Archives for posts with tag: California

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at fifteen my cousin steve and i were more like brothers
by Scott Ferry

we walked the quarter mile to the ocean
down magnolia street in august 630 pm
dive into the shorebreak at high tide tall and swift
each of us with one fin to kick into steep walls
and watch the curl upend and dish into a swirling oblong
the body a sliding wet light among the sunlit array
of bluegreygreenyellowwhite until the glass
of evening closed steaming in a puff of foam
and we half walked half swam back out for another
and we never got cold or tired
until the corners of the sky turned
tangerine and smoke and we exited
maybe a towel maybe not maybe sandals
maybe barefoot back to his house on hula circle
to shower off the sand in our shorts
and the sticky salt from the eyelashes
and then we would eat and eat
and eat

PHOTO: Two surfers at California beach, sunset by Trevor Gerzen on Unsplash. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I thought I would throw one in about immortality.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Scott Ferry helps our Veterans heal as a RN in the Seattle, Washington, area. His seventh book of poetry, The Long Blade of Days Ahead, is available from Impspired Press. More of his work can be found at ferrypoetry.com.

menudo by james
menudo
by Richard Vargas

i remember the morning
car ride to the Compton
neighborhood market
just the two of us
my dad would walk in
carrying the empty pot and lid
set it on the counter and ask
for it to be filled with our
sunday morning breakfast
while he picked up a package
of warm corn tortillas
i checked out the colorful
piñatas and sweet-smelling
pan dulce still warm from the oven

he would notice and buy a few
conchas and fruit-filled empanadas
watch the smile light up my face
the drive home was slow and gentle
making sure we didn’t spill
any of our orange-red bounty

i never cared for the oregano
but a squeeze of lemon
a spoonful of chopped onion
and a warm tortilla rolled up
in my small fist

planted the seed
for this poem to bloom

PHOTO: Menudo Rojo by James.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Menudo is one of those signature dishes that becomes a cultural icon for the place and people where it originates. The flavorful mix of tripe and hominy isn’t for everyone—you might say it is an acquired taste. And, yes, I know from experience that it is one of those “best cure for a hangover” remedies that gets passed on from generation to generation. Saturdays were for washing my dad’s lowered Chevy and cruising downtown, but Sunday morning’s ritual was picking up a pot of menudo and enjoying its aromas and steamy goodness around the kitchen table. These days I won’t hesitate to heat up a can of Juanita’s Spicy Menudo (only occasionally, since the salt content is enough to give an elephant a stroke), chop up some onion and cilantro, slice up a fresh lime, warm up some corn tortillas, grab a cold Modelo Negra, and watch the Sunday morning NFL pregame shows. Then, I raise my beer and toast my dad, wherever his spirit may be.

PHOTO: The author at age six months with his father.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas was born in Compton, California. He earned his B.A. at Cal State University, Long Beach, where he studied under Gerald Locklin. He edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, publishing early works by Jimmy Santiago Baca, Alberto Rios, Nila Northsun, and many more. His first book, McLife, was featured twice, during Feb 2006, on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. A second book, American Jesus, was published by Tia Chucha Press, 2007. His third book, Guernica, revisited, was published in April 2014 by Press 53, and was featured once more on the Writer’s Almanac. Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010, where he workshopped his poetry with Joy Harjo. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference, and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. Vargas also edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015, featuring poets from across the country. His poetry continues to appear in poetry journals and anthologies, while his fourth book, How A Civilization Begins, MouthFeel Press, will be released on Sept 8, 2022. Currently, he resides in Wisconsin, near the lake where Otis Redding’s plane crashed. Visit him at richardvargaspoet.com.

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The Shakes
by Joe Johnston

I am still waiting for the shakes to stop.
I am still waiting for the magic of Big Sur
     to envelop me in calm
          comfort, to
let
   me
     breathe.

I did the work; I rejected the
mythos and I rejected the
ritual and I decamped to the
valley. And I waited.

I
   wait
          ed.

I waited as the shakes continued
and I waited as the Fall rolled in and
the tide rolled out.

boom

BOOM

The beats go on as the
     Beats went on, and
I don’t have the right map so I’m
lost, off the road, a city light
     my only beacon, waiting for
          the. shakes. to. stop.

PAINTING: Big Sur Coastline by Eyvind Earle.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: A popular book many young people read to broaden their boundaries is Jack Kerouac’s 1957 novel On the Road. But I don’t feel that enough people bookend the experience by reading his tragic Big Sur (1962).  I didn’t come to it myself until much later in life, which is may be a good thing. When I think of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, I can’t help but picture him as this calming grandfather, protector, and champion of a wild bunch of maniacs, unable to save some of them from themselves. This poem is part homage to that calming grandfather.

PHOTO: Jack Kerouac (left) and Lawrence Ferlinghetti in front of Ferlinghetti’s house at 706 Wisconsin St., San Francisco, California (early 1959). Photo by Kirby Ferlinghetti. (Online Archives of California)

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joe Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parents’ living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Atticus Review, Matador Review, and Iron Horse Literary Review. His recent film How to Make a No-Sew Coronavirus Face Mask from a Poem was featured in Michigan State University’s 2021 Filmetry Festival, viewable here.  He currently resides in Michigan with his loving family of fellow artists and is working on a feature-length play about a dystopic suburban road rally.

San Francisco by Lee Otis
What Am I Still Waiting For
by Terrence Sykes

I am still waiting
for this fog to lift
from my mizzle laden brain
from these steep city streets
rain of course lies in wait
but what do I wait for

city lights draw me in
comfort for a wayward
never felt in place soul
yet my soles are bare
like these bare bones
of unknowing

bare knuckles
from the daily grin
grinding my teeth
as I toss in restless waiting
for sleep or my dream or plans
to come but what lies in wait

when will I know that
I will never find yet
do I wait in Coney Island
or have I waited in San Fran
will I ever quote or question
am I still waiting

PHOTO: San Francisco, California (Polaroid) by Lee Otis (2009).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I asked myself…what am I waiting for…this surreal pandemic to end and begin a normal life and to travel…go back to San Francisco and eat and eat and of course…visit City Lights Bookstore.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Although Terrence Sykes is a far better gardener-forager-cook…his poetry-photography-flash fiction have been published in Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland, India,  Mauritius, Pakistan, Scotland, Spain, and the USA…he was born and raised in the rural coal mining area of Virginia and this  isolation brings the theme of remembrance to his creations — whether real or imagined.

Operators on Left in New Brown and Maroon Uniform Next to Operator on Right in Old Blue Uniform with Trolley Coach at Presidio Yard | April 23, 1968

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Free Ride
by Vince Gotera

As a kid in San Francisco, waiting for a bus,
in morning fog, to go to school, I would see
the 6 Masonic appear magically out of what
was essentially a deep, soft cloud resting

on the earth. The bus would shoulder its way
through thick mist like a green and yellow
Triceratops, the loud hiss of its air brakes,
a breathy sound, punctuating its slow approach.

The slight ozone scent of the trolleys arcing
above would counterpoint the salty taste
of the cool air, wafting through the city
from Ocean Beach, from the Pacific.

Getting on the bus, I’d hold out the student
Muni cardboard punch card, and the driver,
big beard like a black Santa, rather than
punching out one of the 10 rides, would click

the air above my hand and card: a free trip.
He smiled huge every morning, glad to be
giving a schoolboy a boost. I bet that man
is wrangling a Muni bus up in heaven today!

PHOTOS: Top — Bus operator with trolley coach at Presidio Yard, San Francisco, April 23, 1968, SFMTA photo archive, used by permission. Bottom — A student punch card from the San Francisco Muni. Shot by Ronald Reiss, from the webpage “Transfers Tell Stories of Muni History,” Muni Diaries, June 4, 2012. 

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem is not about an essential worker during our quarantine time but rather an essential worker from my childhood. I used to see this bus driver every day and he was the essence of generosity in my young mind.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Vince Gotera is a Professor of English at the University of Northern Iowa, where he served as Editor of the North American Review (2000-2016). He was also Editor of Star*Line, the print journal of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association (2017-2020). His poetry collections include Dragonfly, Ghost Wars, Fighting Kite, The Coolest Month, and the upcoming Pacific Crossing. Recent poems appeared in the journals Abyss & Apex, Altered Reality Magazine, Crab Orchard Review, Dreams & Nightmares, Ekphrastic Review, Philippines Graphic (Philippines), Rosebud, Stone Canoe, and the anthologies Multiverse (UK) and Hay(na)ku 15. He blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar.

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The Teal Truck
by Dakota Donovan

The truck is bright teal
flying down the street
like its namesake duck.
But I do not duck when
I see you coming.
I am grateful, so grateful,
for you will take away
the leavings of the week
the vegetable peelings, sodden
tea bags, and the plastic,
metal, and paper that I have
sorted for separate disposal.
Oh, Earth Day, April 22, 1970,
if only we had listened sooner.
if only we had started sooner,
to right the wrongs we’ve
Inflicted on our beauteous planet.
Today, I celebrate workers at the
Los Angeles Sanitation Bureau,
who take away our remnants
and give us a clean slate
to start each week anew.
“Keep Los Angeles Beautiful”
the teal truck proclaims.
Nelson Algren said that loving Chicago
Is like loving a woman with a broken nose.
I say that loving Los Angeles is like
loving someone with a battered dream.
Each week, we dispose of our pieces
and the brave sanitation workers
take them away, and let us hope
for a better, less broken week ahead.

PHOTO: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti with Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation workers, who became the first recipients of his Civic Innovation Award (11/3/2014). They stand before some of the city’s beautiful teal-colored sanitation trucks. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dakota Donovan is a ghostwriter for the rich and famous who lives in Los Angeles. She’s had many wild and crazy experiences while working with celebrities to tell their life stories, and some of these strange-but-true tales appear in her Hollywood Ghostwriter Mysteries — starting with L.A. Sleepers. In other incarnations, she’s written novels, plays, screenplays, and television scripts. She’s currently working on L.A. Dreamers, the second novel in the Hollywood Ghostwriter Mystery series.

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Carmel Valley/Cachagua Firefighters
by Jennifer Lagier

Firefighters put themselves on the line,
battle lightning strike blaze during 48-hour shifts,
clear brush to protect structures,
rescue people and pets,
risk their lives to stop fire’s spread.

Soot and ash blizzard from hellish sky.
Hazardous smoke billows over hills, into canyons.
Thousands of acres ignite, are consumed.
Three lose their own homes yet continue
the searing battle in soaring heat,
carve defensible perimeters with bulldozers,
create bare earth breaks across rugged terrain.

Men and women volunteers
come when called,
beat back raging towers of flame,
earn their neighbors’ gratitude,
receive thanks and respect,
our community’s heroes.

PHOTO: California firefighters by Kim Hammar, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the horrific wildfires of 2016 and the current Carmel and River fires, volunteer firefighters of Carmel Valley and Cachagua have performed as superheroes, saving homes and businesses, going above and beyond to rescue people and their animals, earning our community’s undying gratitude and respect. The photo I took of a thank you sign reflects but one of the many, many signs now lining Carmel Valley Road, River Road, Highway 68, Laureles Grade, and beyond.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Lagier has published eighteen books. Her work appears in From Everywhere a Little: A Migration Anthology, Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California, Missing Persons: Reflections on Dementia, Silent Screams: Poetic Journeys Through Addiction & Recovery.
Her newest book is Camille Comes Unglued (Cyberwit). Forthcoming is Meditations on Seascapes and Cypress (Blue Light Press). Visit her at jlagier.net.

St. Anthony's Seminary
Return with Us Now to Those
Thrilling Days of Yesteryear
by Paul Fericano

Barely in my teens far from my home
I study for the priesthood at a Catholic seminary
and begin to itch and scratch in places
I know little about.

A doctor in town prescribes an ointment
tells me to apply it twice a day
sends it to the infirmary for me to pick up
jokes about boys being boys.

That evening during study hall
a priest who expels boys for talking back
summons me to his bedroom
tells me my medical problem is now his.

For months everything he says and does to me
grows more and more weary and mysterious
each visit preceded and followed
by prayers invoking our lord and savior.

One night my body springs from his mouth
slips through his hands leaps from his bed
and races round and round the room
as music from a phonograph down the hall
plays the overture from William Tell

O, how I laugh inside at the sight
of all those sidekick angels hovering above
chasing after me whooping and hollering
kicking their spotted palominos.

Out in front on a white stallion is Jesus in a mask.
Like a cloud of dust and song
he gallops in the lead to head me off at the pass.

PHOTO: St. Anthony’s Seminary, Santa Barbara, California (photo by Dave Mills). In 2010, the original main building was listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2012, the Santa Barbara Historic Landmarks Commission recommended to the city council that St. Anthony’s Seminary be designated a City Landmark.

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PHOTO:  Author at 14 in 1965, while a student at St. Anthony’s Seminary. (Photo by Ralph Martini)

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem “Return with Us Now to Those Thrilling Days of Yesteryear” initially appeared in my collection, The Hollywood Catechism published by Silver Birch Press in 2015. At the time, it was my first attempt to publicly express with poetry the complexity of my experience as a survivor of clergy sexual abuse. In the process, I incorporated an element of humor, however dark, to help forward the narrative of my life at a Catholic seminary in 1965, and to facilitate some necessary healing.

AUTHOR’S NOTES ABOUT THE PHOTOS: The original main building of St. Anthony’s Seminary in Santa Barbara, California, was completed in 1899. The following year, 1900, and until it closed in 1987, the facility functioned as a Catholic minor seminary and boarding school preparing boys as young as 12 for the priesthood. The school was run by the Franciscan Province of St. Barbara, which was part of the religious Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.) founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209.  ¶  In 1993, an independent board of inquiry revealed a dark and horrific history of sexual abuse at the seminary. The investigation found that between 1964 and 1987, 34 boys at St. Anthony’s Seminary were sexually molested by 11 friars. I was one of those 34. At the time, it was the largest case of religious institutional abuse in the nation. In the years that followed, future inquiries uncovered a pattern of sexual abuse at St. Anthony’s that reached as far back as the 1930s and included allegations of abuse at a number of other Franciscan schools, parishes, and missions in seven Western states. While many clergy abuse survivors have chosen to remain silent or anonymous, it has been estimated that the total number of Franciscan victims from the Province of St. Barbara is likely in the hundreds.  ¶ The window in the photograph circled in red indicates the bedroom in the seminary’s original main building belonging to the school’s prefect of discipline and most notorious perpetrator, Friar Mario Cimmarrusti. This is the room where I and dozens of other boys were assaulted by Mario, who served at the seminary from 1964 to 1971.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paul Fericano is a poet, satirist, social activist, and co-founder of YU News Service, the nation’s first parody news syndicate established in 1980 (yunews.com). His poetry and satires have appeared in publications and media outlets in the United States and abroad since 1971, including The New York Quarterly, The Cafe Review, The Realist, Mother Jones, The Best American Poetry, Saturday Night Live, Krokodil (Moscow), Punch (London), and Satyrcón (Argentina). He is the author of several books of poetry including, The Hollywood Catechism (Silver Birch Press, 2015), and, more recently, Things That Go Trump in the Night: Poems of Treason and Resistance (Poems-For-All-Press, 2019) which has been nominated for a Bulitzer Prize (2020). An advocate for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, he serves as director of SafeNet and blogs on the healing process at A Room With A Pew (roomwithapew.com).

AUTHOR PHOTO: Author in 2019 at a pre-Covid-19 poetry reading, Bird & Beckett Books, San Francisco. (Photo by Kate Kelly)

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Camels at Font’s Point
by Cynthia Anderson

At dawn, the badlands hide
nothing, their ridges and washes
repeating, impenetrable—

tale upon tale of entrapment,
a labyrinth of extinction.
The present wavers, enfolds

a mirage of water and grass,
drama of ghosts. Gold light
shines on golden flanks.

They were here.
For millions of years,
they ate and drank their fill,

roamed in herds and alone,
laid down trackways
and bones.

Time holds them tightly—
time and rock, sun and dust—
and the gusts scour their footprints.

PHOTO: Camel metal sculpture by Ricardo Breceda, Borrego Springs, California. Photo by Eric Laudonien, used by permission.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It was April 2000. My husband, Bill Dahl, and I were on a desert getaway to Borrego Springs—one of our favorite spots, a place we have visited countless times over the years. On this trip, we got up before dawn and bounced down a washboard dirt road to Font’s Point, barely making it to the overlook in our Honda Accord. Our goal: to catch the sunrise over the badlands. ¶ The vista spread out before us, a spellbinding maze. No sound, no movement—only stillness, stretching far back into deep time. Bill got the photo he came for, and I got something totally unexpected from a battered sign: an introduction to the ancient creatures that once lived here among streams and meadows—horses, camels, mammoths, sloths, bears. ¶ Out of this prehistoric bestiary, the camels captured my imagination. I had no idea that camels originated in North America, and that many species of camels, small to large, used to roam throughout Southern California. I started following their trail, visiting camel fossils in museums and learning about their history. Many years later, I completed a long poem about the camels which appears in my book Desert Dweller. This is the first section of that poem, commemorating where my journey began. ¶ For anyone interested in the ancient camels, two of the best places to see fossils and learn more are the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles and the Alf Museum of Paleontology in Claremont. Also, for Borrego lovers, the book Fossil Treasures of the Anza-Borrego Desert (Sunbelt Publications, 2006) is an excellent resource.

PHOTO: View of Anza-Borrego Desert (California) from Font’s Point by Bill Dahl, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a California State Park located within the Colorado Desert of Southern California. The park takes its name from 18th century Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza and borrego, a Spanish word for sheep. With 600,000 acres, representing one-fifth of San Diego County, it is the largest state park in California.

Cynthia Anderson in 2000 at font's point

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

PHOTO: The author standing at Font’s Point with the Anza-Borrego Desert behind her.

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Separated by the Bay Bridge
by Gerard Sarnat

and often relative
competitors (e.g., chess)
since fifth grade

we sometimes kissing
cousins lived across
Maple Drive from

each other when
our kin (my mother,
his dad) were close

then enhanced
that family intimacy
over next fleeting

six-plus decades
as well as generations
of grand/kids

spending random free
time, vacations, every
Thanksgiving together

even if meeting required
driving long distances
or flying above oceans.

Myriad MDs in our clan
could be counted on to
weigh in to assure during

difficult illnesses,
cancer hadn’t spread to
chest/ lungs etcetera.

But nowadays, although
basically only separated
by the Bay Bridge

more frequently than not
proves beyond our ken
how you or I can manage

various mid-septuagenarian
stuff enough to find ways
or means one or another

of us will finagle what it takes
to travel a bit for those such
very sustaining group hugs.

PHOTO: Oakland Bay Bridge (California) by Rich Hay on Unsplash

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Gerard Sarnat won San Francisco Poetry’s 2020 Contest, the Poetry in the Arts First Place Award plus the Dorfman Prize, and has been nominated for a handful of recent Pushcarts plus Best of the Net Awards. He is widely published in academic-related journals (e.g., Universities of Chicago/ Maine/ San Francisco/Toronto, Stanford, Oberlin, Brown, Columbia, Harvard, Pomona, Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, Penn, Dartmouth, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Baltimore) plus national (e.g., Gargoyle, Main Street Rag, New Delta Review, Northampton Poetry Review, Peauxdunque Review, MiPOesias, American Journal Of Poetry, Kurt Vonnegut Museum Library Literary Journal, South Broadway Press, Parhelion, Clementine, pamplemousse, Red Wheelbarrow, Deluge, Poetry Quarterly, poetica, Tipton Journal, Hypnopomp, Free State Review, Poetry Circle, Buddhist Poetry Review, Poets And War, Thank You For Your Service Anthology, Wordpeace, Lowestoft Chronicle, 2020 International Human Rights Art Festival, Indolent Books, Snapdragon, Pandemonium Press, Boston Literary Magazine, Montana Mouthful, Arkansas Review, Texas Review, San Antonio Review, Open: Journal of Arts & Letters, Brooklyn Review, pacific REVIEW, San Francisco Magazine, The Los Angeles Review, Fiction Southeast, The New York Times, Review Berlin, London Reader, Voices Israel, Foreign Lit, New Ulster, Oslo Griffel, Transnational, Southbank, Wellington Street Review, and Rome Lotus-Eaters. He’s authored the collections Homeless Chronicles: From Abraham to Burning Man (2010), Disputes (2012), 17s (2014), Melting the Ice King (2016). A physician who’s built and staffed clinics for the marginalized as well as a Stanford professor and healthcare CEO, he is currently devoting energy/ resources to deal with climate change justice. Married since 1969 with three kids plus six grandsons, he is looking forward to future granddaughters. Visit him at gerardsarnat.com.