Saturday, September 1, 2012

14 poets read from SGVPQ 55

Karineh Mahdessian

i know not
what the bottom
my abyss feels like
i smoke
cracked dreams
piped nightmares
stand naked
on corner streets
slang away
my words
make sense
i know not
what the bottom
my abyss feels like
i take
blunt razor blades
peekabooing from eyelids
peel away memories
stay alive

Joseph Gardner

Up High

There is a certain art to it
A tightrope walk
And the way of it
Is to remember
To constantly remind yourself
That there is no safety net
Up here
All the vulgarities
Of life
No shadows to lie in
To crouch in
Only the constant abyss of failure
Beneath your feet
The better ones
The clever ones
Do it without regard
Mostly they do it drunk
And alone
And vaguely insane
But still there they are
Slugging away at it
Taking the lumps
For the pleasure of it
For the madness
For the thrill
To end the mind numbing boredom
And the way of it
Is to do it
 without the safety net


Tweeting the Lincoln Douglas Debate

Athens had both slavery & democracy. So why try 2 fix something which ain’t broken.
America cannot remain half Slave & half Free. A nation divided against itself cannot stand.
As a rail-splitter Lincoln divided wood; as a senator he’d divide this nation. 
Intellect of Little Giant matches stature. Thinks Mason Dixon Line is border between the U.S and Canada.
Liberal Lincoln didn’t support our Mexican War troops. If he’d had his way, Texans wouldn’t have won right 2 own slaves or speak English.
I saw Mex war land grab 4 slavery, refused 2 pay poll tax & jailed.  Emerson asked why was I in jail. I asked him why wasn’t he in jail. 
Douglas wouldn’t mind it if America the free becomes a land of slavery from “sea 2 shining sea.”
Dishonest Abe pals with terrorists like the bloody abolitionist, John Brown.
The trouble with Kansas ain’t me but tyrants fighting 2 make it a slave state.
The apostle Paul returned runaway slaves 2 their owners. Abe’s abolitionist buddies aid their escape.
The Declaration of Independence says all men are created equal.
What about women? Man had nothin’ 2 do with the birth of Jesus & ain’t Mary a woman?
If liberal Lincoln has his way, negroes would dance with whites at 4th of July picnics.
I ain’t dancin’ with no white dude till he learn 2 keep the beat 
and stop steppin’ on my feet.
Blacks have no rights which the white man is bound to respect.
What to the slave is the 4th of July?
This train bound 4 glory...Get on board brothers & sisters.
GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord & his truth goes marching on...

Alexandra Hohmann

The Writer in Repose

[Inspired by Sandra Cisneros’ “The Poet Reflects on Her Solitary Fate”]

After all the people have gone,
the laughter has faded
After she washes wine stains,
cigarette smoke
from her clothes
After she washes caked makeup,
man musk
from her body
She sits.
A desk. A chair. A tattered notebook.
The morning sun dances on her skin.
She scoops an ice cream sundae
of stories
from her soul.

Lalo Kikiriki


Seven a.m. in L.A.
and all over the landscape
poets wake in various
heading for Winchell's
or Starbuck's
with notebooks and pencils
or laptops and tablets –
every backpack and pocket
bulging with potential
for changing the world
fedoras and baseball caps
slammed onto poetic heads
hold in the night's dreams
until they can get them down
coffee or tea
fueling their muses
from Venice to Claremont
from Long Beach to Hollywood

Lynne Bronstein

Every Day Another Miracle
I said to the man with the gnarled scarred leg
That he was lucky and he said
If I had been lucky
The accident would not have happened
It’s always the thing to say
For disasters avoided: you were lucky
God was on your side…..
And disaster is a thing of degree.
They will say it’s a miracle that we survive
And life is a miracle
And every day there’s a series of miracles
So when I get out of bed
If I can get from the bed to the bathroom
Without tripping on the floor and breaking my neck
It’s a miracle!
If I eat breakfast and don’t choke on the cereal
Or scald myself with the decaf-it’s a miracle!
If I go outside and walk cross the street
And a huge semi truck driven by a stoned
Hulky fellow who favors Playboy mud flaps
And who is rushing to make his delivery on time
So he can go to one of the Highway 101 bars
And throw back a few
Does not crash into me and run me over
It’s a friggin’ miracle!
My cat did not chew me to shreds today
When I fed her two meals instead of the
Inclusive Resort Five Meal a Day plan
She prefers to be on-
I did not leave my purse on the bus again-
Another month I haggled, bough the least expensive brands,
Did the maximum of work for the minimum of moola
And paid the rent down at the wire
Mira-incredi-fabulo-awesome-cle of miracles.
And still it’s not enough.
Have to pinch myself, startled by realization
That I’ve reached an unmentionable age
And that is supposed to be a miracle.
We never thought we’d make it here
The world was supposed to end
In 1962, 1964, 1968,
At the millennium and last month
But it hasn’t. MIRACLE.
The A Bomb, the H Bomb and the rest of
The alphabet weapons of mass uncertainty
Were supposed to ignite and obliterate
But they did not. A MIRACLE.
Thinking we wouldn’t be here, we lived
And used all our youth up early
Now we scramble to gather
Anything left, to hold it up like
Ragged paisley shawls
And look in the mirror and beg the image
To look back at us
With a miracle.
Out of the assorted adventures of my dreams
I wake up and stretch in bed
And think another morning
I’m alive and it’s a miracle
My task for the day
Is to pull small miracles
Out of the air
When needed
And many are needed
To get through a day
Anyone who looks at me
Should see
That for all the years
I have made it through
I represent the miracles
I have not walked on water
But I have walked successfully on land
I have not made a feast for thousands
But I have made some tasty meals
From what loaves and fishes I have found
To serve for myself and a few friends
I have not made rain fall on the dust bowl
And it has not rained gold sovereigns for me
But I survive every winter’s rain
To see another June with all the jacarandas
Even if I finish this poem
It is some kind of unnoticed and uncalled for
And hardly world shaking but somehow satisfying to me

Mina Kirby

I am learning to walk
I did this once before
when I was much smaller
closer to the ground

One step
Fall down
Another one or two
Fall again

Always get back up
Try again
I should be able to do this again
But it is harder now

I think of taking a step
My feet feel
like magnets
hold them to the floor

With great effort I pick up my foot
The other leg
trembles in fear
Falling is no longer an option

One step
My stomach flutters
from weakness

Lying back in my bed
as I have done for months
I close my eyes
and visualize myself walking

six steps… ten
all the way across the room
down to the end of my street
around the county fair

Do I dare dream
of climbing steps?
of scrambling up a mountain path
to marvel at the splendor below?

Tears gather beneath my eyelids
hot and liquid
They will spill over
if I open my eyes

I try to be brave
convince myself it is possible
I have to walk again
I am so afraid

Toti O’Brien


No we didn’t all come
with the same load
for some it was
For some war never
stopped. Some
never stopped
Always I’ve been
in arms brother I
struggled I left
myself burning
ruins hardly
escaping the
‘n their jaws wide
open. Always
I felt the
close the iron
fist bound to
smother me
at once.
I’ve been scared
I confess although
I wore my mask
‘n my armor.
‘N the behaved
poise of the hero
that alas
I wasn’t.

Rosalee Thompson

Rite Aid, Whittier

I watched you walk by her round as sun baby belly
her 2 dirty crying children
You made her
She didn't speak American
Her rapid gestation of human life
reminds you of bus ads
Pray for Rosemary's baby
Seeing chemical red
you say you are pro life
Pray for Rosemary's baby
Is humankind dead
what is art
who are your neighbors
Without wings
a homeless bird still walks home from war