as it seals the silent grave

rock by rock

stone by stone

stack by stack

click by clack

we load exploding guns

Jeannette DesBoine admits to being “possessed by the love of words and haunted by the spirit of the printed page.” The University of Texas @ El Paso alumna describes herself as an English teacher by education, a writer by definition, and a poet with a passion for theater and spoken word. See more at https://www.amazon.com/author/jeannettedesboine

the judge!                                by Jeannette "JD" DesBoine

we the people weigh in….
not that our opinion counts…
our voice won’t matter to anyone but us…

the voice of capitalism bends the rules around dollar bills and gold standards….
if our opinion makes sense, the standard will be changed.
power has the power and privilege to turn the dice – just like that!
you be the judge … not that your judgment will count!

let the semblance of commitment dry your tears on the sanskrit of your time.

judgment smiles behind your back and rewrites the lie of your truth.

you are outnumbered.

you are overruled.

you are out of order, irrelevant, immaterial, and obsolete.

watch yourself … here comes the judge!


Richard Loranger is a writer, performer, visual artist, and all around squeaky wheel, currently residing in Oakland, CA. His recent book of flash prose, Sudden Windows (Zeitgeist Press, 2016), has been warmly received. He is also the author of the Poems for TeethThe Orange Book, and nine chapbooks. Other recent work can be found in Oakland Review #2, Overthrowing Capitalism vol. 2 (Revolutionary Poets Brigade), and the new anthology The Careless Embrace of the Boneshaker (great weather for MEDIA). You can find more about his work and scandals at www.richardloranger.com.

remember:                              by Richard Loranger

delivered well + orderly we
rip our skin off rip our
rip our skin + shine like the bloody
moon the moon that pulls us
out of the room the room that
held us tight like skin. rip
the moon you well-delivered orderly you
roustabout rousted from sleep by the shining
police uttering words made of skin.
the police uttering nonsense uttering death
are sent by the carnival balloons the
unspent corporations muttering hoc est corpus
hoc est corpus the police muttering nonsense
muttering other. the other police are not so bad
are not sent or crooned only
crowd the balustrade when justice intervenes.
the ballooned corporation edges tensely toward
the body, the corpus hailed and reigned
in an orderly delivery. the corpus, the corporation, the police
deliver well the taut balloon but cannot
pinch the moon, cannot pull us uttering + bloody
from the unorderly carnival the unspent shine
because we are not held in by skin,
because we are beyond skin we are
ripped we are bloody + blooded + well,
because we are sinew + nerve + eyes + they cannot destroy eyes,
they can oppress but they cannot destroy
because eyes see + eyes speak + eyes listen + sinew resists
because they cannot live without our eyes
because they need our eyes to see
because without being seen they are nothing
because without us they are nothing
because they are already nothing
because we see that
because we are eyes
because we are blood
because we are blood and mind
because we.


Cassiopeia                    by Jocelyn Hernandez 

The little boy could name the constellations
And he felt the warmth with the tip of his finger
as he threw his arm up in victory.
He softly poked each ancient burning light
And I couldn’t bear to tell him they died long before he lived
His soft skin wrinkled often
His belly shook like the green jello that often stained his shirt
He always lied about brushing his teeth
And his eyebrows furrowed when I told him to march.

He learned the impact of words quickly
as he started outgrowing his footie pajamas.
I could hear his pain
The one he kept deep in his chest.
It pounded through his earphones
And it was louder when the music quieted.
His belly stopped shaking.
Tugged at his shirt walking through hell’s halls
Trying to fight off other people’s demons
And he talked to the ground often.
He stopped looking at the skies
Forgot about the constellations
Like a son forgets the father who forgot about him
Abandonment coddled him now.

He found a family in large black sweaters
and pants that don’t fit.
They too spoke to the ground
but they spoke much louder.
And since our little boy never could shout
his new family became his throat
He hated the violence, the drinking and the pants that didn’t fit
But they let him eat lunch with them and called him by his name.

He found abandonment again
When blue and red lights illuminated his face
And our little boy’s neck almost gave out in search for the black sweaters
That had left him and taken his throat
I spoke to him across a picnic table
Under the supervision of an armed authority
And he still speaks to the ground

The pain in his chest came down to a whisper
When he reminded me about the constellations
And in an effort to connect them back a person we both knew once
He threw his arm up
Remembering the warmth of light
And the names of long dead stars
he stuttered on the his favorite one

My eyes watered the garden I let die in him so many years back
as I watched the sun in his eyes burn
fueling my coldest of silver blues

Jocelyn Hernandez was born in 1993, Woodland CA to Gloria and Salvador Hernandez, who immigrated from Mexico 7 years prior to her birth. She is the youngest of three and spent her childhood speaking Spanish at home and falling in love with telenovelas. In school, she would go on to learn four instruments though was never very good at any of them. She majored in Communication at Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga, but it was in was in an Ecopoetry course where she fell in love with poetry and writing. The poems she read and heard were lyrical and dramatic like the instruments she was never very good at and the telenovelas she reenacted when her family wasn’t looking. Today, she lives in San Francisco and draws from her personal experiences for her poetry.


Bedtime               by Chase Gagnon

When I was six, before I knew anything of the world—the world outside where gunshots and sirens wailed like an orgy of banshees up and down the nightmarish streets of East Detroit—my mother would hold me against her chest in the basement and read me tales of horror and poems of madness from the book with a tattered cover she called her favorite; the one she kept on the top shelf of an otherwise empty bookcase.

With a loving but raspy voice that somehow soothed the anarchy outside with the oddity of its grace, she would caw loudly like a raven and pull me close against her chest, tickling me after the long seconds of silence when she'd whisper, "Nevermore!"

Only now, as I look back at the red and blue lights flashing through that tiny window, do I realize that none of this madman's words made any sense to me whatsoever. But even so, at six years old, they were far more accessible than anything else in that world of beautiful chaos.

creeping dusk...
the finch's song fades
to black

Chase Gagnon is a California ginger from Detroit looking for moments to snap. His poems and photos have appeared in magazines all over the world such as Failed Haiku, Prune Juice, and Frogpond. His chapbook No Regrets has been highly praised in Blithe Spirit, the journal of the British Haiku Society. You can view many of his photos on his Facebook page @ https://www.facebook.com/chasegagnonphotography

Bigfoot's Identity Crisis                       by Chase Gagnon

You have no idea
what's like to be me.

Most people don't even think I exist.
And they have the nerve to say I'm just some human
trotting around the woods in a monkey suit—
a goddamned monkey suit!

But let me tell you something: the pain is real.

I may be eight feet tall and leave
two-foot-long footprints in the dirt
but I feel so small in this world…
so small I'm beginning to wonder
if I'm real or not too.

No one can ever seem to find their way out to visit me.
And all my photos come out blurry,
even selfies.

Every morning I stare at my face in the river
before kneeling down
to cup the water in my hands
to feel it cascade down my throat
while the birds of the forest sing the chorus of sunrise—

this is the only time I feel like
more than just a myth.
The only time I feel

I'd tell you to take a walk in my shoes,
but there isn't a size big enough
for the sorrows
of a Sasquatch.


Smooth Stone                        by Bruce Bagnell

I long searched in piles of jumbled rocks,
on sands, trails, and every day,
with childish delight at last finding
the smooth rock
curved inward on one side
matching the stroke of my finger
obsessively fitting in
to the space, water worn,
as perfect a feeling
as now with you,
skin curved just so
you too must have been
within the waterfall

Bruce Bagnell has worked as a cook, mechanic, and college professor; held various management positions including running a car dealership; and was a USAF captain in Vietnam. Now retired, along with writing he is a Poetry Express Berkeley host, and just finished remodeling a 1930’s French Laundry into an art space.  He also does occasional management consulting work.   He has been published in OmniVerse, The Scribbler, The Round, Blue Lake Review, Crack the Spine, Chaparrel, Oxford Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, Studio1, Westview Magazine, Zone 3,  the Griffin, The Burningwood Literary Journal, Poetalk, Tower Journal, and The Alembic, among other publications or online postings.

You Said                                   by Bruce Bagnell

I saw flowers
coming out of your nipples.
I told you.

You said:
“It’s my sleeveless dress
hot as fire engine lipstick.”

“You were in James Dean leather
when we met
and why did you stop
having wild hair?”
You said.

“Now you wear accountant on your face,”
you said.

“I don’t see flowers
coming out of your penis,
you said.

“I put on this dress.
What are you going to do with it?”
You said.

“Here, in the restaurant,”
you said.

“Tear it off;
later won’t do,”
you said.

“Show wild,
bring the moon back,”
you said.

“The tides are pulling
me away,”
you said.

“…..Yes I’m only trying to provoke you,”
you said.

“Our life is all surfaces,”
you said.

“I like it that way,”
you said, “life’s a put-on, anyway,”

“Wear only black socks
close eyes,
see flowers,”
you said.

Let the tide onto the stage.


Lullaby for the Imperfect                         by Lori Lynn Armstrong

goodnight to the mother with one black eye
who screams at her shrieking baby
and plunks him into the crib and stomps away to calm herself
and does not shake him

goodnight to the addict trying detox one more time
aware of slim odds and the world’s contempt
who groans and cries as withdrawal sets in
but tries not to make the staff too miserable

goodnight to the borderline girl with her headphones and razor
who won a battle by not cutting yesterday
and is winning another by reaching the end of the song
without cutting any deeper than she absolutely has to

good night to the old who are told they are worthless
good night to the young who are already tired
good night to the sick who feel way too expensive
good night to the writers who get the words wrong

good night to the sinners who could have sinned more
good night to the sinners who will sin again
good night to the the promises they are all making
good night to the ones who hope hope’s not a dream

good night to the ones who are fearing a nightmare
good night to the ones who are sleeping to flee one
good night to the ones who turn nightmares to stories
because stories may end and let us awaken.

 Lori Lynne Armstrong has been a scientist, a counselor, a drug addict, a singer, a home teacher, and a mental patient. Her passions include promoting integrative treatment options for the dual diagnosis community. She began writing Not This Song, a blog on the subject, to reach out and encourage others. A few years ago, an important essay got stuck in her throat and would not budge until she coughed it out in the form of the first poem she’d written in twenty years. There was no going back. Her thoughts on poetry and creativity can be found at her writing site, Not My Last Words.

 Gene Pool           by Lori Lynn Armstrong

Why do they call it a gene pool anyway?
It makes me think of chlorine and crowds,
unless I turn my mind deliberately away
to water in a hidden forest glade,
and then it goes even more wrong.

My gene pool’s a swamp, I learned to say wryly,
insulting my ancestors before others had a chance.
White trash tornado bait from the Midwest
and some from the South if you go back far enough
and maybe from Germany if you go farther;
distant cousins owning slaves or cheering Hitler then
and running meth labs in red states today
when they’re not in jail or the psych ward.

I am a fish caught from this murky water,
wriggling and flapping on the ascending hook,
a gleaming assortment of evolved scales
from this soup of familial madness and defects
and, like almost every fish in this goddamned bog,
shining with a coat of slimy addiction,

not to mention the dark scale I never saw
until I’d already borne a child that might receive it--
I’m tired of this metaphor now.
Perhaps I will just try to think
of pool as in billiards, smoky but drier,
chaos theory dancing with causality;
one gene strikes another with an unforgiving clack!
Eight ball in the corner pocket,
Bipolar disorder on chromosome 22.


Full and Bored                       by Elizabeth Alford

I am Full       from a five-course dinner
And Bored    with comments like “You could be thinner,”
And Entirely  fed up with: “You’re getting
Too Fat         you know.” The good ol’ status quo—

I am Full       of fat; therefore, a black hole. The Inverse Law
Of Food        is crushing. I have been compliant
And Entirely  too quiet, but I am not
Too Tired      to stand up and fight back.

I am Full       of dreams, waiting to be imagined
And Tired      of walking on treadmills
And Entirely  done with one-size-fits-none,
Too Bored     to stand still, going nowhere.

This poem was first published at Tuck Magazine on October 18, 2016.

Elizabeth Alford is a poet living in Hayward, California who particularly enjoys writing Japanese short forms. She is a frequent contributor to online venues such as Silver Birch Press, Failed Haiku, and Hedgerow: a journal of small poems. Visit her Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/ElizabethAlfordPoetry

The Walking (a villanelle)                   by Elizabeth Alford

We wake up dead and seize what life we can.
But still, our empty minds and stomachs crave.
We shuffle on and on in search of Man.

Our legs are mangled—how is it we stand?
What drags our rotting limbs from mossy graves?
We wake up dead and seize what life we can.

We feed on fear and flesh by some command.
We cannot run. We cannot speak. Enslaved,
We shuffle on and on in search of Man.

We hear the screams, but cannot understand.
Our ears and hearts are deaf to cries of pain.
We wake up dead and seize what life we can.

They try to kill us; we have other plans.
With bloodied hands outstretched, we come in waves
And shuffle on and on in search of Man.

We are the hungry and we are the damned.
Our souls are gone so they cannot be saved.
We wake up dead to seize what life we can
And shuffle on and on in search of Man.

  ************************************************************ ************************************************************ ********************************************************

No comments:

Post a Comment