Sunday, April 29, 2018

PoetryExpressed Vol. 3 Spring 2018

This has been a year of change and we have included work nominated during our Monday night sessions. In preparing for the next issue in 2019, we are using a guestbook to collect emails from which we will solicit each poet for their favorite piece among the work they have written.

One-Owner Vehicle       by Gary Turchin

The Vision is God’s,
the eyes, mine;
The Voice, God’s,
throat, mine;
Flavor, God’s,
tongue, mine;
Texture, God’s,
fingers mine;
Breath, God’s,
lungs, mine;
Perfume, God’s,
nose, mine;
Love is God’s,
heart, mine;
Thoughts are God’s,
neurons, mine;
Divine Spark is God’s,
candle, mine.
The Muse, God’s,
this poem…mine?

When my father was alive    by Gary Turchin

When my father was alive,
the world was made of car dealerships and bowling alleys.
The alleys had 100 lanes each and parking lots out front that could hold 200 big American cars without breaking a sweat.
When my father was alive,
cars were so big they had their own zip codes, though there were no zip codes back then, so they named them after places that would have zip codes one day:
Chrysler New Yorker, Chevy Malibu, Pontiac Bonneville, Dodge Sierra.
When my father was alive,
there was a bomb shelter store right next to the bowling alley, with a bomb shelter that looked like a giant tin can laying on its side out front.
Me and my cousin Jeff would go into the bomb shelter on our walk to the bowling
alley. It smelled moldy and metallic inside. We’d imagine the Ruskies pushing the
button, and us safely canned away while the world outside toasted and burned.
Then we’d finish our walk to the alleys, kick off our canvas sneakers and don
those stinky tricolor leather ones they made you rent for a quarter when you bowled. I hated those shoes, and their chemical smells, but I loved to bowl. So did my father. When he got a new bowling ball and shoes—I guess they were sold together—he passed the old ones on to me. The shoes still smelled, but at least it was a smell I was familiar with. Odd how my fingers and feet were close enough in size to his by then to do a credible job for me. I think I had a 152 bowling average, or was that my father’s average? Can’t remember now, but I do remember that our coed bowling team was called “Turchin & his Mistakes.” You can imagine how good my team was. Nancy G., skinny as a blade of grass, could barely pick up a ball, nevertheless hurl it, under control down the alley. Her specialty was gutter balls. She was an expert at gutter balls. We’d be lucky if her score added up to 13 or 23 after the full 10 frames. We didn't care. We were just having fun, and if the world had ended tomorrow, what would her bowling score matter? On the way home from the alleys, Jeff and I would stop back into the bomb shelter, hoping the Ruskies hadn’t made any “mistakes” with their bombs, dropped some into a gutter, hoping to even out some perceived score.
When my father was alive,
we lucked out: the Ruskies never did.
When my father was alive,
there was a miniature golf course around the corner from the bowling alley and bomb shelter store. One year they built a second miniature golf course right next door to the old one. The new one was named after Arnold Palmer, the most famous golfer in the world. You could golf at either course, for the same 50 cents, but we stuck to the new Arnold Palmer one that whole summer. He was so famous and all, and we’d played the old course for years.
When my father was alive,
the world was made of golf courses and swimming pools.
When I was 13, my father drove me and the Gardner brothers, Mitchell and
Harlan, in his Chrysler New Yorker to Ashbrook Golf Course to play our first round of real golf…Dad didn't play golf then, though he took it up eventually, after he’d had his fill with bowling and bowlers. Would pass more than one set of golf clubs and golf shoes on to me over the upcoming years; again, we were close enough in size to be a match.
When my father was alive,
no one we knew, or knew of, ever bought one of those tin can bomb shelters.
Never saw one in any back yard or side yard or saw one supplant a swimming pool that were becoming so popular in yards in those days. I guess people decided they were better off boiling to death in a pool than frying to death in a tin can. The store that sold the shelters didn't survive a year, but the model stood out front, sealed so we couldn't get inside of it anymore, for years. A monument to its own folly.

Never eat a mango in proper company   by  Gary Turchin

Better to eat it alone
unconstrained by manners or etiquette
leaning over the compost bin
dripping its honey-juice
over rotting husks of corn,
soggy asparagus spears,
empty egg shells,
while tearing its smooth skin off in strips with your dirty fingernails
that grow sticky and wet with the sweet orange drizzle
now oozing over everything
your chin
hands tongue lips
and down your welcoming throat
even over your crisp white shirt
whose orange stain will long remind you—
even while dining with more formal company—
of your private summit with the Mango God.

MAYDAY in AMERICA!    by Gary Turchin

This is your distress call:
Your alarm bells are sounding, America.
Can you hear? are you deaf?
too numb? too dumb? to notice
  your proud ship of state listing?
     ready to fall over like one of those great trees in your primeval forest
Don’t mistake it for your freedom bells…America
or your Liberty Bell
it's a distress call, 
All   hands    on    deck, America,
Launch the flares!
Broadcast our coordinates:
     Year of Our Lord, 2017;
          At sea, LOST.
But whatever you do America: don't abandon this ship.
Don't even think about it
Stay and fight,
like men do, like women do,
to the death, if need be,
Don’t abandon this ship.
Its beacon of light
Shining house on the hill
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
There’s mayhem aboard this good ship, 
the mad captain has lost his grip
(if he ever really had it)
The corporate pit bulls and their military lap dogs
   march in lockstep,
      eat their own young to feed their greed,
The Orange Ogre, King of Mayhem,
leading us over a cliff,
Washington’s ship
Even Abe Lincoln’s ship!
Over the cliff
Oh Captain, my Captain,
   Gone mad as a hatter,  
      Our flag and ideals,  
         Torn and tattered!
All hands on deck!
Launch the goddamn flares!
Send out the distress call!
America the beautiful,
   God shed his grace on thee,
      and crowned thy good with brotherhood,
         From sea to shining sea
Get your bloody hands on this deck!
and fight for this ship!
Like your life depended on it,
‘cause your life as you know it, does.
 Whatever you do, don't abandon this ship,
   One Nation under siege,
         Without liberty or justice for all,
With plenty of guns guns guns guns,
for everyone a gun!
The madness, like cancer,
neither the Supreme Court nor Congress
can provide the answer,
It’s up to us, good seamen and sea-woman
don't abandon this ship           
don't abandon this ship
whatever you do:
don't abandon this ship

Things not to discuss with your hummingbird  by Gary Turchin

* Your difficult childhood. Hummingbirds could care less about your angry father or distant Mother, nor how you have grown, over the years, to be more and more like them. Hummingbirds are not your therapists.

* Your career goals. Hummingbirds don't care about who or what you want to be, nor when you want to be it. A Hummingbirds only ambition is to find and savor sweet flower nectar.

* How much your house cost when you bought it, or how much it’s worth today. Hummingbirds will fly off at the first mention of the price of anything.

* Where you went to college. Hummingbirds don't go to college (or any school for that matter). Why would they care which school you went to?

* What you think of the current political climate, or the President? Congress? Governor? Mayor? Hummingbirds don't vote and wouldn't even if they could. It’s not power they’re after, but flowers.

* How many kids, grandkids, great grandkids you have. Hummingbirds don't keep track of their own progeny, why would they want to keep track of yours?

* What day the city picks up your garbage. Hummingbirds don’t make garbage, don’t even understand the concept of garbage. Why would they need to know about your pickup day?

* Ditto, street sweeping day, and which side of the street you have to avoid parking on. Hummingbirds park wherever the hell they want to park, and don’t have streets to sweep. (See reference to “garbage” above.)

* What kind of art you like. Hummingbirds don't much like art in any form or style. They've got their beaks stuck in fresh, budding flowers, day in, day out. Why would a mere picture of a flower be of interest to them?

* And if you should mention humming, be on guard. They can get apoplectic when someone tries to talk to them about humming. Trust me, don’t go there, unless you have an interest in having one of your eyeballs pierced by a Hummingbird beak.

* How much you wish you could fly just like them, stopping midair and all. Do you have any idea how many times they've been told that, and how sick of hearing it they are? We, with our giant metal flying ships, stinking up their air, disquieting the quiet they so cherish. No, I wouldn't bring up flying if I were you.

Well, you may ask, what topics can you discuss with your hummingbird? Good question, now you’re thinking.

You can’t actually discuss anything with hummingbirds. They have no interest in conversation. That’s an absolute. Soon as you open your mouth, they’ll be gone. But if you wish to cultivate a relationship with a Hummingbird, try bribing it (yes they gladly accept bribes in the form of flowers, especially long tubular, bright colored flowers, red ones in particular.) Keep your gardens lush with such flowers and you and your hummingbird can share many happy, and quiet, seasons together. Save your talking for your dog, partner, or spy agency of choice.

  Gary Turchin is the author/illustrator of the wondrous, If I Were You (Simon DeWitt 2011, and the award-winning Ditty-Ditty Doggerel; A life From Bad to Verse (Simon DeWitt, 2012).  His newest collection of poems, Falling Home, was published in 2013 by Sugartown Publications. See  for these offerings and more.
    Gary is also performance artist, poet, and illustrator. His children’s poetry show, Gary T. & his PoetTree, has been performed in more than 300 schools and libraries throughout California.  
     To see/hear and learn more about Gary, see the documentary film about his life’s journey, The Healthiest Man On Earth at .Gary is also a Poetry Express Berkeley host on the 4th Mondays of each month.


The Fall       by Jan Steckel

I don't want to be Joan of the Narrative Arc here,

wielding my flaming sword of story to drive you
from my personal bleeding-heart-liberal paradise,
but here's a prompt: write a poem using the words
grant, bell, garner, brown, ford, and rice.
Employ a light touch, no sing-song or doggerel.
No sentimentality, please. No rants.
Attention to form but not formality.
Invoke all the senses. Let me see, hear, feel
what the twelve-year-old saw, heard, felt
waving that BB gun around the park.
The gold and orange leaves of Cleveland.
The smell of them rotting in rainwater.
The black-and-white pulling to the curb.
The crack. The pavement rushing up.

"The Fall" first appeared in The New Verse News

Jan Steckel is a former pediatrician who stopped practicing medicine because of chronic pain. Her poetry book The Horizontal Poet (Zeitgeist Press, 2011) won a 2012 Lambda Literary Award. Her fiction chapbook Mixing Tracks (Gertrude Press, 2009) and poetry chapbook The Underwater Hospital (Zeitgeist Press, 2006) also won awards. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Scholastic Magazine, Yale Medicine, Bellevue Literary Review, and elsewhere. Her work was nominated three times each for the Pushcart and Sundress Best of the Net anthologies, won the Goodreads Poetry Contest twice, and won various other awards. She lives in Oakland, California.

A.I.D.S             by Elaine Brown

He was too afraid to let anybody know what he was going through
But after a while we pretty much knew but all I could do

Was watch as this disease almost destroy his whole entire family
But at his funeral they didn’t grieve
They came to pray tribute to Mr. Freeze
And it wasn’t about how he taught them Pop locking and break dancing
One by one the youth marched down the aisle to Pomp and Circumstances’
Talking about how Ben got them off the street and gave them a second chance and
Now that he is gone and we’re still living
We hesitate to step up to the plate
To give these youth something to believe in
And part of the reason
Is that we still dawn the stereo types of the down lows and who’s creeping
When this disease is not about whom you sex it’s about teaching
Right about now the best cure is prevention
And I hear some of the drugs for this disease
Does more damage than the infection
And condoms have little relief when you are injecting it into your veins
As 9 months later another statistic is born into the strain
I would rather have cancer
Because even in this debilitating disease you would still embrace me
You would run more than a mile
Make me your poster child
And have parties in honor of my memory
Like if I’m some damn celebrity
But if I had A.I.D.S
My so called friends would no longer be
And as I walk on by
You would step to the side
As if this disease knows boundaries.
Afraid and along
Out here on my own
I became my own worst enemy
Didn’t want to look in the mirror
Praying to God that you would see things clearer
Because all I ever wanted was for you to be here for me
A simple embrace might have given me the will to survive
So save the guilt trip
Wipe those tears from your eyes
If you couldn’t do it when I was alive
It damn sure meant nothing to me when I died.

Elaine Brown aka Poet E Spoken © 2005

Elaine Brown: I have been writing ever since my Mother and siblings taught me how to hold a pen. I grew up listening to the stories my Grandmother and Mother would tell me about my family and their struggles wondering how I could change things. So, history and writing became my passion. I have been writing Free Style Poetry for almost 30 years combining past and present issues that affect our daily lives; motivating people to change their mindsets.

AS YOU WERE          by Jennifer Blowdryer

African - no white jacket
chilly perhaps taking too long
making the soda. Eyes still

alive - not for long
flip of hair black
sheet angle gloss
never just walk
its all a tool
You blew my head damn you
I can't unite disdain escape
and happy delirium anymore
I'm at that age now
Medicatoins, waltzing through
the day sea sick tolerated
and tolerating

Jennifer Blowdryer, who loves the food at Taste of the Himalayas, is a writer and performer whose next book, 86ed, is out in snippet previews form on Pedestrian Press. She divides her time between Berkeley and New York's East Village.

Bang Bang Niner Gang          by Cassandra Dallett

If you grew up in San Francisco
you remember when Joe Montana ruled
probably rocked a red satin Forty Niner
Starter a time or two
when wins filled the drunken streets with revelry
when Ocean Beach filled that rare hot day
you probably remember that we always protested here
that the police were dicks but they didn’t kill us
all the of the time

This town was a Forty Niner town
working class and freak filled with hippies and punk rockers
black panthers brown
cholos and gay pride and all of us living side by side
these days you’ll get called a gang banger
for wearing the color of your hometeam

In the park where you grew up
the white boy calls you out
his dog chasing you and your food
the white boy moved here
with the blizzard of whites who stand in line
late into the night to eat burritos
Mr. Snow ain’t from here
but is so comfortable in his whiteness
he says red jacket makes you a gang member
calls homeless disgusting
calls you wet back
your family has been here longer than he’s been born

There are only white folks in the park now
they are new and white and owning
buildings burned to make way for the crop of them
they call the police on you
the firing squad
without question
empties clips
59 shots
your 49er jacket blood red
full of holes
you are one more name
to be chanted
in the streets
we no longer recognize

I know the police have always worked for the rich
the war on drugs was always about locking brown people up,
and why all these prisons are built
But I swear this town didn’t used to be so mean

The newspaper doesn’t mention that you went to school
had never been arrested
the newspaper said you were agitated
there are words
that start with a T
thug and threat
there are trials
police are never charged at trials

White people keep on coming
and coming pointing us out pushing us out
to the edges like animals
to them we are bangers we are beggars
we are tent city trash makers
we the former tenants of San Francisco
dead in jail sleeping under the freeway
out here somewhere
between Stockton and the grave

Love is Unruly       by Cassandra Dallett

Dark and early
mourning your face,
a rough cheek-soft kiss,
your neck.
I’m crying in the car.
On podcast the artist
speaks of painting black bodies,
of fame and ego.
I think of all the colors in your skin.
How I long to polish the red tones
sandalwood sweet.
The artist has the last name
of a man who beat me up. 
You would never hurt me
but I am hurt by you
brilliant and incarcerated 
braggadocio should be yours. 
Art is your bone structure. I think
about your wrist that small mark of beauty
you rising to the hoop
intelligence that transmits physically even, 
unlike my own awkward.
And still, you get me.
You got me, I consider jailhouse marriage
a future of separation.
Isn’t that what it’s always been?
Whichever two people
locked up by fear
and capitalism. 
The artist speaks of desire.
You and me
we see each other
and without shame. 

Goat Cheese Is an Abomination       by Cassandra Dallett

The door was heavy, a loop of twine as a handle
I often struggled with
falling backwards on the wooden ramp
worrying the fat-sacked grey speckled barn spiders overhead
afraid they would lower onto my head
and the goats running from the barn
especially Bucket with the biggest horns
the meanest disposition.
They had goats that chased kids,
and adults that found it amusing.

At Sweet Peas’ house
It was hard to get so much as a drink of water
having to stand on something to pump.
The bathroom was the whole outdoors-
no outhouse, or bucket, no electric light, or lantern
just grab toilet paper by the door and find a spot
away from the goats and the spiders to shit or piss safely.
Which meant surely holding it all night long
and not adding bed wetter to the embarrassment.

Each night I sobbed I wanna go home, I want my Mom till dawn.
At home when I thought about spiders I loud-cried
till mom turned a light on.
Here there were no lights and there was no Mom.
Sweet Pea’s mother wasn’t tender like that with me
She’d say, why did you bring her? she cries every time!
The dark was vast sleeping on the pine floor
unable to see the ceilings bumpy plaster
windows framed with splintery grey wood
terrible branches swaying in the pitch-black night.

There was nowhere to run
it was all fun when we left my house twenty miles away
I had someone wanting to play with me,
wanting my company, when the adults were all stoned
glazed nods of agreement when I asked could I go
I’d fall asleep riding up over Eagle Hollow
rolling puppy bodied down tree lined roads
and up up the hill a running start
foot smashing gas pedal to floor
from Don’s house where the mailbox was
and the nearest telephone was,
up the steep part fishtailing, gravel flying against the car
just when it seemed we wouldn’t make it
we’d be barreling across the flat part
where the puzzle grass grew and the stone wall
led to the gas tank, we rode like a horse.

The trees parted at the dooryard
and the house tucked in there like a wicked witch.
Each time I remembered the terror freshly
as if brainwashed to do it again
the barn spiders in the woodshed
you had to walk through to get into the house
The whole family, her family, Sweet Pea’s family,
laughing at me, the scared one
just five or six years old.

When thirsty eyes fixed on the huge mayonnaise jars of milk
I made the mistake of expecting cold cow milk
instead the gamey shit taste of goat filling my mouth
causing me to retch.
Inescapable fleshy and warm like their teats,
scary like their horns,
impossible to get from my mouth.
The dirty taste of animals
that ransacked the house
strewing clothes as they munched,
knocking jars of food to the floor
and spreading it around while shitting
and giving side eye, a fuck you, but more sinister.

I’m gown now, the goat guy is my step-dad,
they’ve long since got electricity and running water
I love a Thousand-day-gouda almost as much as sex,
but people, please, what’s with all the goat cheese?
I don’t want it on my salad or looking tempting on baguette,
goat milk tastes like helplessness and fear,
like licking the barn’s dirt floor, the twitching tail and shifty eye.
Don’t, talk to me about goats, or goat yoga,

or goat cheese, even if it has a creamy French name!

Cassandra Dallett lives in Oakland, CA. Cassandra writes of a counter culture childhood in Vermont and her punk rock adolescence in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been published widely online and in print magazines such as Slip Stream, Sparkle and Blink, Criminal Class Review, Chiron Review and Out Of Ourfull-length book of poetry Wet Reckless will be released from Manic D 

Press in the spring of 2014.

COMPOTE YOURSELF             by David Erdeich

We seek perfection

Because it doesn't exist
Exactitude yes
The monk copies the bible
The rabbi copies the Torah
It must be copied exactly as written
Or else you're required to start over again
But if every language has
A different word for the same thought
How do you represent that on the page?
What if your diacritical remark
Is given the wrong color?
What if some languages have
Thoughts that others lack?
If it's an object I can use thought transference
To send the word picture from my mind to yours
But what if it's a concept
What if I can only FEEL the elephant in the dark?
How do I put inflection,
Or genuflection for that matter, on the page?
Homonyms are humbling as well as hobbling
Puns are everywhere
Legs akimbo, arms akiddo
I kid you not
If we can't play with the language
Does it become a charade?
The brine leading the brine
Down some vinegary path to deluction?
I'm going to give you some space
To taste your words, rinse, spit them out
Misspell your misspent youth
Unbend your gender
Lest it bounce off your freddy fender guitar
Strum and drang your words through the meyer lemon
And discuss disgust with the same windy aplomb
You usually preserve to fritter your apples away

1. APPLE STORE        by David Erdeich

A toy store for adults; a way to diddle without the piddle; the toy has
become the shrine because of its beautiful shine. Any fool when
instructed can make correct use of the tool. Only the idiot, unable
to rise above it, to get rid of it, makes an altar of it. Extract those
precious plumes, assemble the multiple rooms, descend into its
abyss, to wait for Siri's kiss. For she will absorb your fluid, this
feminine modern day druid. She'll return your feet to root, screen
you off from your loot, void you to empty space, then artificially
replace your binary applique with new face and brand new day.
In the belly of the beast you stay, face electrocution if you stray.
Science Fiction predicted this plight 50 years ago. A plug for the
back of every human nape in order to transit the grid landscape.
Matrix, matriarch, iphone, padrone--you cannot feel you cannot
moan. Your gaze is flat, your eyes are glazed. Dimensions squared,
awareness raised. You don't drink yet here's the djinn to twist your
innards from within. Hurricanes will inundate, rising seas approach
the state of the art of fools. Political disaster, fascist fear. Local
ordinance thus explodes, people ignored, instructed in code. In
order to decipher declare yourself a lifer. Pardon racists, decry
immigration, imaginary borders, enforced segregation. Three or
more black men can't stand on the street and practice politics
without the cop on the beat feeling fear, feeling threatened
approaching with gun and stick. Freedom of assembly is fine
if you are white, but the difference is as clear as day and night.
If it's for ALL, then heed the call--get the principle right.

2. WATERFRONT PROPERTY     by David Erdeich

They sold you waterfront property at thrice the price. It
included a mother-in-law in the backyard. Earthquake, flood,
or termite insurance costs extra--double! Hurricanes, tsunami,
rise of water around the globe, Ah yes, waterfront property!--
drowning insurance not available.

David Erdeich: Combine the sensibilities of a stand-up comic

   With the observations of a naturalist
Serve it through a saxophone
    And you've got a full fool eating falafel--a poet
psychiatric social worker-schizophrenics, alcoholics, own daycare center, juvenile delinquents, senior meals program
Telegraph Avenue airbrush artist/street vendor/organizer
truck driver 
single father

Conversation With the Wind             by Georgette Howington

I don’t know you
yet we touch often.
The skin on my face

blushes the chill always
make my cheeks pink.

The force of your strength
tangles my hair into
streaming rifts
of this way,
or that way.

I hold it down
while squinting,
my nose wrinkled,
lips mumbling, “I prefer
still days”, and “don’t
care for sailing”,
but you never seem
to resent that.

No, instead, you
continue to greet me
with poetic whispers
dancing along side
like an old friend.

Georgette Howington
Copywrite 8.27.17

Georgette Howington is a UC Davis California Naturalist of the Mt. Diablo Region.  Her poems are published in Iodine, Sleet, Poeming Pigeons, among others.  Her poems won Honorable Mentions at the North American Women’s Music Festival, Ina Coolbrith Poetry Contest in 2016 and the Benicia Love Poem Contest 2018.  As a horticulturist, her niche is Backyard Habitat and secondary-cavity nesters.  She is a County Coordinator and the Assistant State Program Director for the California Bluebird Recovery Program and an activist in the conservation community in the SF Bay Area for over 30 years.  Georgette is also a published garden and environmental writer.  

Dundee     by Jack O'Neill

The north west sky brings morning
light through the window
I am as far north as I've ever been
and this morning strike further
North to Dundee, birth place of
my father's father.
It will be a journey of connection
and forgiveness between--
To heal the space between--him
and me. Me, the life headed south
bound on a west bound train;

Him, William John Dorotheus O'Neill,
not a warm and friendly man.
Of course there are reasons. From the
perspective of a life is a single thing,
The reason is no respect for the space
between; and then, terror of the
space between.
This morning the bird is on the branch
and I go through the space
This morning the sage is in the air
and I go north to Dundee.

Jack O'Neil: In the school year '55/'56, I attended kindergartens in Berkeley, Chula Vista, and San Diego, CA.  One through eight I attended Catholic schools in Honolulu, HI, Takoma Park, MD, and San Francisco, CA.  And three high schools in northern Illinois.  At my fourth college, somewhat near graduation and looking ahead, realizing I was more suited to a random sort of life; I shifted into shiftlessness and the rewards thereof, finding a kind of stability there.

an old woman who does not sell rice cakes        by elana levy

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes-
though that might be more honorable-
selling instead ideas words books poems

anger resistance rebellion rage
knowing it is unknown
knowing the should of knowing the moment
knowing something is terribly wrong, that
resisting reality is futile
it is so
yet raging
knowing raging is unholy.

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes-
not even tomatoes from her garden or shawls loom spun,
who flings out to strangers and loved ones: how come?
whose teachers say: so it is
as God has wrought,
who's learned of love for all
and nods assent,
yet does not know how to go on.

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes
nor tomatoes not even Yes's
though easier to sell than No's,
surrounded by flowering plants
redwoods with their cones
chickadee cheeps
hummmming birds

wow-ing along
asking how it happened.

this old woman who does not sell rice cakes
nor tomatoes not even home-baked bread,
whose money pays for the death machine
honestly, can not smell the stench of rotting-burnt corpses of
manned-unmanned-drone-killed children
cannot hear the doomed pigs' squeals in unmoveable crates
cannot see through unopenable dungeon gates of
Florence SuperMax or Guantanamo
and has never tasted the fumes of Bhopal or Chernobyl
or even Louisiana's waters where so-called-BP's oil
from platform fled.

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes
nor tomatoes nor shoes made from tire treads
refuses to play games on demand
as i am an old woman
given leeway
some no-way-you-can-harm-me place
free as a bird in a roomy cage
larger than most.

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes
nor tomatoes not even broadsides,
who struggles to stand tall
pressed against the icy cold jagged-glass-topped concrete wall
of Callousness, Greed and Big Lies.

i am an old woman who does not sell rice cakes
who, at times, stands
beside her stall.

elana levy is a recent transplant to the land of her daughter, of avocados and redwoods, from the northeast, of snow, lakes and green.
 Elana taught math in community college for two decades.  first  photographed by FBI in 1959.  Student and teacher of Jewish meditation and Kabbala; factory worker, social justice activist, radio producer, video director; embraces silence one month yearly.   
still studying hard, knowing there's no easy answers.  

epiphany             by Charles McCauley

i wish i could write
as good as that girl

pataphysics       by Charles McCauley

yesterday coming down the stairs
I met a woman who wasn’t there
she wasn’t there again today
if this interests you
you are lost

C O McCauley is a retired naval aviator, has fronted a rockabilly band and performed in community theater.  His songs and poetry about growing up southern, the Viet Nam War, and  Native American culture have appeared in The Tule Review, California Quarterly, The Aurorean, Blue Unicorn, and Soundzine.  He resides in Martinez, California.

Hello, Paradise [[PART TWELVE]]     by Clive Matson

Hello, paradise. Paradise, good-bye.

Stand in the hurricane
                                    and stare it in the eye.
Contrails write obituaries across the sky.

Hello, science that reveals how long it took to get here.
Hello, science guessing how long we’ve got left.

Thirteen-point-eight billion years to conceive
protons, neutrons, electrons, photons, black holes, neutrinos,
Boson particles. Thirteen point eight billion
plus a few years to find them.
                                       Thirteen-point-eight billion
to evolve the mind that can calculate those years
from the Big Bang to now. Thirteen-point-eight billion years
nuclear science, nuclear medicine, nuclear magnetic resonance.
                          Thirteen-point-eight billion years
nuclear bombs.

“Forgive me, Gaia, for I have sinned.
I forgot to breathe with the one
who all day breathes for me.”

“Nuclear Free Zone” sign at Oakland town limits,
swords word by word hammered into ploughs
and the ground tilled across wood tables,
seeds planted and signs crop up around the cactus apple
at Vista’s limits, Berkeley’s, Fairfax’s, Sebastopol’s
though it’s very late.
                                   Loaded trucks stop at the gate
and nuclears waft in unabated,
hot ions in air, water, soil, food, cars, construction material
uncontested, walk blithely in
                                           in our own bodies unmolested.

Talk to the hand. Talk to the hand.

Plow and plant the seed. Till the ground and plant the seed.

How many destruction atoms reside in us?
                How many radioactive? Psychoactive? Physioactive?
                                        One cup water dispersed globally
puts twelve hundred molecules in every cup in your body.
How much uranium-235
                                         from several metric tons
global militaries parked in our biosphere?

Don’t count. You don’t want to know.

Uranium-235 one times ten-to-the-minus-seven
percent body mass,
                                at 80 kilograms
twelve thousand eight hundred uranium-235 atoms
decay in your body every minute, forty-four million,
nine hundred ninety nine thousand a day. A snippet.

The menu: we offer tuna fish fillet in several flavors:
Three Mile Island, Columbia River, Chernobyl, Fukushima.
                   Would you like condiments? Cesium-137? Plutonium-240,
iodine-131, radium, curium-245, strontium-90, radon? Any of the others?
                                             Add collagen,
petrol vapors, sugar, mono-sodium-glutinate,
high fructose corn syrup, propylene glycol,
carboxymethylcellulose, parabens, polysorbate-80,
nicotine smoke, genetically modified whatevers,
half your meds and the rest.
                                              Any of the rest.

The list longer than your arm.
Longer than a snake skin.
Longer than a tapeworm.
Longer than my rap sheet.
Longer than your list of petro-fucking-chemicals.

Feed me. Feed me tastes so I won’t grok my own.

Putting our immune system to the test.
Knowledge ramps up the stress
            and we become more friable.
Less deniable. More susceptible. More pliable.

Rev up the immune system
one times ten-to-the-seventh power
                                and you have a chance.
Against a dozen-plus million mutations a day.
                        And counting.
How strong the immune system
must be! How untired, refired, inspired,
how required for moderate health
                                 otherwise we’re dead.

Happy go lucky! Sing a song.
How could we go so terribly wrong?

Our paradise. Evolved for us. Paradise here and now.

The universe is bio generative
and slightly benevolent
                                otherwise we’re dead.

Stay healthy. Work soft. Be cheerful. Get fit. Stay loving. Be cool.

Five mutations will a cancer cell create.
One atom plutonium provides for eight
and will suffice
                          better than ice.
Now we know how cancer cells originate.

Our worst enemy is our own government.

“Yellow rose, naked tree….
It’s what I see, they bloom for me.”

Medical apparatus swings on line
when health teeters, oncologists, mammograms,
chemo- and immune-system therapy,
nuclear magnetic imaging, isotope scans,
radiation machines.
                               “No, no! Don’t tell the doctor
you have insurance! Into your blood
he’ll pour a super-expensive drug.”

Eight hundred fifty thousand dollars
average cost for cancer treatment.

Both hands on the deal. More money to steal.

“The comfort of the rich
depends on the abundance of the poor.”

Thirteen-point-eight billion years
                             to create this moment.
                      Thirteen-point-eight billion years
for this plutonium, this uranium, this dispersal of hot ions,
these atom bombs, neutron bombs, fusion bombs.
                    Thirteen-point-eight billion years
for this immune system, these T-cells,
this over-revved defense system
holding its own in subcutaneous battles every minute.
Thirteen-point-eight billion years for this minute.
                                      For the next. And the next.
Thirteen-point-eight billion years
                                       until the instant
your immune system goes down. Overwhelmed.

Plant the seed. Plow and plant the seed.

“Be joyful, even when you see the facts.”

Hello, paradise. Paradise, good-bye.

Clive Matson hung with the Beats in New York City in the early 1960s and he reconnected when he performed “Hello, Paradise. Paradise, Good-bye” at the European Beat Studies Network in 2017 in Paris. The passionate intensity that runs through us all emerged on a backpacking trip in the southern Sierra when he saw trees and mountains and smoke from a wild fire – and began that poem. He won the 2003 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles National Literary Award and the City of Berkeley Lifetime Achievement award in poetry for 2012. Visit him at or wikipedia.

In Memoriam     by Elizabeth Alford

The distance from one end
of the wall to the other is more
than she can measure. The names

are more than she can count.

She remembers handing in the paper
with its hair-in-the-drain signature:
a form allowing her to board
the familiar yellow bus
for the second time that morning.

She remembers the crack in her seat;
how she squirmed for the entire
stomach-rolling ride,

sank further and further
into the cotton stuffing; how
the corners of the torn vinyl
dug deep into her leg
as the streets and trees outside blurred by.

Now, as she stands before the wall,
wisps of blonde hair tickling her cheek,
she wishes she were back on that bus.

Or back in the classroom.
Or warm at home.
Or anywhere but here.

Her grandfather, she has been told,
is somewhere on this wall.
A man she has never met.
A man she never will meet.
A man who wasn’t there
for birthdays and Christmases
and Easter Sunday dinners.
A man who never gave her anything
to remember him by.

There is a heaviness here
she lacks words to describe.

Miss Stevens shows them
how to make a rubbing. The students
snatch at art supplies, squabbling over
who gets what color crayon
and how many.

But one girl hangs back, squinting
at the wall, taking in each name,
searching, searching
for the familiar set of letters spelling out
the only connection she has
to a stranger.

Only when the other children
are furiously scrubbing at their own papers
does she step forward.

She will remember this day,
years from now: walking the length
of the dark wall; finding the name sooner
than she’d hoped. White on black,
just like the others.

She will remember this moment—reaching out
for her grandfather’s name, reaching up
to a height she would someday attain,
rubbing a pink crayon over a piece of paper,
watching the familiar white letters appear.

Eight-Legged Salem     by Elizabeth Alford

Sometimes I want to watch it burn
Watch it burn and fall to the ground
A heap 
Of twitching legs 
And swollen thorax 
Swallowed by flames
Of fear
And uncertainty

Sometimes I want to watch it burn
This spider I cannot name
I cannot see 
Glinting in the sun's rays
Hidden for half the night
And all of the day
Behind the backyard speaker
Hung unused
For so many years
Dusty and forgotten 

You too, Spider, may one day be
Dusty and forgotten 
When the remnants 
Of your unfailing armor
Shed only 
In the dead of night
Fails you at last

When the lamplight
Goes out 
For the last time

You too, Spider
May feel fiery tongues 
Lick your feet 
Like the women and men
Of centuries past
Bound to stakes
More kindling
Fuel for the fires
Of fear
With one flick of this lighter
Gripped tight 
Between bone-chilled fingers
I think
I could be rid of you

Rid of fear
Rid of uncertainty
Rid of an evil that even now covers 
This world
A tangled web of silk
Amid the brambles 

Rid of the unknown
That lurks in the shadows 
And waits 

But then I remember
You are not evil
You are simply
As I am

I will not condemn you to the fire
To the abandon of Death
Who even now sits at your side
And waits 

I will not call you a witch 

I will pocket my lighter
And take my leave

This mission to kindle 
The fire within
To watch it all burn
To watch harsh rain 
Wash our remnants away

This fire within
No lighter can spark
No wind can extinguish


Train of Thought     by Elizabeth Alford

The 10:08 train rumbles by, headed south.
I step outside, beyond the boundaries of safety, 
into comfortable darkness: my front porch. 
The rain has been unceasing lately, 
but seems to have let up for the moment. 
I don't turn the light on as I leave.

Out of habit, I look up into the shadowed corner 
of the dripping awning, just above the door,
where the long-empty wasp nest conceived 
from mud and who-knows-what-else still sits.

With lighter in hand, I become Prometheus:
bringer of light and fire in dark times 
for humanity. And these are dark times.

These are dark times, my friend, I want to call 
to the young man across the street, lighting 
his own smoke. The end glows. I see a thousand 
possibilities contained in that unhinging fire—
in the flick of the wrist, in the falling ash,
in the bitter taste of the future.

The future has always been hazy, at least to me. 
Even a wasp has some sense of purpose, can see 
the bigger picture. The compound eyes—
those probably help. It's comforting to know that 
even a wasp,    infinitesimal    in the scope 
of the universe, can see in all directions. 

I can barely see in one direction: forward. 

I'm standing outside in the dark and wet, 
watching a stranger, smoking a cigarette—now, 
thinking about poems that haven't been accepted yet, 
waiting for the familiar rumble 
of the next train.

More than anything, it's the silence 
that's killing me.


Little Tongues     by Elizabeth Alford

Regrets are best served 
on a bed of cold linguine. 
Regrets are red, saucy, spicy. 
Regrets are the ripe tomatoes we picked, 
each containing a vast richness 
and fullness of flavor when left to simmer 
for a few minutes, hours, days. You see, 
the years of disappointments are 
the recipe, and we remember regret 
every time we taste it. 

A spoonful here: the sprout 
of youth, putting down roots, 
how leaves spring to unfold. 
A spoonful there: a pair of green 
lovers sunbathing, ripening 
red, still growing. A spoonful 
in autumn, when we go to harvest 
what we've learned. And in winter, 
we pull out our stored-up regrets 
from the back of the freezer, 
thaw them out. Heat them 
on the stove. Stir them 
constantly. Serve them up 
over cold linguine. 

Go on, eat up, we all say, 
regret dripping from our tongues, 
our lips, our drooping chins. 
It wrinkles our brows, 
stretches our clothes, stains 
our souls. But, perhaps 
even regret has its place 
on our plates. It tickles our senses 
like a pollinated breeze, memory 
after memory rising like steam 
from the earth after a night of rain, 
or like a tomato vine tied to a stake.

We all need that stake at first. 
We all need that taste. 
We all need the recipe for regret. 

So go on, eat up. 
And maybe someday, 
try cooking it for yourself. 
Spice it up while you can. 


Musings on the Muse     by Elizabeth Alford


Like I told my other lovers 
before they vanished like lamplight 
at the end of the night, 

“I don’t want to be the book 
that you pick up occasionally
when the uncertain fancy 
strikes you, like your hand 
across my face.”

See, I’m not a hardcover. In fact,
I’m barely a paperback. 
If you twist my pages, they will tear.

I wish I could call myself published, but 
I’m a notebook on the shelf, 
collecting dust.


I think of cavemen painting walls
and hieroglyphed Egyptian halls,
of words inscribed with quill 
and ink on scrolls…

But you are a disease.
A bacterial contagion, a cancer 
without remission, a virus in its infinite 
mutations. I am infected 

by you and your misplaced 
intentions; first you torture me 
with dreams of novel fame 
and fortune—then make me a poet.


But it’s not you, it’s me.
I am finite.

I will one day return 
to the waters our ancient scaled 
ancestors crawled from. I will lift
myself, limb over limb, always push-
ing forward, however much 
my body may flop 
in protest.

In this ever-expanding, ever-
universe, I am yet another
beating heart, 
another set of lungs, expanding 
and contracting 
‘til I expand
and contract
no more.


Long after we are gone, 
I will still have these words—
like a field’s worth of sun
or an iridescent sea
of golden grasses glinting, 
waving, bending with the breeze

that shuffles clouds too 
on a blue-sky day,
giving rise to Rorschachs 
everyone can see.

I hope one day
they do.


Elizabeth Alford (Hayward, CA) usually writes on her laptop, but in its absence will settle for her cell phone. A magna cum laude of CSU East Bay (B.A. English, 2014), she is still finding her place in the world. Recent and forthcoming publications appear online at the following venues: One Sentence Poems, Contemporary Haibun Online, the other bunny, & the cherita: your storybook journal.

I Will Try and Attempt    by G David Schwartz

I will try and attempt

Most anything to let
Be be experiences except this
Not Cannibalist

I Never Did And Never Will   by G David Schwartz

I never did and never will
eat poison mushrooms on purpose
And if I see them is a dish
I hope I will get distracted

My Wife Gets Mad At Me I Guess That Is Her Job  by G David Schwartz

My wife gets mad at me, I guess that is her job
When I tell me my Grand pa was the best cook
Then my son-in-law
Why ought I lear to cook.

I Love Penguins  by G David Schwartz

I love penguins
They are so precious
But in a book on food
It just sounds (still searching for an appropriate word meaning oh hell no way.)

In The Serengeti  by G David Schwartz

In the Serengeti
I went with my friend Freddy
Were we ate spaghetti
From noon till time for beddie

Note: An earlier version of "I will Try and Attempt" appeared online via Creative Talents Unleashed (Dec 2015). G. David Schwartz is the former president of Seedhouse, the online interfaith committee. Schwartz is the author of A Jewish Appraisal of Dialogue (1994) and Midrash and Working Out Of The Book (2004), and is currently a volunteer at The Cincinnati J, Meals On Wheels. His newest book, Shards And Verse (2011) is now in stores or can be order online. "Names are not real people," he says.

A Short History of My Housekeeping by Melinda Clemmons

First apartment (grad school):
I take vague swipes with a damp paper towel
to thumbprints, cobwebs, decades-old grime.

Second apartment (marriage):
I go from room to room, polishing corners,
leaving the middles cluttered and dusty.

Third apartment (California):
I open windows to sunshine and eucalyptus!
Who needs to clean?

Fourth apartment (divorce):
There is less to clean though the dust still settles.
I plant narcissus, and tend it with devotion.

Fifth apartment (new love):
I clean, he cleans, we clean together.
Afterwards, we sit on the deck with martinis in jam jars.
Even my heart feels clean.

First house (baby):
I keep house with my thumbnail:
scraping up bits of this and that from sinks and floorboards,
the baby on my hip, flopping and laughing.

This house (middle age):
I fling the door wide, sweep toward the porch,
let the breeze do the rest.

Melinda Clemmons lives in Oakland. Her stories and poems have appeared in The Cimarron Review, Kindred, Daphne Magazine, West Trestle Review, Eclipse, 300 Days of Sun, Cavalier, and The Monthly.  She worked for over twenty years in programs serving children and youth in foster care, and is now a freelance writer and editor in the child welfare field. She is a frequent contributor to the online news site The Chronicle of Social Change. 

The MadDAMN Butterfly     by Ishtar-Lhotus Reiah Zeviar

An Existential Inquiry

The generations of Life...
Whisper like rippling memories,
Colorful concoctions in the mind's eye

Streams of Imagination (Image-a-Nation)
Feel the forms inform (INform) all my mortal sensations.
Am I a person? And what is it to be a person?
Or just a passing Data Transducing Waystation...
For all these wondrous, wonderland, wavelength frequencies?
And what makes me BE all that makes me ME?

Momentums of "Monkey see...Monkey do."
Collect enough Mass to call it CULTURE
And make it something that everyone in the crew must pursue.
And then review... And then renew...

Meanwhile my many travels have shown me
that we are all ultimately just variations on the same.
Languages CAN translate
And the rest are actually Accessories habitualized
which decorate like a frame...
and can circumstantially be retrained.

(and rearranged or interchanged)

What I want to KNOW is the Soul inside
As we traverse upon this planet,
This incredible Sphere that we all ride.
Each journey weaving and bobbing in the greater cosmic tides;
Sometimes evolving and refining in crucibles of conflict
where our characters are challenged and tried,
and hopefully, eventually... purified.

What I want to LEARN is how to Love & Be Loved,
For this is what True Healthy Conscious Living is made of.
All have been given ample Desire & Breath.
So much to explore + sort through between each Birth and Death.

But I have found so much Hate + so much Fear.
And how it adds up Year after wounded, layering, compounding Year.
Compassion comes from firsthand experience,
But so does an unruly Vengeance.

Ambivalent now
In this Journey...this Quest...
for True Healthy Living.
If I embrace to face my worst,
Can (and will) I then heal INTO my Best?

I've become "The MadDAMN Butterfly"
Seeking safer scenarios where I can momentarily rest
Far Away from whatever treats me like I'm just
some attractive but dangerous, bothersome pest.
And maybe if the Cross Currents allow...
We can all invest in wiser ripple effects
Which will make us all (the) more sustainably,
intergenerationally, favorably blessed.

And isn't that what it's all really about...anyways?
So much more than clique culture + competitives
Or simply impressing and being impressed.
For on this Earth we ALL are guests.
Thank You Divine Infinite Spirit.

Ishtar-Lhotus is a fourth generation Asian American originally from Pasadena, California. Her early years emphasized the eclectic lenses of Mr. Roger's Neighborhood and Sesame Street and Disney's "It's A Small World" through mixed church congregations, classrooms, campsites, babysitters, and frequent travels both nationally and globally. Consequently she is rooted in the positive potentials of the Virtual Village. She has a degree in Theology and Liberal Arts from Ambassador College, and continues to pursue interests in Spirituality, Metaphysics and Healing Art modalities. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area she received a certificate in Sound, Voice, Music Healing from CIIS California Institute of Integral Studies. She has also shared in performance as a singer, songwriter, keyboardist, hand drummer, dancer/choreographer, gymnast, cheerleader/group stunts, swimmer/diver, choir alto, storyteller, visual artist/crafter/sewing, character model, movie extra, videomaker + talent. She loves to celebrate the universality of Humanities through the Arts, and so her poetry often processes and echoes a wide range of this human experience.
LIFE LIGHT REMEMBERED   by Tureeda Mikell, Story Medicine Woman

We are soldiers on the battlefield
With life light in our eyes.”  Said Sis Sonja

1994 Tribune calls                                                 
“How many guns did you have at the
George Jackson Free Health clinic?”

How many guns?
Not how many services were provided?
Not how many programs were implemented
Not how many doctors or healthcare workers volunteered.
Not even why we’d care to put into practice such a program
   With so many hospitals in our community,    

No, the reporter didn’t ask any of that!
She asked how many guns we had.

Not what illnesses or diseases most affected
our communities or how often we provided
Diabetes, sickle cell and High blood pressure test if at all
Or what was my field at clinic
Though I could have told her my interest in certain
Grains to regain genetic memory

But she was more interested in,
How many guns we had

Not who ran the clinic or what hours and days
of the week we were open
Or who was our hero or sheroe to set about such a task
as managing a clinic or what was assessed
that continues to sustain community’s health needs today.

No, the reporter asked
How many guns did you have?

Late teens, 20 some thing Black women
Volunteered as interns studied to become
Doctors, nurses pharmacist, and therapist,
Did homework between seeing patients
Black Drs. Tolbert Smalls & Eddy Newsome
Were volunteer staff physicians
Tried to reverse curse of drug addictions
Purposefully placed in neighborhoods
to weaken Black power base
Developed programs to neutralize drug threats
Opened methadone program believed
at that time would eradicate heroin
Took vital signs, did sickle cell test,
Tested for Diabetes,
Kept patient records
Organized charts, med room, pharmacy
Gave better care than Kaiser dared
Held life light in our eyes,
Books our bullets, educationally armed 
Knowledge our right to fight through labeled walls
 imprisoning us as violent, drug infested gun carrying,
sex crazed ignorant jigga boos.

Kwame Ture warned us,…
”we must be politically prepared for what is coming. 
We have no choice.  The revolution is coming
whether you want it or not.

How many guns did we have?

“We were soldiers on the battlefield with
Life light in our eyes.”  Said Sis. Sonia

Tureeda Mikell Aka Toreadah, Story Medicine Woman, is an award winning poet, called activist for Holism, by Native Palestinian.  South African Professor at Cal State Long Beach called her a Woman Of Truths.  Ngugi wa Thiongo renown author and professor called her the Word Magician.   Published nationally and internationally, audience member said     “ Tureeda is hell bent on asserting life!”  

Live Human Target   by Mimi Gonzalez

Coney Island boardwalk attraction     no skill
point a paint gun
plastic ducks
bulls eye targets
bottles or cans
a young man

called “Shoot the Freak”

dark-skinned, curl hidden, close-shaved
island cousin PR|DR

“He’s a freak!  Shoot that freak!”        barker eggs on another young man pins
                                                            gun to his shoulder aims
                                                            abandoned lot strewn with refuse
55 gallon drums
bar-stools garbage cans
pallets piled up

the shooter’s buddies pat his back
without touching him
respect his focus
“You got this bro.”
“Get ‘im.”

I squeeze up to the front line              the “freak” wears a white Tyvek painter suit
yellow splotches his right shoulder and left kidney
he runs from the can with a radioactive symbol
crouches under the plywood pile on the right

maybe it’s because his shift’s just started
maybe he’s never actually been in the yard
His eyes meet mine in a flash
shared shame
flintlocks our eyes
salt and iron well in my mouth
He knows

I’m afraid

Mimi Gonzalez-Barillas (emerging Noemi Rose) is a romantic feminist who aims to battle the cynicism of this too human world through a poem or a punchline.  She's a seasoned comedian who's traveled the world to make audiences laugh including US troops from Iraq to Japan plus national Prides, Womyn's music festivals and cruises and television appearances.  Throughout her years on the road, poems emerged among the jokes in her journals and now offers itself as Dream B. She is a candidate for an MFA from Mills College in May 2018 and feels she’s earned a bonus degree and offers her eternal gratitude for all she’s learned from the brilliant and beautiful Oakland literary community.

Marj Swann    by Britt Peter

The sturdy farm girl
Things were breaking down
You wanted to work forever

Thought you had to
Drove a car nearly that long
Engaged all the issues
Race relations, wars, missiles
Submarines, working places
Progress and regress within
Various bureaucracies

You knew how big the job was
And how few turnings
Seem to occur
Any volto toward resolution
The neat sonnet
But you were glad
That you had worked toward
The dimensions of fairness
Even in radical boardrooms
You were always clear headed
Insistent and alert
The glad effort; since childhood

Thinking now of the few rides
I gave you to meetings, some meaningful
And the thousands you must have
Sat in on before that
Your daughter Carol, saying
“her indomitable spirit”
Your monumental effort and energy
Sing praise to that!

For Marj Swann (1921-2014) 

Britt Peter was born in the North Arm of Indian Valley in 1938. His parents moved to the Bay Area at the start of World War II and he has been living here off and on ever since. Britt has loved poetry in all forms for most of his life, starting with Burl Ives, his grandmother’s songs and Carl Sandburg. Among the artists, poets and musicians he has known and admired are Juan Silva, Jim Gray, Kenneth Rexroth, Carol Tinker, Lloyd J. Reynolds, the Alexander brothers, Jack Spicer, Gene Fowler, Welton Smith, Bob Stephens, Don Cobb, Karl Shapiro, Lee Bartlett, Willie Van Ness, and Jack Gilbert. The richness of their lives and art brushed against him and often matched or fueled his own internal growl. Britt’s poems have appeared in The Intransigent Voice, Blue Collar Review,  Jerry Jazz Musician, Poetry Now and the California Quarterly He and his son Alexander Peter have filmed and presented over thirty poems on YouTube. Britt can be reached at

Ghost Jaguars     by Mary Mackey

by day   you told us   the dead crouch in the jungle
arms wrapped around their knees
heads down   blind
living in a great blueness
that expands to the horizon
like an infinite ocean 

at night they rise
and hunt ghost jaguars
drink the black drink
fuck the trees

we threw your yopo seeds on the ground
and trampled them
begged you to come back to us
but you had already eaten your gods
gone hunting with the dead
seen the sun rise and gone blind

Mary Mackey is the author of 7 collections of poetry including Travelers With No Ticket Home (March Hawk Press, 2014) and Sugar Zone (Marsh Hawk Press 2011), winner of the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Literary Excellence. Mackey’s poems have been praised by Wendell Berry, Jane Hirshfield, Dennis Nurkse, Ron Hansen, Dennis Schmitz, and Marge Piercy for their beauty, precision, originality, and extraordinary range. Garrison Keillor has featured her poetry four times on his program The Writer’s Almanac. In Fall 2018, Marsh Hawk Press will publish her new collection: The Jaguars That Prowl Our Dreams: New and Selected Poems by Mary Mackey 1974  to 2018. Mary is also the author of 14 novels, several of which have made The New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle Bestseller Lists. You can read more of her poetry at, connect with her on Twitter @MMackeyAuthor, find her on Facebook at, and sign up to get copies of her quarterly newsletter.


In the wake of a horrible tragedy in Orlando
where numbers were murdered and more were wounded
the Law-and-Orderies,
unable to deliver their brand of justice to the real assailant
who had slain himself,
somehow realize they actually had a smorgasbord waiting in the wings---
The Assailant’s widow!
But of course!
Go for the wife!
Remember, she’s Muslim
and of color too.
So it doesn’t matter if she knew nothing as she claims,
or was battered and bullied by her husband,
Big deal!
She is automatically
(and not just with her husband)!
She gets new batterers to pummel her,
more bullies to cow her.
Since the real killer
went and deprived them of their shot at bogus cojones
the wife is ripe for the picking.
Many for the price of one!
And with her
the Law-and-Orderlies get a bonus
they could never have gotten with the actual killer:
Now they can utilize their fantasies of dominance,
a better bang for their counterfeit buck.

© 2017 Garrett Murphy


If you are reading or hearing this
You have no doubt purchased
Oppressor Rule Book.

Rest assured,
our aim is to take you through each
in this manual
to make you achieve
all your effort’s worth
for your investment.

We shall begin the reading
of the commandments,
which are as follows:

Oppressors expect kudos from   

the ones they oppress.

Oppressors feel good by
making others feel bad.

Oppressors pick symbols
as easy targets
instead of going after
the actual culprits.

Oppressors believe that they
are the salt of existence.

Oppressors believe that only
can be right and are shocked
that others can possibly think
for themselves.

Oppressors always believe
that they are perfect
so how dare we oppose them!

The oppressor’s favorite hiding
places are:
            Popular opinion,
            Poll numbers
            Sound bytes.

Oppressors never believe that
their actions are wrong.
Oppressors never believe
they can ever be wrong.
That is what makes them

Some oppressors believe
they can never be oppressors
simply because the institutions
make that “impossible!

On the contrary-----   by Garrett Murphy

You don’t have to be a race
            to be an oppressor.
You don’t have to be a gender
            to be an oppressor.
You don’t have to be an economic state
            to be an oppressor.
Don’t have to be a hierarchy
            to be an oppressor.
Don’t have to be a religion
            to be an oppressor.
Or ideology, size, nationality
or any other demo
            to be an oppressor.
You just have to oppress
            to be an oppressor.
And not even for twenty-four hours
            to be an oppressor.
And you sure can’t be
            an oppressor.


Oppression is action
            plus intention
not accident of birth.


And now the replies from the
makers and readers of this book.
What do you have to say?

                        MADE IT UP
                                                made it up…

what can you expect from a perpetrator
but a typical oppressor line?)

That concludes this reading of
the Oppressor Rule Book.
See NEVER for more options.
© 1995 Garrett Murphy

Garrett Murphy, a political and human nature satirist, lives in Oakland, CA, and has written several chapbooks of poetry and prose.  

09/11/2017 – 8:00 am      by  Jennette DeBoine

It’s hot! And I’m hungry...
And tent cities increase in size and occurrence while we talk of war, sanctions, deployment and deportation... all at the same time

Whole nations are underwater. Pestilence of our own making sickens survivors. Children and old people curl up and die by the side of the road but we don’t hear their plight for we have our own disasters...our own we dismiss their plight as hoax – or nationalism – or patriotism –whatever!

Roads close... Airways fill with static created by hysteria. The face of feigned ignorance turns its traditional blind eye while clich├ęs come home to roost...

Evangelicals lay hands on common thieves. The exorcism aborts far short of success. Frantic...we open the good-book and flip pages.

Meanwhile, dreams and Dreamers ponder their rubble-covered countrymen as they brace themselves for another xenophobic storm surge...

And the people draw closer...
Mapping ways to possibility...
Blazing trails to the future... Pooling and preparing...

It’s the only way!

Untitled     by  Jennette DeBoine

I put the earth to bed
in all her splendor
I turned out the light
and bade her rest
I patted her back
to soothe her tensions
I sang her a love song
for all she's been through

I listened to her sighs
until I couldn't stand it
I fell on my knees
and led the world in prayer

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

PORTRAYALS  by Dee Allen.


"Wanna-be mob

"Deserved to get surrounded
By heat-holding cops"
"Deserved to get grounded
With 21 shots"


These are portrayals
They want you to know
These are portrayals
They want to show

Based on derogatory
Grist for the mill
Of tough-on-crime hype

Half the city
Went ballistic
Over cop murder

On paper,
We're statistics
Never get this

"Street thug" image
Adds to the tension
The reformed ex-prisoner
Never gets mentioned

Not the smiling sweetheart,
Not the mother's son

They concentrate on "the menace"
"Beast without a gun"


These are portrayals
They want you to know
These are portrayals
They want to show

Based on derogatory
Grist for the mill
Of tough-on-crime hype

He made no sudden moves,
But they made him die
Police and papers
Unify to crucify

A troubled youngster
Suckers had to play God
Racial death
Via interracial death squad

Suppose I got met up & lit up
By the bill?
Would the press call me a thug?
Probably will!

Folks swallowing official
Stories get played!
If you were gunned down tomorrow,
How would you be portrayed?

[ For Mario Woods—1989-2015. ]

Dee Allen. African-Italian performance poet currently based in Oakland, California.
Active on the creative writing & Spoken Word tips since the early 1990s. 
Author of 3 books [ Boneyard, Unwritten Law and Stormwater] and 14
anthology appearances [ Poets 1 /: 2014, Feather Floating On The Water,
the first 4 Revolutionary Poets Brigade Books, Rise and Your Golden Sun Still shines, to name several under his figurative belt so far.

Robot Bee Lamentation by Georgette Howington

Behind sunflowers Robot Bee waits at dusk
as the ancient ones fly home and glimmers
of sunset are caught by the looking glass of
their eyes, gentle creatures, wings beating
softly, bodies gliding on currents of wind,
heavy with gold pollen, spilled upon
them after gripping a locked blossom
and buzzing a musical note –

The ancient one’s history dating back 120
million years ignore Robot Bee, her stiff metal
alloy plastic body seen through sheer petals.
Robot Bee yearns to be graceful, gentile,
and spontaneous yet her programming only
allows her to pollinate almond blossoms. 
She strains to fly amidst the ancients in
the bending rustle of garden flowers,
make music, collect pollen and sip nectar…
but no, she tumbles mercilessly and the
ancients only see her as a pitiful but
ominous THING.

And as the ancients line up to enter their
hive ever so respectfully of one another
they murmur among themselves, “this
may be our time to Bee no more…”

© 8.26.17

Georgette Howington is a UC Davis California Naturalist of the Mt. Diablo Region.  Her poems are published in Iodine, Sleet, Poeming Pigeons, among others.  Her poems won Honorable Mentions at the North American Women’s Music Festival, Ina Coolbrith Poetry Contest in 2016 and the Benicia Love Poem Contest 2018.  As a horticulturist, her niche is Backyard Habitat and secondary-cavity nesters.  She is a County Coordinator and the Assistant State Program Director for the California Bluebird Recovery Program and an activist in the conservation community in the SF Bay Area for over 30 years.  Georgette is also a published garden and environmental writer.  

In the Age of Innocence,                  by Michael Caylo-Baradi

I’m partial to the beauty of the city, each time
you muscle me with tales mustering us

into a glow faint as distant stars. We restore tears
in this sanctum, and use the body to weep,

and sweat into beads, into rosaries, into sorrows
and lamentations. We kneel for the

satisfaction of prayers here, and engorge our
throats with mutinies against shadows

that curve dreams into the clarity of street-lights. 
Then, we slang midnights around vowels

and code them with conditions glammed up for
a kaleidoscope of addictions. But never

forget I gave you the power of porn, to help you
find yourself, balling for roomier positions

in the neon caves of gluttony. You are still a child
in the logic of dissonance accruing acres of skin.

You do not have the grace of animals yet. You
gobble up surrender, the way religions crucify their myths. 

This poem first appeared in Eunoia Review.

Michael Caylo-Baradi's work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Galway Review, Blue Fifth Review, Blue Print Review, The Common (online), Eclectica, elimae, Eunoia Review, FORTH, Galatea Resurrects, In the Name of the Voice, Ink Sweat & Tears, Local Nomad, MiPOesias, Otoliths, Our Own Voice, poeticdiversity, Philippines Free Press, Poetry Pacific, Prick of the Spindle, and elsewhere.  An alumnus of The Writers’ Institute at The Graduate Center (CUNY), he has also written reviews and essays for New Pages, PopMatters, and The Latin American Review of Books.  

That’s Me in that Song    by Jim Barnard

It’s been a long, long story.

I’ve watched you rise to fame,
the concerts no-one came to
and how you took the blame.
Your headaches in the morning,
cheap wine bottles by the bed,
combing the beach for sand-dollars,
‘bout the only kind we had.

You’d throw driftwood in the waves

and Frodo would go crashing through
retrieving them with his lab smile,
good therapy for both of you.
You always loved my body,
my hair long and blowing.
I’d go to work and you to practice,
our love alive and glowing.

Lord, how I know,

that’s me in that song.

My, my, how things do change,
cheap wine to speed and cocaine.
Toronto to Boston to New York,
I’m lucky if I see you on the plane.
Kids screaming and panting over you,
their breasts swinging in your face
as they ask for autographs and more.
Looks like fame done took my place.

You’re a diamond or a clown to them.
Investment or amusement,
surely not a real man.
They don’t know your anthem.
And you don’t either anymore.
Your poetry’s gone from depth to jive
but what to hell, another line of cocaine,
another million plays, you’ll say its live.

and I still remember,
that’s me in that song.

Well its raining. I’m on the road again.
‘Cept this time, I’m the one who’s driving.
These wipers were never worth a damn.
Today they’re worse, I guess I’m crying.
I turn on the radio,
and what a cryin’ shame.
It’s you, and don’t you know you're singing
the song that brought you fame.

That’s how I used to be.
That’s me in that song.

I’m turnin’ off the radio
and snuffin’ out my cigarette.
That’s two more habits
it’s way past time to quit.
It’s not that I don’t love you -
god knows I do.
It’s just I lost myself
in lovin’ you.

That’s me in this song.
Yes, that’s me in this song.

Jim Barnard, a transplant from the California/Mexico borderlands, a social worker/therapist working with and for kids and their families and a union activist by trade, a grandfather of the most precious 2 year old in the world in retirement, and through it all, a poet and short story writer.

The Abyss     by Kelliane Parker

It is a beautiful day, only you aren’t part of any of it
I see you contemplating the water’s edge and you begin to walk slowly out into the water
I watch at first unconcerned, then I hold my breath and wait for what I know is coming
You walk slowly, intentionally, not stopping, until you pass the first and then second break
I start yelling, telling you not to go out any further but you aren’t listening
You just keep moving farther away from shore, until a large wave grabs you and pulls you further out
And I’m yelling for help and people jump in and paddle out
And I swim to where you are and you go under just before I reach you, but you don’t fight it
This strange force pulls me down too.  I fight and struggle to get to you

And the bubbles go up toward the light to freedom

But you and I?  We keep going down, down, down into the abyss
Where the light starts to fade and the sound is muffled
I try to reach you, but you just give me that look that says, "it’s too hard"
And my lungs feel like they are going to burst, but all I see in you is resignation
But I won’t stop
I can’t stop
I won’t

And the bubbles go up toward the light to freedom

But you and I, we keep going down, down, down into the abyss
Where the light is just a speck at the surface and all I hear are the sounds of my own struggle

And the rescuers busy themselves in a flurry of activity at the surface
And I, I negotiate with god, trading everything to bring you back 

And the bubbles go up toward the light to freedom

But you and I, you and I, you and I don’t

Kelliane Parker Works in a hard-tech start up at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, and teaches marketing and public relations at the Academy of Art University. She and her partner, Poet E Spoken, are co-founders and co-hosts of My Word Open Mic, in Berkeley. Kelliane is a life-long activist for gender equity, fighting global poverty and an outspoken voice for survivors of sexual assault. More recently, she has begun to tackle stigma around mental illness, wellness and disorders. For more information go to

Those Were Strange Times by Bruce Bagnell

The giant Golden Buddha serene
in the dirty room.
Outside, eroded stone heads
atop the ancient temple;
beggars lining the streets
of lemon grass and tapioca rot
near the jungle’s edge.

Siren songs of missiles and ach-ach fire
took many to death.
We, the still-flesh,
conquered by Nam’s disease,
slowly yielded to Medusa,
our souls turned to stone

Those were strange times,
three dead crashed into the water supply,
and we talked about stagnant, pukey toilets.
Death’s intrusion not allowed.

Singha was our aphrodisiac
in this remarriage of men to chaos,
the beer poured into our deep throats
as we worshiped a glass-cased phallus.
Gilded, oversize, It waited for offerings behind
the Takhli Air force Base Officer’s Club bar.

At night, wasted, two F-4 pilots
rolled for drinks on a floor of broken bottles –
a celebration of nihilism in a shapeless feral heap
screaming at darkness’ rebirth,
cuts welcome,
an awakening on the ground.

Awaking over and over
at mach one, the plane screaming,
five G’s in the avoidance turn,
drop-button hit,
bombs away,
killing little men
on orders from some remote office.
You never saw
the Buddha,
the little men,

Lifetimes later that unfortunate first awakening rumble of tears
shoved down inside, turning to jungle rot.
Can you afford to see
The orange robes
blossom red again?

You never understood
the big golden belly in the dirty incense filled temple
but you see the way of their lives
blown up again and again.
In the end the ultimate destruction
was of you.

 A Visit to Clair Island    by Bruce Bagnell

We were on Clair Island,
the mist in heavy upon the raspberry lane.
Climbing down there was foxglove in the hedgerows,
the outline of a building grayed,
fog washed into half vision.

We stood looking back to the sea.
A bird in brush
sang police whistle songs
near an old quay
limpets showed high tide way up the rocks,
a seal caught breath below in the narrow channel out.

You had better know the rocks
like a fish to bring a boat in here,
you had better want this idyllic wet place
with its steep hills, stone cottages and cows,
with its jalopy cars, pieces hanging with fence wire,
all supplies expensive coming off the boat.

We knew of a husband of a friend who lived here,
inquired of him to an innkeeper
to learn of the three-chimney house on yonder hill.
We didn’t go to see him,
the boat was leaving in an hour and besides,
she had left him years ago,
tired of the smallness of this place,
mostly nature to look after
unless you wanted others all up in your business.

I’ll bet the seals knew him, the cows for sure
and what of her, did she ever know of him
in the surprise of his move
to this misty steep-hilled Island
or was this another marriage built on myth
to be dissolved by little things,
a calving at three AM,
the wind-driven wet-cold of the place,
bookstores an hour’s ferry ride away?

This is what we took back on the boat,
thoughts about men and women slowly blown away.
We stood on the deck, wind in our faces.
A seagull used our ferry’s air-wake to glide behind,
the boat tolerating the bird, a good marriage this time.

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. 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, Glassworks Magazine, The Alembic, Juked, and The Cape Rock among other publications or online postings. His poetry book, “The Self-Expression Spa,” is just out from Sugartown Publishing.

 What May Not Be Discarded by Penelope Thompson

Long, forceps-like pinchers and large garbage bag in hand,
I walk the perimeter of my block. Sometimes I mutter, 
shake my head, sometimes just keep going. Nothing 
surprises me now: forlorn condoms, wilted on the grass;
six pack containers; bottles in brown bags, some murky 
liquid lingering at the bottom; peel-off advertisements 
for carpet cleaning; fruit rinds; photos  of a missing pet, 
offers of reward;   ubiquitous q-tips--the drug users’ aid; 
leaflets threatening the end of the world, 
the need for repentance;  and always, 
dog shit, humid-fresh or petrified grey.

Today I round the corner, see
six plastic bottle caps on the sidewalk,
coded red, yellow, green, awkward 
to pick up.  I pincher each part-way 
to the bag, drop some again.  Nearby a man 
of uncertain years, in knee-worn pants, soiled shirt,
holds six empty plastic bottles without caps. 

He watches my grab-hold technique. 
When I maneuver the last cap to the bag,
pleased with myself, he steps closer, looks at me,  
says, Gracias, places the bottles in my bag.  
I say Por nada, both of us formal. 
He holds up his hand to stop 
my departure, bends to the pavement,
gathers a sodden clump of  paper, places it 
in my now half-full bag, steps back, gives me 
so broad a smile, I must smile back. Gracias, I say. 
Por nada, he replies.

Penelope Barnes Thompson hails from New York  by way of  a 39 year stint in Los Angeles and has recently relocated to Oakland. She is a retired clinical psychologist, now a Buddhist chaplain . She has published a book of poetry, Deconstructing the Nest and Other Poems and is finishing a manuscript for her second book. Her poems have been published in several journals and she has been a featured poet in Tiger's Eye Journal. One of her favorite activities is learning new words and checking our their origins. She is known to have been lost for days.

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