Archives for posts with tag: California

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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.

Airport in the Sky
Airport in the Sky
by Betsy Mars

The jeep rounds a bend and there it is:
a field of metal moths resting
atop the domed hill.
How many wrecked their lives
trying to get here?
To the grill and gift shop,
with its warm cookies
and buffalo burgers –
rewards for those who stick
their landings, and thrills
for us as we watch them circle.
Some come in a little too high
to stop on the short runway,
have to stay up among the hovering clouds.
They skip over the slipstream,
accelerate and rise, attempt it again
on a wisp of adrenaline and a twist
in their wrist, a delicate sense
of airspeed and velocity, taking care
of the downdraft. She comes in low
and lands it this time, steps out
of the cockpit so proud
to be on top of this small world.
I remember when I almost felt like that.

PHOTO: Terminal of Catalina Airport, also known as Airport in the Sky, Los Angeles County, California, by Betsy Mars, October 2019.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Catalina Airport runway was built in 1941 by chewing gum tycoon Philip Wrigley, who leveled two adjacent hilltops and filled the canyon between them. The private runway was not available for public use until the terminal opened in 1946. Before the airport’s construction, the only scheduled passenger air service to the island was provided by seaplanes. Catalina Island is located in the Pacific Ocean, about 50 miles southwest of Los Angeles. (Source: Wikipedia.) 

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am currently a homebound, frustrated travel lover, and it took me a while to settle on just one landmark to write about. Someone brought up having sailed to Catalina Island recently, which planted a seed. Catalina Island is sometimes visible from the beach near where I live, but it feels like a world away. Last October, when I had my book launch, a poet friend came out from Ohio and we went to Catalina — my first trip in at least a decade. We took an ecotour in a jeep, and he was so tickled by the Airport in the Sky. I woke up in the night a couple of days ago thinking about that, and how I had once landed there in a small plane (passenger, not pilot), and how nerve-wracking it was, given the length and design of the runway. Maybe under lockdown I am feeling especially isolated and that my wings have been clipped, so to speak, but I think it’s also a perspective on persistence and success, with a bit of a reflection on aging thrown in.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: At Zamperini Field in Torrance, California, I’m standing at left with French visitors in (yikes) 1981? and small plane that we may or may not have taken to Catalina.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Betsy Mars is a poet, photographer, and an occasional publisher. She founded Kingly Street Press and published her first anthology Unsheathed: 24 Contemporary Poets Take Up the Knife in October 2019. Her work has recently appeared in The Blue Nib, Live Encounters, and The New Verse News. Her chapbook Alinea was released in January 2019. In the Muddle of the Night, her collection written with Alan Walowitz, is coming soon from Arroyo Seco Press. Visit her at marmyst.wordpress.com, and find her on Facebook and on Twitter.

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Childhood
by Vince Gotera

The famed seven hills of San Francisco are actually myriad: hills and steep slopes everywhere in the seven-mile by seven-mile square of the city. Sidewalks that are stairways. Trees and houses clinging to ground that cant seemingly at 45°, climbing upward to starry skies. Small ethnic neighborhoods sprinkled around—Russian, Italian, Chinatown, the Black community of Fillmore Street, the Hispanic Mission District, Gay Castro—and the Haight Ashbury, the diverse, integrated neighborhood where I grew up before the hippies came. Downtown, in the Financial District, when I was a teenager, they built a new peak: the Transamerica Pyramid, tallest building in the city, vaulting up to the sky like the seven hills, a new eighth wonder to rival the world-famous towers of the Golden Gate Bridge. What a marvel, what a miracle, the city was in my childhood. Don’t call it Frisco. Native-born San Franciscans just say, The City. Living now thousands of miles away in snow country, I miss my hometown. Such deep richness and largeness of culture and utter beauty. San Francisco.

steep hills, The City—
pyramid skyscraper glows
in my child mind’s eye

PHOTO: Transamerica Pyramid, San Francisco, California, by Caleb George on Unsplash.  Designed by architect William Pereira, the 48-story building stands at 853 feet. When completed in 1972, it was the eighth-tallest building in the world.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Not really a traveling poem, but rather an “at-home” poem about San Francisco and especially the landmark Transamerica Pyramid.

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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.

Gotera Door
The Front Door
by Vince Gotera

was a surfboard speeding forward through the ’60s
except when it slammed, stopping time like granite
if not for the glass pane in the door, which let in
San Francisco’s lights, the fog like gray cotton,
screeching brakes, my friend Hart’s house across
Parnassus St. But the door didn’t stop time. Mom
came in, said, Hart is dead, Vin. Sorry to tell you.
The night before, running from the police, Hart
had driven off a cliff at Land’s End. A joyride
with a friend. Holy fuck. I could have stopped it
when I was on the N Judah streetcar a month before
and saw Hart with a coat hanger breaking into a VW.
I could have got off, said, What are you up to, Hart?
C’mon, give it a break, buddy. Let’s go get a coke.
But the moment was past. The N Judah kept on,
the steel wheels skirling on the tracks, twisting time
into ribbons. I imagined Hart would stop stealing cars,
throw down the screwdriver. But that time, I didn’t
get off the streetcar and confront my friend. There was
always time. Some time I’ll do it, I’ll say to Hart,
Just stop, will ya? But that future day was stillborn.
The taste of silver on the eyes, 9-volt batteries
on the tongue, fingertips on the hot iron smelling
like burnt toast. That logic was no damn logic. Nada.
The KFRC record on my dresser, that album I had
borrowed from Hart last year, said, What you gonna
do now, chickenheart? I pictured myself at that cliff
where Hart died, spinning that borrowed record into
the sunset air, where it would sail forever, surfing
to heaven and the future years Hart would never have.
But I didn’t do that. I didn’t get off that streetcar.
Moment past. Surfboard crashed. Front door closed.

PHOTO CREDIT: Google Maps — 62 Parnassus St., San Francisco, California, USA, December 2013.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is based on an actual event I have tried to write about for probably 30 years. But I’ve never been able to carry it off. Using the idea of a front door as an organizing principle broke that block. Thank you! I have not lived in that house for almost 50 years, but it looks the same, except for the stoop that was brick red. The door itself, with its large glass pane, is identical.

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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. Gotera blogs at The Man with the Blue Guitar vincegotera.blogspot.com.

Anderson front door
At First Sight
by Cynthia Anderson

We’d spent the day with our realtor,
planned to make an offer on a house
we’d seen—but since we were so close,
we said, let’s go by that one last place
just down the block. It was farther
than we thought—towards the edge
of the tract—the roof barely visible
from the street. We followed the ups
and downs of the driveway to the top,
where we were greeted by the garage,
glowing clusters of barrel cacti,
rock formations all around. A desert
wonderland…but where was the door?
A narrow walkway led to the right,
past willows and cholla. Up ahead,
a rise where pines swayed in the breeze.
Finally, the door—solid, brick red,
with its own tiny window instead
of a peephole. We opened that door
onto our new life.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Twelve years ago, my husband and I wanted badly to move to the desert but had trouble finding the “right” house. About to give up and settle for second best, serendipity suddenly took over. The hidden door symbolized our search and its happy conclusion.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert, in the house with the brick-red door. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and she is a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee. She has authored nine collections and co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens. Visit her at cynthiaandersonpoet.com.

MADISON Mecca
The New Room
by Tamara Madison

When Dad came home the front door slammed
and the house shook. After a scotch and water
he’d settle down. When we built the “new room,”
Mom took that slammed door, covered it
with mosaic tiles, gave it some legs, put it
in the center of the room – a coffee table.

I used to dance on it, in spite of the unfriendly tiles.
The “new room” had a bigger door and a cold entry
with a terrazzo floor that echoed the slams
throughout the house. With the music up loud,
the old door was my dance floor. I could be

a go-go girl until Dad came home from another
angry day at work. I’d jump off the table,
turn that music off as soon as I’d spot the pickup
trailing a cone of dust up the driveway,
and brace myself for another wall-shaking slam.

AUTHOR’S CAPTION: This is what remains of the house that was first entered by the door that later became a coffee table. It was on my family’s citrus farm near Mecca, California. The corporation that bought the property ripped out all the citrus trees and later they razed the house where I grew from small.

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AUTHOR’S CAPTION: This coffee table is a little bit like the one my mother made from our front door. It was bigger and had some kind of thick blocks for legs and a more chaotic, colorful mosaic pattern. This is the closest I could find online.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Tamara Madison is the author of the chapbook The Belly Remembers, and two full-length volumes of poetry, Wild Domestic and Moraine, all published by Pearl Editions. Her work has appeared in Chiron Review, Your Daily Poem, A Year of Being Here, Nerve Cowboy, the Writer’s Almanac, Sheila-Na-Gig and many other publications. She has recently retired from teaching English and French in Los Angeles and is happy to finally get some sleep. More about Tamara can be found at tamaramadisonpoetry.com.

Author photo by Sharon De La O.

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One-Hundred-Year-Old Door
by Erin Parker

Life is small right now
behind my one-hundred-year-old door
The glass is framed by painted wood
that opens to my half of a one-hundred-year-old duplex
Solitude waits in here
tense in the afternoon sunlight

The one-hundred-year-old windows rattle in the gusting wind
Chimes on the neighbor’s porch never stop, never stop, never stop, never      stop
Music is drifting in from the apartments
There is the quintessential crying baby
There is the quintessential occasional laugh
There are the quintessential helicopters over the house again and again,      flying low

A raucous crow is making daily visits to the tree by the red fence
Parrots are screeching green in the date palms in front of Carolle’s house
Peacocks have moved in and are now spotted on roofs
Coyotes venture out in the afternoons
These dangerous quiet streets

I open the front door when the sounds recede for a moment
It swings easily and I step outside
Squint in the sunlight, smell the ocean
Come back to life for a moment

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It is so quiet now that each sound seems invasive, both welcome and unwelcome. I long for silence but I miss the regular neighborhood noise, and I wonder how it can be so quiet when everyone is home. I am noticing more and more animals coming out into the open, and I find great comfort in that.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Erin Parker’s work has been published by places like Red Fez, Drunk Monkeys, Lost in Thought, and in the Silver Birch Press Alice in Wonderland Anthology. Her collection of short stories, The Secret and the Sacred, was published by Unknown Press and is available here at the Special Quarantine Price of $1.99 for the Kindle version.

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Of all the doors I’ve loved before
by Rick Lupert

You are the one – Gray when I found you
Pride of ownership painted you blue.
All my previous doors merely rentals.

A forever relationship started when I
walked through you. I’ve got the
paperwork to prove it.

The bank writes every month to remind
me of the long haul. I send them a tribute.
It’s my way of feeding you.

Oh, the things you do –
You keep the bugs out.
You keep the temperature out.
You keep the virus out.

You open wide when they bring me dinner.
You and your nine glass panes.
Half light is the official term at the door stores.
Forged in the fifties when the craftsmen
still stung from the war.

Sometimes we open you to receive candy
from the youngest of our neighbors
trying to raise money to go wherever
they need to go.

You made friends with the UPS guy.
I hear you two talking sometimes.
Out of respect I won’t reveal the details here.
We all deserve our own relationships.

I put up a door stopper so you and
the wall wouldn’t hurt each other.
But I hope you never stop.
You’re the last thing in this shut-down world
I’m allowed to touch.

Of all the doors I’ve loved before
you are the one.

PHOTO CAPTION: It has been made clear to the author, he won’t be leaving the house today.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I lived in apartments for most of my life until I was lucky enough, with my wife, to purchase a home in Van Nuys, California. This door we walk in and out of every day is a physical gateway in and out of this American Dream. It deserves a whole book of poems.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rick Lupert has been involved with L.A. poetry since 1990. He is the recipient of the 2014 Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center Distinguished Service Award and was a co-director of the Valley Contemporary Poets for two years. He created the Poetry Super Highway  and hosted the weekly Cobalt Cafe reading for almost 21 years. His first spoken word album Rick Lupert Live and Dead, featuring 25 studio and live tracks, was released in March 2016. He’s authored 23 collections of poetry, including Hunka Hunka Howdy, Beautiful Mistakes, and God Wrestler: A Poem for Every Torah Portion, and edited the anthologies Ekphrastia Gone Wild,  A Poet’s Siddur, A Poet’s Haggadah, and the noir anthology The Night Goes on All Night. He also writes and draws (with Brendan Constantine) the daily web comic Cat and Banana and writes the Jewish Poetry column “From the Lupertverse” for Jewish Journal. He is regularly featured at venues all over the world. Follow him on Facebook.

Author photo by Alexis Rhone Fancher

peter tellone
The Movers
by Cynthia Anderson

Every ferryman has to start
somewhere. In the dog days
of August, young Charon
gets his chance: after six years
of packing the truck, they let him
drive it, before dawn, across the desert
to meet Gilgamesh and Enkidu.
Older, wiser in tomfoolery,
the two fast friends watch
that eager pup injure his paw
and bleed himself off the job,
leaving them free to unload
the way they wanted.
King G, tall, blond, and lean,
sings the furniture’s praises
to the lady of the house,
while Enki, a swarthy
stevedore, recites the litany
of local threats: fire ants,
scorpions, snakes, and worse,
the killer who descends
through the cooler duct
straight into the living room.
He grins with his parting shot—
You’ll have to deal with them
whether you like it or not.

PHOTO: “Sunset, Hidden Valley” (Joshua Tree National Park, California) by Peter Tellone. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 2008, my husband Bill Dahl and I moved from the California coast to the tiny Mojave Desert town of Joshua Tree—in August, the hottest month of the year. One young man drove the moving van all night from the coast to our new home. Two movers from San Bernardino joined him on site to unload. As the poem relates, the young man injured himself and the two San Bernardino men completed the job. One man in particular hated the desert and made sure to tell us why. As for us, our love for the desert—the climate, the wildlife, the wide open spaces, and the peace and quiet—continues unabated.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. Her poems have appeared in journals such as Askew, Dark Matter, Apercus Quarterly, Whale Road, Knot Magazine, and Origami Poems Project. She is the author of five collections—In the Mojave, Desert Dweller, Mythic Rockscapes, and Shared Visions I and II. She frequently collaborates with her husband, photographer Bill Dahl. Cynthia co-edited the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens.