by Diane Gage

ocean air soft as soggy Saltines
rusty as the bottom note of Old Spice

long sweet slope of asphalt
on a street perfect for skateboards

shrug off marine layer melancholy
and take a safe little newbie ride

past the buzzcut pink-tufted mimosa
whacked flat by a lackadaisical city crew

dip-a-dip-dip your stiff-beaked ball cap
to ladies living happily with cat fur

slide past lawn chairs of domesticated men
who have learned many ways to hide beer

betrayed in the sunset years by spinnaker bellies
preceding them on their daily waddle

summer in San Diego suburban style
Pacific just a couple of freeways away

PHOTOGRAPH: “California Dreamin'” (La Jolla, California) bu Justin Lowery. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Diane Gage writes and makes art in San Diego, California. Her work appeared recently in Facing the Change: Personal Encounters with Global Warming (Torrey House Press, 2013). Her poems have also been published in journals such as Chattahoochee Review, Puerto del Sol, Rattapallax, Seattle Review, Hawai’i Review, Poeisis, in anthologies such as Letters to the World, Prayers To Protest, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odesm and online at Qarrtsiluni and Thanalonline. She was featured and interviewed recently at http://bluevortextpublishers.wordpress.com/interviews/

Faux Spring in Southern California
by Robbi Nester

It’s been a month since the last rain.
Tumbleweeds that last fall
pursued their manic course
across the highway
have settled in for the season,
send out tendrils
like misdirected telegrams.
Another frost will surely follow.
Even the birds sing all night,
making the most of a short season.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Apache Canyon in the Los Padres National Forest, California” by Robert Eovaldi. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester is the author of a chapbook, Balance (White Violet, 2012), and a collection of poems, A Likely Story (Moon Tide Press, 2014). She has also edited an anthology of poems inspired by shows on public TV, The Liberal Media Made Me Do It! (Nine Toes Press, 2014).

Though you may not drive
a great big Cadillac
Gangsta whitewalls,
TV antennas in the back . . .
You can still stand tall
Just be thankful for what you got

Be Thankful for What You Got,”
William DeVaughn (1974)

by liz gonzález

In my North Town neighborhood,
pit bulls and German shepherds,
trained to kill, jump spiked fences
and crunch Chihuahuas like taquitos.
I carry a big stick when walking Chacho,
my cream and caramel Jack Chi.
We circle a two-block radius,
stuck on flat concrete and asphalt,
stuck seeing the same houses and streets.
Whenever we can, Chacho and I
hop in my ‘95 Toyota Tercel,
and make a quick escape.

We park at the Signal Hill
Home Depot lot,
hike up Skyline Drive,
up the gated community’s
winding paved paths,
past the squeak of bobbing oil pumps.
I’m breathless; Chacho’s ready to run.
We speed walk around Hilltop
Park’s rim and Panorama Drive.
Air swept by Santa Ana winds
reveals Los Angeles high rises
and San Bernardino mountains.
The cobalt blue Walter
Pyramid rises from treetops.
Huntington Beach’s jagged
shore shimmers and froths.
Off the coast of Long Beach,
yachts and freight ships
sail by artificial THUMS Islands.
Behind the Queen Mary,
gantry cranes stand erect,
like metal dinosaurs
ready to do some heavy lifting.

Chacho leads the way on White
Point’s foot-carved trails.
Concrete frames brush, ocean,
and sky in Battery Bunkers’
empty gun encasement.
Salt and sage scent the breeze.
Fennel, that interloper,
waves tiny yellow buds.
A cactus wren feasts
on swollen prickly pear fruit.
Chacho pulls the leash taut
while I stand in awe of the view.
Catalina Island on a fog-free day.
White sunlight rides the ripples.
A lone speedboat
rips the serene surface.

A supermoon illuminates
the Seal Beach boardwalk.
Dusk dabs stuttering clouds
purple-pink. The sinking sun
spills amber honey into lampposts
lining the wooden pier.
Chacho can’t read “No Dogs.”
He runs unleashed, kicking up sand
smooth as a whisper.

After a two or more mile jaunt,
my t-shirt sweat-drenched,
we lounge on Beachwood BBQ’s
dog-friendly patio
in downtown Long Beach.
Chacho nibbles on corn bread.
I sip a pint of craft lager,
eat a small salmon salad—
my version of suds and grub,

and give grace.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Chacho at White Point Royal Palms Beach” (San Pedro, California) by liz gonzález.

liz gonzalez zwark

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: liz gonzález is a fourth generation Southern Californian. Her poetry, fiction, and memoirs have appeared in numerous literary journals, periodicals, and anthologies. She has poems forthcoming in Wide Awake: The Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond and is the author of the limited edition poetry collection Beneath Bone. liz’s awards include an Irvine Fellowship at the Lucas Artists Residency Program and a Macondo Foundation Casa Azul Writer’s Residency. She works as writing consultant and teaches creative writing through the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. Visit her at www.lizgonzalez.com.

Peninsula, Long Beach
by Donna Hilbert

On this beach the days are mild, evenings cool.
Wind kicks up at three, unvaried as bread
sliced from a single loaf. I read
the seasons by the setting sun: summer’s spool
hidden by high rise, and then, the slow pull
toward Catalina. By fall, the sun beds
down in open ocean, un-obscured
except by cruise and cargo ships schooled
before the port. Neighbors say Upton Sinclair
left Pasadena to summer on this beach.
I wonder how he conjured slaughter
houses—the severed flesh, the stench—in air
so sweet? Did suffering stay within his reach
while dolphins leapt and sun melted to water?

PHOTOGRAPH: “Long Beach, California” by Donna Hilbert.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Donna Hilbert’s latest chapbook, The Democracy of Carbon, is collected in Swallow Dance, from Silver Birch Press. Earlier books include The Congress of Luminous Bodies, from Aortic Books; The Green Season, World Parade Books, a collection of poems, stories and essays, now available in an expanded second edition; Mansions, and Deep Red, from Event Horizon, Transforming Matter, and Traveler in Paradise from PEARL Editions, and the short story collection Women Who Make Money and the Men Who Love Them from Staple First Editions and published in England. New work is in recent or forthcoming issues of Chiron Review, Mas Tequila Review, Nerve Cowboy and PEARL. She is a frequent contributor online journals including A Year of Being Here, Cadence Collective, Little Eagle’s Re/Verse, NewVerseNews, and Your Daily Poem. Her work is widely anthologized, most recently in The Widows’ Handbook, Kent State University Press. Learn more at www.donnahilbert.com.

Juxtaposition City
by Jeri Thompson

Shiny red buses go anywhere —
Slice through the city’s arteries,
Ticking off time.
Styled like tropical islands,
Oil rigs provide our black gold blood.
Breakwater blues and a lineup of freighters
Wait like impatient children to unload goods.
This is a college town:
Poetry readings, art galleries, museums, theater
(and theatre), fish aquarium, an aging Queen,
Parks with trees so tall, I have fallen from them in my dreams,
And bike lanes that run the beach.
Condos with million-dollar coastal views
And families that stand in line at food banks.
In one square mile prosperity and poverty
Collide into juxtaposition.

This is my town. I know there are
Mesas and mountains and there is calm beauty in
A heron’s yawn. Still, give me flat urban sprawl,
Congested freeways and barking sirens
For a chance to see one more smog-burnt sunset at
The close of one more warm beach day in our
International City, in the county of Angels.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Queen Mary Long Beach Night” by Denise Dube.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeri Thompson thrives in Long Beach, California, where she spends much quality time with herself and her Trikke (Scarlett Birdie) riding along the beach bike/Trikke path. Nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2014, she is soon to appear in Pearl magazine. Also find her in Silver, Green, and Summer Anthologies from Silver Birch Press, Cadence Collective, and Carnival Literature Magazine (Vol. 4). She is a CSULB grad AND LBC resident since 1992.

Fresno’s Cherry Auction, 1979 and now
by Patrick Fontes

Windows rolled down smudge-marked greasy
little fingers writing inscriptions
backseat in Tata’s 62 Nova rattled
monster-like engine speaking in tongues
as a Valley Sierra sunrise awakened
floral-scented air danced meringue in my nose
fresh life across fields in all directions
moved to nature’s rhythm unlike us
closed eyes to wind hair blown massaged
dawn-kissed taste of dew in my open mouth
on rich Valley mud baptized by manure
brisk against my face I breathed deep savored
soul San Joaquin blessings erased boyhood sins
for a moment angelic free flying I spied
Tata’s hangover bloodshot eyes rearview mirror smiling
at me through cigarette clouds and matchstick sulfur
down Cherry Avenue at 630 am sunray sanctified

An avocado-faced old black man hawked
fresh honeydew golden-fleshed presents
yelling as we passed his stall juice dripped
from a rusted paring knife as he slurped
between words from a paint-worn tailgate
of a 1942 Dodge pickup
tender smiled white-haired overalls
crow’s-feet carved into flint face
his unkempt Saint Bernard rope-tied drooled
to a loose bumper held fast by twine
he whittled a crucifix when silent
paying close attention to Christ’s wounds
while his wife hummed Amazing Grace as I passed
wiping early morning sand from my eyes

Hmong refugees grew giant strawberries
as big as my dirty fists succulent
in bright-colored Christmas ethnic dress
gnome-like they seemed from another world
they came from maybe a secret garden
where fruit grew monstrous on fairy dust
stoic they stared at us unblinking
twenty-five cents later red magic
coated my tongue as foreign words flowed
down my cheeks dripping onto my shirt
stained and sticky I didn’t notice
I ran my forearm across my face
devouring five luscious berries more

Pocket full of sugar coated quarters
strolled aisles fine dust floating midair
“Wait for me Mijito!” Nana begged
searching each stall for treasured junk
washboard corduroy chubby pants rubbed
pantalone accordions accompanied
screeching Jalisco mariachi horns
chimichangas sizzled in greasy pans
mixed with an old amplifier’s cackle
from the Okie auctioneer shouting
rapid-fire English kind of words
with a Fresno County Southern twang

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was a child my grandparents often took me to a country flea-market and auction right outside the city, still within the city limits. I think the auction really sums up Fresno, its people, the ag-based culture and economy and the various ethnicities that have come to live here. The auction is still there and has become an icon for Fresno.

IMAGE: “Old pick-up overlooking country road, hardened, stoic, like the area’s folk — near Highway 41 on the way to Yosemite, Fresno County” by Patrick Fontes.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick Fontes grew up in working class Chicano, Fresno, California. During the Mexican Revolution Patrick’s great-grandfather, Jesus Luna, a Yaqui, immigrated from Chihuahua to Central California. In 1920 Jesus built a Chihuahua-style adobe house in Fresno. Nearly one hundred years later it is still the center of Patrick’s cherished Mexican identity. Other influences include 1980s hardcore punk rock, Mexican folk Catholicism, and photography. Currently Patrick is a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. His research involves Mexico-USA transnational history, Latin American religion, and the Criminalization of Chicano culture. Patrick’s poetry has appeared in The Más Tequila Review, the Acentos Review, The James Franco Review, as well the online poetry site La Bloga.

by James Ross Kelly

Four pelicans on a log downriver
Sit like squatting men
this crimson Sacramento River evening,

& one rises up a sleepy watchman
& slowly waves his wings,
As a good breeze blows up river,

Paired mergansers begin to move away
As I sit down and look at the pelicans
Whose white through binoculars
becomes pink for a moment
With changing clouds & sunset

I’ve never wanted flamingos,
I’ve been waiting
For these damn pelicans to show,
& they sleep on the log

All the while I’m sitting under cottonwoods
That release a snow like namesake floating &
Blowing up river, & mallards
Begin to sound and take air across the river

Two pair wheel & move up river
Then turn again, reverse & land
Near the shore below me
Across from the pelicans,

By me the wild grape from
The cottonwood hangs dead
In the river having
Been broken from some flood,

The mallards wing away
Again, I catch them in flight
With my glasses,

These green-heads
Winging with their brunette wives
Paired up noisily and across the river
I see the soil layers on the eroding
River bank that each lay down
On the valley long
Before the dam

There are two surfaces
Shimmering streaks with
After breaking water
Lines on the river
In front of me now,
& ten minutes ago,
There were three others, &
A ways down river
I see two more, &
I walk to get oranges
From the neighborhood
Communal tree
I now know what the pelicans know.
the shad are in.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Pelicans on Sacramento River” by Ken Doty.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: James Ross Kelly lives in Northern California. He has been a journalist for Gannet, a travel book editor, and had a score of labor jobs — the in-between, jobs you get from being an English major. Most recently, he retired as a writer-editor for the Forest Service, where he spent the better part of the last decade in Alaska. He started writing poetry in college, and after college continued and gave occasional readings in the Pacific Northwest during the 1980s. His poems have appeared in Westwind Review, (Ashland, Oregon), Open Sky (Seattle), Siskiyou Journal (Ashland, Oregon), Don’t Read This (Ashland, Oregon), Table Rock Sentinel, (Medford, Oregon), Poetry Motel (Duluth, Minnesota), Poems for a Scorpio Moon & Others (Ashland, Oregon), The Red Gate & Other Poems, a handset letterpress chapbook published by Cowan & Tetley (1984, Vancouver, B.C.).

by Risa Denenberg

I live in a small town of recovered alcoholics
who go to weeknight meetings to drink coffee
and gossip: who versus who, where, how often,
when. These good people also go to church
on Sundays to hear sermons drawn from within
the town’s close-cropped borders and offer prayers
to heal sins they will later talk about over pork
ciabatta at the Longhouse.

I’m the oddball: vegetarian lesbian poet
who celebrates Pesach to their Easter, rents instead
of owns, has never married, chooses to live alone.

Last week I bought a push mower and huffed
around my yard cutting the tall grass and elfin
pink and violet florets down to nubbins. I did
this to ward off chatter among my friendly neighbors
over my overgrown habits, although I know they think
it’s strange to not eat meat and refuse to waste
gasoline on this endeavor. If I wait too long, someone
will come along and mow down my whole house
out of kindness.

As for me, I’m polite to neighbors, but more
I love the tall grasses, the bees sniffing
a sprinkling of petals. I welcome deer to come
graze in my yard, lush with dandelions.

IMAGE: “Deer, Olympic Peninsula, Washington” by Sankar Raman. Prins available at fineartamerica.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Risa Denenberg lives on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state, a place of stunning beauty with plenty of rain and small-town gossip. She earns her keep as a nurse practitioner. She is a moderator at The Gazebo – an online poetry board — reviews poetry for the American Journal of Nursing, and is an editor at Headmistress Press, dedicated to publishing lesbian poetry. Her most recent publications are In My Exam Room (The Lives You Touch Publications, 2014) and blinded by clouds (Hyacinth Girls Press, 2014).

by Ricki Mandeville

Home is the city where it always rains,
soundtrack of rain like a cool, jazzy riff,
a moody place where twilight comes early,
steals through the trees, the clasp of wet branches
that sway against the gray angora sky
while lights in buildings go on one by one.
Where people never leave the house without
a raincoat, and umbrellas pop open
like multi-colored wings coming to life
on puddled sidewalks in the heart of town.

I smile at men with pale indoor faces,
who speak in low tones in bars and cafes,
but walk back to my tiny loft alone,
the drizzle beading seed pearls in my hair,
turning torrential, soaking my wool coat,
feeding me lines I whisper to myself
to the ragged meter of the downpour
as I dash home, run dripping to my desk,
scrawl words on paper before I forget,
soak the worn carpet and never notice.

Some nights when rain bangs loud as kettle drums
I crank Miles Davis up to drown it out.
Or Joni Mitchell. Pour some chardonnay.
Turn off the lights, draw the curtains aside,
stand there, let lightning flash and do not move
from the window as rain tattoos my cheeks
with narrow streaks that roll like dingy tears.
And I think of you then, at the instant
my shadow jumps to life against the wall:
its solitary tango, empty arms.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This was a wonderful prompt. It had me writing about Seattle within five minutes. I noticed right away that most of my lines were naturally emerging in ten syllables. So I gave myself an assignment to write three stanzas of ten lines each, with every line decasyllabic. I love losing myself in the intense focus of such discipline.

IMAGE: “Lightning in Seattle” by Quynh Ton. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ricki Mandeville’s poems have appeared in Comstock Review, San Pedro River Review, Stone Highway Review, Texas Poetry Calendar 2014 & 15, Penumbra, and other publications. She is a cofounder and consulting editor of Moon Tide Press and the author of A Thin Strand of Lights (Moon Tide Press). A speaker for various literary events, she lives near the ocean in Huntington Beach, California.

by Raúl Sánchez

I live in a place above the lake
in the middle of two mountain ranges
the Cascades to the East the Olympics to the West
Seattle flanked by Elliott Bay and Lake Union

Tourists favorite landmark
and Chief Seattle’s fountain
Space needle pointing to the blue sky
the historic Pike Place Market
where flying fish are found.

Pleasure to walk the narrow alleys
gold diggers and sailors once walked
on the way to their ships to Alaska

Driving across draw bridges
we reach the rocky beaches
before the tall sails sail through

Short ferry ride takes me to
the San Juan Islands
Vashon, Bainbridge, Orcas, Lopez
where on a clear day
the majesty of Mount Rainier
stands closer to the heavens

pristine rivers and streams
where salmon swims
and the Swinomish natives
catch them at opening season
to cook them on cedar wooden planks

offering to the land
the wind, the sun, the rain
Oh, the rain!
natural cleanser that washes away
the grim and grime of the streets
and sidewalks

The Pacific Northwest
where the seasons shine and hide
in the winter months.
Where rain falls, oh blessed rain.
Green mountain trails, tall firs, pine and cedar
Snow mountain peaks jagged edges
at the brake of sun,
white powder clouds canvas
where birds fly south to warmer places.
On rainy days I clean the moss off my shoes
fling the slugs off my porch!

I live in a place surrounded by verdant forests
permeated by fresh air
and quiet streams
while we walk the hidden trails
in our old shoes.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tried to gather images of the place I live, the natural beauty, the weather, natural resources, tourist attractions, and other known and unknown highlights about the place. Although we have a vast mix of ethnic diversities, I did not include that topic since I just wanted to expose the outside rather than the inside and its people.

IMAGE: “Emerald City” by Benjamin Yeager. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

Open Books 2012

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Raúl Sánchez‘s recent work has appeared in the 2014 Jack Straw Writers Anthology, the Raven Chronicles, Clover, Ghost Town Poetry, Randomly Accessed Poetics, Redmond Association of Spokenword Poetry, Standing Still, Lowriting, The Smoking Poet, Snow Monkey, La Bloga, and other online and print journals.


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