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WHERE I WAS JANE
by Sarah I. Gonzalez

Humid San Gabriel mornings,
And chilled suburban evenings,
Both ring with the same sounds.
Frying eggs sing a song
While the coffee boils on,
Silence filled with music all around.

She cooks and hums “Obladi Oblada,”*
Carrying a pan of eggs with salsa on top.
His fork reaches out, ready to serve himself.
I sit by and watch it all,
The room once big, now small,
A dragon that hoards memories as wealth.

A piece of suburban land,
Neither glamorous nor grand,
No more than is needed, but less than is wanted,
Yet bigger than you could ever believe;
A wilderness where I was Jane, swinging from the tree
Father planted, I cried when He chopped it.

In this square of well-worked terrain
Mother plants plumerias she loves to maintain
And father tends abuela’s lemon tree,
The one he’ll use in the summer—
When hell’s breeze becomes the weather—
To make Arctic lemonade for me.

This little backyard served many purposes,
Patio, garden, bicycle track; cement with well-worn surfaces
Served as slip ‘n slides and b-ball courts. But not just for me,
The elders held it before my birth,
Now it’s shared between fourth and first,
This land holds four children’s memories.

The size of this place is an optical illusion,
So small, hardly livable, yet full of chaotic confusion
Because it holds four entire worlds.
Now that the youngest is grown,
Now that the elders left home,
It is making room for a new little girl.

Maybe for her the orange trees will be goal posts,
The grass a carpet to absorb falls that hurt the most.
Perhaps rooms where we’d listen to “The Eminem Show”
And imagine living like a king someday*
Will grow still as the melodies fade away
To make room for new music, putting to rest songs so old.

I thought this world would stretch thin
Now that a new story’s about to begin,
Now that a niece builds a new world next to mine.
Though this land never grows or changes its shape,
It holds a thousand worlds, a thousand mistakes,
A thousand stories and will never erase a single line.

In this corner of the planet
I have carved my name in granite,
Never to be washed away or stand alone.
Before my name stands three more,
And following mine, another is scored,
This corner of the planet is four—five kinds of home.

IMAGE: “San Gabriel River, Pico Rivera, California” by Nare Mnatsakanyan.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Where I was Jane” is a poem I wrote for a poetry workshop I took at my school. We were told to write a Place Poem and my original idea was to write about standing beside my mother and how I always feel safe beside her. But as I started writing, I found myself writing about all the different rooms in my home that my mother and I have talked in, or where she read to me or played games, and I started writing more about home than my mother. It dawned on me that, when I look out at my backyard and see the flowers my mother planted, I remember the day she knelt down to work the dirt to plant them, I remember running about the grass and her splashing me with water from the hose in the summer — but my brothers have completely different memories. They remember playing basketball with my father, or learning to ride a bike or wrestling with each other on the grass. It occurred to me that one place can hold a thousand memories and lives, and that just because this house is where I learned to walk and where I asked a brother to read to me from a Harry Potter book and took it away because he wasn’t reading the names right, those won’t be the memories my niece has when she gets older. My niece, who visits often and for days at a time, will remember hearing me play piano, or seeing me read while she and my mother play in the living room. She will remember hearing my favorite British quiz show when she first walks in the door; my home will start to hold all of her memories too. When this poem began, it was called “Five Kinds of Home,” but my poetry teacher read it and said that she thought “Where I Was Jane” was a much better title because it sums up what I am trying to say in my poem. This house I grew up in, it’s “Where I Was Jane” and climbed trees and chased my dog around the backyard; but it’s also where my brothers were rappers, basketball stars, and Philharmonic performers; it’s where my niece will be her favorite TV character or her favorite superhero; it’s where we all get to pretend to be whoever we want for a little while. ¶ This poem also includes three lines that are borrowed from songs. I’ve denoted these lines with an asterisk. In line 7 of my poem, I borrowed the phrase “Obladi Oblada” from The Beatles’ song of the same title. In line 38, I borrowed the title of Eminem’s album “The Eminem Show,” and in line 39 a line from Pierce the Veil’s song “King for a Day,” which is typed in italics. I do not claim rights to any of these borrowed lines and would like to cite them however possible so that it does not come across as plagiarism.

IMAGE: “Twilight Wonder” by Mountain Dreams. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah I. Gonzalez grew up in Pico Rivera, California, just on the outskirts of Los Angeles. She has been writing poems, short stories and lyrics since the age of 11, and has set her sights on becoming a lyricist and published poet. She is currently studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing at Whittier College in California. She grew up in a household that never stopped playing music — from the moment she was born, her parents sang to her, and she was surrounded by the music her brothers played and listened to. When she grew older, she took piano lessons and often insists that growing up hearing so much music has immensely influenced her writing. She will often base her lyrical style on a new artist she stumbles upon, and finds that some of her best ideas for her own writings come to her while she’s playing the piano. She loves reading and often jokes that she will spend any money she gets on new books rather than necessities. She insists that her love for writing comes from so much reading as well as the books and myths her mother would read to her before bed as a child. If she isn’t listening to music and studying how the artists write their lyrics, she can be found curled up with a book, writing her own verses, or sitting at her piano practicing the newest piece of sheet music she’s bought. In her opinion, surrounding herself with so much literature and music has helped her to grow as a writer; she believes writing and music aren’t that different, both require focus, passion, and appreciation for what can be accomplished by sound.

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Flavours of May
by Brinda Buljore

blending textures of
seasoning sunshine
together with winter hues
 
tall filaments become
seeds of luck and
petals of fate
 
kneading the dough
of fright and faith
into malleable stars
 
substance thin
like muslin yet
resistant as silk
 
May morning brings
stamina and vigour
rolling down the stairs
 
bridging the taste
within the flavours of life
to the pestle of destiny

ABOUT THE POET/PHOTOGRAPHER: Brinda Buljore is a writer and artist who lives in Paris.

PHOTO: “Muguet, French Moments” by Brinda Buljore, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

NOTE: King Charles IX of France received lily of the valley (muguet) flowers as a lucky charm on May 1, 1561. He liked the gift and decided to present the flowers — known for their delightful scent — to the ladies of his court each year on May 1. Around 1900, men started to bring their sweethearts bouquets of lily of the valley flowers as a symbol of springtime. On April 23, 1919, the eight-hour working day was officially introduced in France, and May 1 became a public holiday. May Day was not observed during World War II, but again became a public holiday in 1947. May 1 officially became known as La Fête du Travail (Labor Day) on April 29, 1948. In France, May 1st remains an occasion to present lily of the valley flowers to loved ones.

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James B. Golden, author of Bull: The Journey of a Freedom Icon (Silver Birch Press, 2014), was recently featured in Cultural Weekly — and the article included a stunning portrait of the author by L.A.-based photographer (and poet) Alexis Rhone Fancher, who is also the poetry editor at Cultural Weekly. Alexis’s photographs have appeared in many publications, and she specializes in artists’ portraits at her studio in downtown Los Angeles. Alexis is also a prolific chronicler of her downtown neighborhood — photos that appear frequently on her Facebook page. I adore Alexis’s photographs and recently asked her to tell me more about her work. Here’s what she told me . . .

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“My photographic passion is people. Photography is a means to connect with them in a unique and intimate way. I specialize in portraits of poets, writers, artists, painters — portraits where the goal is always to reveal the sitter’s inner self. I’ve been shooting professionally for decades, and have been told that I make being photographed a happy, fun experience, and that I have a knack for putting self-conscious, camera shy subjects at ease. All my clients come by referral, or by tracking me down once they’ve seen my work. But I’m interested in expanding my horizons, and am always on the lookout for faces that interest me. I have a studio in downtown L.A. and also like to shoot on location around my 6th and Spring neighborhood. A session usually runs 1-1/2 to 2 hours. I ask the client to bring a few changes — clothes s/he feels terrific in — hats, simple props. I shoot until I’m satisfied I have what the client wants. Prices available on request. Reasonable. With special rates for artists. References in great abundance.”

ALEXIS RHONE FANCHER

If you’re looking for a great portrait or series of photos, contact Alexis Rhone Fancher Photography: 

Phone: 310-850-0006

Web: alexisrhonefancher.com/photography

Email: alexis@lapoetrix.com

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ABOUT ALEXIS RHONE FANCHER:  In addition to her portrait business, writer/photographer Alexis Rhone Fancher’s photographs have been published worldwide, including a spread in HEArt Online, numerous photos in This Is Poetry, three photo essays in Cultural Weekly, and the covers of Witness and The Mas Tequila Review. Alexis is a member of Jack Grapes’ L.A. Poets & Writers Collective. Her poems have been published in H_NGM_N, Fjords Review, Rattle, The MacGuffin, Slipstream, This Is Poetry: Women of the Small Presses, BoySlut, The Mas Tequila Review, Deep Water Literary Journal, Carnival Literary Journal, Cliterature, The Juice Bar, Cultural Weekly, Poeticdiversity, High Coupe, Bukowski On Wry, Gutter Eloquence Magazine, Tell Your True Tale, The Good Men Project, Bare Hands, 100-Word Stories, The Poetry Super Highway, Downer, Le Zaporogue, numerous anthologies, and elsewhere. In 2013 she was nominated for two Pushcart Prizes. She is poetry editor of Cultural Weekly. Visit her at alexisrhonefancher.com

PHOTOGRAPHS by Alexis Rhone Fancher, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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ANGELUS
by Stuart Dybek

It’s the metallic hour
When birds lose perfect pitch
On a porch, three stories up,
against a copper window
facing the El,
a woman in a satin slip,
and the geraniums she waters,
turn gold.
 
Beneath the street the blue clapper
of a switch swings in the tunnel.
Blocks away, a crescendo overtakes
its echo, and the reverberation
is passed between strangers.
Shadows quiver like sheet metal.
High heels pace off down a platform
like one hand on a piano.
 
There’s a note struck every evening–
every evening held longer–
a clang only because it’s surrounded by silence,
chimes of small change
from the newsstand, trousers
full of keys and dimes
flopped on a chair beside the bed,
the tink of bracelets
as her arm sweeps back her hair.

SOURCE: Poetry (December 1986)

PHOTO: “Porch at Sunset, Chicago, 2006” by Jim Luepke, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” JACK KEROUAC, On the Road

Photo: Sunset Magazine, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Charles Bukowski: Up Close and Personal, a popup exhibition of nine portraits by Joan Gannij will be on display at the American Book Center Treehouse Gallery on Thursday, March 13 & 20, 2014, from 6-9 p.m., and during the weekend of March 22 & 23 from 1-5 pm.

These oversized portraits of Charles Bukowski (118cm x 84cm — approximately 4 x 3′) on museum quality paper in a limited edition will be available for sale after the exhibition. For further information, contact joangannij@gmail.com.

PHOTO CREDIT: “Joan Gannij with her Bukowski images” by Thom van der Heijden

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MY AUTUMN LEAVES
by Bruce Weigl

I watch the woods for deer as if I’m armed.
I watch the woods for deer who never come.
I know the hes and shes in autumn
rendezvous in orchards stained with fallen
apples’ scent. I drive my car this way to work
so I may let the crows in corn believe
it’s me their caws are meant to warn,
and snakes who turn in warm and secret caves
 
they know me too. They know the boy
who lives inside me still won’t go away.
The deer are ghosts who slip between the light
through trees, so you may only hear the snap
of branches in the thicket beyond hope.
I watch the woods for deer, as if I’m armed. 

 Photo: Mark P. Jones, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

“My Autumn Leaves” is found in My Unraveling Strangeness, Bruce Weigl’s 2002 poetry collection from Grove Press. Find the book at Amazon.com.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Weigl entered the Army at eighteen and served in Vietnam for one year, beginning in December 1967. He was awarded the Bronze Star and returned to his hometown of Lorain, Ohio. He earned his BA at Oberlin College, his MA at the University of New Hampshire, and his PhD at the University of Utah. Weigl is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry, including The Unraveling Strangeness (2002), Archeology of the Circle: New and Selected Poems (1999), and After the Others (1999). Weigl has won the Robert Creeley Award, the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Poet’s Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Cleveland Arts Prize, and two Pushcart Prizes. Song of Napalm (1998) was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. He has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Yaddo Foundation.

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SIMPLE ARITHMETIC
by Billy Collins

I spend a little time every day
on a gray wooden dock
on the edge of a wide lake, thinly curtained by reeds.

And if there is nothing on my mind
but the motion of the wavelets
and the high shape-shifting of clouds,

I look out at the whole picture
and divide the scene into what was here
five hundred years ago and what was not.

Then I subtract all that was not here
and multiply everything that was by ten,
so when my calculations are complete,

all that remains is water and sky,
the dry sound of wind in the reeds,
and the sight of an unflappable heron on the shore.

All the houses are gone, and the boats
as well as the hedges and the walls,
the curving brick paths, and the distant siren.

The plane crossing the sky is no more
and the same goes for the swimming pools,
the furniture and the pastel umbrellas on the decks,

And the binoculars around my neck are also gone,
and so is the little painted dock itself–
according to my figuring–

and gone are my notebook and my pencil
and there I go, too,
erased by my own eraser and blown like shavings off the page.

Photo: ”Morning light on rock patterns, North Saskatchewan River, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada” From the postcard book: Sierra Club Nature in Close-Up. ©Ron Thomas,1988, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Find the 160-page book at Amazon here.

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LOS ANGELES NOTEBOOK (Excerpt)

Essay by Joan Didion

It is three o’clock on a Sunday afternoon and 105 degrees and the air so thick with smog that the dusty palm trees loom up with a sudden and rather attractive mystery. I have been playing in the sprinklers with the baby and I get in the car and go to Ralphs Market on the corner of Sunset and Fuller wearing an old bikini bathing suit. This is not a very good thing to wear to the market but neither is it, at Ralphs on the corner of Sunset and Fuller, an unusual costume. Nonetheless a large woman in a cotton muumuu jams her cart into mine at the butcher counter. “What a thing to wear to the market,” she says in a loud but strangled voice. Everyone looks the other way and I study a plastic package of rib lamb chops and she repeats it. She follows me all over the store, to the Junior Foods, to the Dairy Products, to the Mexican Delicacies, jamming my cart whenever she can. Her husband plucks at her sleeve. As I leave the checkout counter, she raises her voice one last time: “What a thing to wear to Ralphs,” she says.

“Los Angeles Notebook” by Joan Didion is found in her collection of essays Slouching Toward Bethlehem, available at Amazon.com.

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“It seemed like a matter of minutes when we began rolling in the foothills before Oakland and suddenly reached a height and saw stretched out ahead of us the fabulous white city of San Francisco on her eleven mystic hills with the blue Pacific and its advancing wall of potato-patch fog beyond, and smoke and goldenness in the late afternoon of time.” JACK KEROUAC, On the Road

Photo: Sunset MagazineALL RIGHTS RESERVED
*****
May 27, 2012 marked the 75th anniversary of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Renowned the world over as a masterpiece of art and engineering, the Golden Gate ushers 120,000 cars to their destinations each day.

In a 1987 newspaper column, journalist Herb Caen described the Golden Gate this way: “The mystical structure, with its perfect amalgam of delicacy and power, exerts an uncanny effect. Its efficiency cannot conceal the artistry. There is heart there, and soul. It is an object to be contemplated for hours.”