Archives for posts with tag: California

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. 

Stylish woman at the summer beach in a hot day

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.

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Continent’s Edge
by Jeanine Stevens

Imagine a shoreline, its own salty foam.
Not by Muir Beach or Shelter Cove
but just beyond Red Hawk Casino—gold country:
scrub oaks and ghost pines.
Granite outcrops and below, ocean floor basalt,
marl‘s crumbly clay, shell fragments.
This is Wakamatsu Colony (1869), Japanese
farmers attempting to grow silk, tea trees, rice.
Where are the dwellings, bamboo groves?
Someone would know, perhaps
a grad student researching ancestry.
Near the trail, buttercups, vetch, Rat Tail radish
(a delicacy in Asia). I nibble spicy pods.
Streambeds dry, few miners’ flakes remain.
You may discover garnets in your shallow pan.
Over the foot bridge, simple joy
to walk planks: bounce, sponge, lift.
Tides, first sensory,
something of womb, suck
pull back—thrum tide.
Under a perigee moon, I wonder if bedrock
heaves, upends remains of shellfish?
Behind the electric fence, a Jersey mother has tender eyes.
Long time since I’ve been close to such
a large mammal, her heat shimmering,
dancing in amber sun.

Two identical calves recline,
slowly munching meadow grass.

PHOTO: Wakamatsu Farm in 2019, its 150th year, by Ken Mahar.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: The Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony was made up of a group of 22 samurai and one woman during the Boshin Civil War (1868–69) in Japan preceding the Meiji Restoration. This is believed to be the first permanent Japanese settlement in North America and the only settlement by samurai outside of Japan. The group purchased land from Charles Graner family in the Gold Hill region after coming to San Francisco in 1869. Though the group successfully displayed it produce during the 1869 California State Agricultural Fair in Sacramento and the 1870 Horticultural Fair in San Francisco, the farm as a Japanese colony only existed from 1869-1871. In 1969, the year of the colony’s centennial, it was proclaimed California Historical Landmark No. 815. The American River Conservancy purchased the 272-acre location, 50 miles northeast of Sacramento, in November 2010, with the National Park Service placing the site on the National Register of Historic Places.

PHOTO: Historical marker at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony, Placerville, California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I write in natural settings, it is usually a pattern of walk, stop, listen, and write, then begin again. This goes back to sixth grade and our bird walks every Friday afternoons. The poem “Continents Edge” was written in one afternoon, step by step, with periods of rest so I could to notice even smaller things like the ragged rattail radish and the bouncy footbridge. This pattern works well for me even in cities, say St. Mark’s Square in Venice. There is so much to take in just by sitting on a bench, watching people and pigeons, the Adriatic creeping over the stone steps.

PHOTO: The author and fellow travelers at Wakamatsu Tea and Silk Farm Colony

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jeanine Stevens is the author of Limberlost and Inheritor (Future Cycle Press). Her first poetry collection, Sailing on Milkweed was published by Cherry Grove Collections. She is winner of the MacGuffin Poet Hunt, The Stockton Arts Commission Award, The Ekphrasis Prize, and WOMR Cape Cod Community Radio National Poetry Award. Brief Immensity, won the Finishing Line Press Open Chapbook Award. Jeanine recently received her sixth Pushcart Nomination. She has participated in Literary Lectures sponsored by Poets and Writers. Her work has appeared in North Dakota Review, Pearl, Stoneboat, Rosebud, Chiron Review, and Forge. Jeanine studied poetry at U.C. Davis and California State University, Sacramento.

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Allensworth, California
by Mary Langer Thompson

This dream town is left
to parched ghosts whose
promised water rights
vaporized near tracks
bypassed by trains that
refused to stop
for former slaves
or their leader,
murdered under
muddy wheels.

I look through foggy windows of a
cash store with no cash
schoolhouse with no students
church with silent bells,
no dry-mouthed choir
to sing Amazing Grace.

Leaving on the rough,
two-lane road
toward Route 99,
thunderheads appear.
I see the sign,
“Subject to flooding.”

Previously published in Literary Bohemian and the Friends of Allensworth website.

PHOTO: Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, Allensworth California (Tulare County), by Bobak Ha’Eri, used by permission.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Allen Allensworth (1842-1914), born into slavery in Kentucky, escaped during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and became a Union soldier — and was the first African American to reach the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1908, he established Allensworth, California, the only town in the state to be founded, financed, and governed by African Americans. His vision for the town was to enable African Americans to own property, learn, thrive, and live the American Dream. Allensworth’s reputation as a leader drew people from across the United States. By 1910, the area hosted California’s first African American school district. With the death of Colonel Allensworth in 1914, the town experienced extreme losses, coupled with severe drought, and decreased crop yields. Many residents left the area following World War I (1914-1918), and the town of Allensworth was scheduled for demolition in 1966 when arsenic was found in the water supply.The town was memorialized as a state park in 1974, and hosts yearly events to preserve its history.

PHOTO: Colonel Allen Allensworth (1842-1914), founder of Allensworth, California.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I first discovered Allensworth, California, in 2008. Founded by Colonel Allen Allensworth, born a slave in Louisville, Kentucky, in 1842, the town was established exclusively by African Americans in 1908. I was so moved by my visit that I wrote the poem after doing some research. There are homes, a schoolhouse, church, and several buildings still standing. My poem was previously published by Literary Bohemian and was on the Friends of Allensworth website. Whether Allensworth, who was hit by a motorcycle on a visit to the Los Angeles area, was murdered or it was an accident has never been decided. I have always wanted to revisit this now state park, next time by train, and on Juneteenth.

PHOTO: Each year, Friends of Allensworth hosts a variety of events, including historical re-enactments, to preserve its legacy. (Photo courtesy of Friends of Allensworth.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Langer Thompson is a retired school principal and former English teacher who now writes full time. In 2012, she was the Senior Poet Laureate of California. She leads The Poemsmiths, a poetry critique group that meets biweekly, currently on Zoom.

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Lone Mountain Poem II
by Gerald Nicosia

Watch several shades of grey and silver clouds
Like fog but not quite touching ground
blow east over the rain-soaked greenery
of Lone Mountain
rugged promontory in the heart of San Francisco
preserved by the Catholics
for college campus
but for me a source of meditation
from my lonely apartment window
and hear those clouds say
Think of all your friends who will die
and trust that they’ll always live
in the thought of those who read
the poem about them which you write
while watching several shades of grey and silver clouds
vanishing like unanswered koans
over the spiky evergreen illusions
on a hillside of the Lone Mind.

PHOTO: The Lone Mountain campus of the University of San Francisco by David Edelman, used by permission.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Lone Mountain is a historic hill in west-central San Francisco, California, and the site of the private University of San Francisco (USF) – Lone Mountain Campus, which in turn was previously the San Francisco Lone Mountain College for Women. It was once the location of Lone Mountain Cemetery, a complex encompassing the Laurel Hill, Calvary, Masonic, and Odd Fellows Cemeteries. (Source: Wikipedia)

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Lone Mountain Poem II” came out of a period in my life that was both very difficult and very hopeful. I had spent four years traveling the American continent, researching and writing my biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe.  Then I ended up spending another three years wrestling with publishers to see the book published intact. It had bounced from City Lights Press to Harper & Row, San Francisco, and finally to Grove Press in New York. Grove had hired an editor for Memory Babe who essentially rewrote the book, and it took the better part of a year to convince the publisher, Barney Rosset, to restore the book to its original form (a struggle in which the late Michael McClure aided immensely). I had little money to live on during those years, and found a home more often than not with my elderly, widowed mother Sylvia.  But that situation was complicated by the fact that my mom could not settle on whether she wanted to live in Chicago or California, and was continually bouncing back and forth like a Ping-Pong ball. At the time this poem was written, we had rented an apartment together on Anza Street in San Francisco, right across from Lone Mountain. There was a Catholic university and former women’s college on the other side of the mountain (really a very steep hill), but the side my second-story window looked out on was just a bleak escarpment of rock with a lot of bushes and a few brave trees rooted into it. It was 1982, in the days before cellphones, computers, texting, or the internet, and I would wait anxiously for the mail every day, in hopes of good news that Grove Press had finally agreed to publish the biography as I wanted it. To pass the time, when I wasn’t reading or writing, I’d sit in the bay window, watching the ever-changing clouds and fog that seemed to perpetually engulf the mountain. It was in one of those quiet, meditative hours that “Lone Mountain Poem II” came to me. I think that I was so tense with emotion considering the fate of this book, which had consumed so many years of my life, that I needed to see that it was also just one more cloud that would eventually vanish–like those clouds I watched vanishing over Lone Mountain–but also with the hope that it too, like the rest of our world, would leave some trace in memory.

PHOTO: San Francisco, California, in the fog by Andrei Stanescu, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After moving from Chicago to San Francisco in 1979, Gerald Nicosia became part of the post-Beat circle of poets in the Bay Area. In 1983, he became nationally known with his biography of Jack Kerouac, Memory Babe. Beginning with Lunatics, Lovers, Poets, Vets & Bargirls (1991), he also began publishing books of his own poetry, and this fall will publish the sixth volume, a collection of his poems remembering the Beats called Beat Scrapbook.  Nicosia also organized and took part in hundreds of public poetry readings in the Bay Area, Los Angeles, and Chicago. He has read his poetry throughout the United States and abroad, at such notable sites as Bob Holman’s Bowery Poetry Club in New York, Bob Weir’s Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California, the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea, Wales, and Shakespeare & Company Bookstore in Paris. He was a close friend of the late poet and playwright Ntozake Shange and is currently working on a full critical biography of her.

Hiker in Front of Giant Sequoia
A Texas gal sees the redwoods, for the first time
by Sue Mayfield Geiger

I remember that trip to the redwoods
When you had just 24 hours before your next audition

Your Texas mom, needing a facelift, agreed
To go up the California coast to see

the massive beauties that had captured your soul
“You have to see these!” you said

Off we went with no agenda, little money
But you were persistent even though you knew

You could be called back at any time from
Your agent, telling you to show up for another

Audition, drop ’em dead, get the part, this
Could be it; or not; or maybe; who knows

Life is always about taking a chance,
Honing your craft, giving it your all

But right now, we were on a mission
Taking your below sea level mother

To the higher points of your state where
Trees dominated the sky, defying aging

Getting called back to L.A. numerous times
We’d take off again. You, not an unnerved bone

In your body.

Countless trips back and forth gave us a window
When two weary-eyed souls finally stopped

At a Starbucks and spent $40 on overpriced pastries
And expensive coffee before we fainted from exhaustion

Until we reached our destination and by God!
You were right.

It was worth it!

PHOTO: Old-growth forest, California, by Welcomia, used by permission.

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PHOTO: The author’s son, Adam Mayfield, in a grove of redwoods near Leggett, California, by Sue Mayfield Geiger (2013).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sue Mayfield Geiger is a freelance magazine writer, now in her seventh decade. She does not tweet or have a Facebook page. She got an English degree at age 57; sang professionally by the age of 20 (worked with Kenny Rogers); did a tandem parachute jump when she turned 50; has interviewed several celebrities, most memorable was Willie Nelson at his ranch near Austin; became a runway fashion model after the birth of her second son when she was in her early thirties; sang at that same son’s wedding reception in Guadalajara in 2016; soaked in the hot springs of Esalen at Big Sur, California at two a.m. with millions of stars above the night sky. She has traveled to Scotland, England, France, Italy, Bahamas, Mexico, and several states in the U.S., but her favorite adventure of all was tent camping at Inks Lake State Park, Texas, while growing up. The smell of bacon frying on a Coleman camp stove always finds its way into her meditation.