Spring 2020 Print Edition

Spring 2020 Print Edition

Every year, Forum staff looks forward to receiving the printed issue. Despite the potentially wider reach of online publication, the printed edition translates the individual visions of the contributors, literary and visual art staff, and the visual media team into a collective work of art.
As City College remains limited to remote instruction, we do not currently have access to the printing facilities we need, and as soon as we have more information to share, we will post it here. We will also notify contributors directly when the Spring 2020 print edition is available.

 

To request your contributor copy or preorder additional copies, please fill out this form:

Forum Spring 2020 Orders

You may also use this form if you are seeking back issues of Forum, though we will not be able to fulfill your request until we have access to CCSF facilities.

How to get involved with CCSF’s literary community (virtually!)

Feeling a little too socially isolated? Craving a CCSF literary event? Want to get some writing published? We got you.
Lit Night, an in-person literary salon held at the Ocean Ale House outside of quarantine, is moving online for April (and maybe May)! The theme for the April 20th reading is Betrayal. You can find information about how to log-on to the event at the Facebook event page. Please join. You can register through this link. If you would like to read, please email Michelle Simotas to be added to the scheduled reader list: msimotas@ccsf.edu
Lit Night has also started two other opportunities to share your work: QuaranLit and QuaranZine. More information about these can be found at www.litnight.org

Simplify

Circa 1956. Sometime in the predawn hours of the Cultural Revolution[1]. A black, red-flagged limo pulls up in front of the Chairman’s dacha in idyllic West Lake. A weary looking Minister of Culture, Hung, steps out of the car, and is ushered inside by the guards. He hands off his gloves and coat to the staff and, with a briefcase in hand, heads straight to the Chairman’s den. 

A wooden door embellished with a red sickle and hammer clangs open. The Chairman is seen wielding a brush behind the desk in the midst of composing another one of his rousing speeches in traditional language[2]. The den is lined with bookshelves, which are stacked with dusty tomes and handscrolls, apparently penned in the traditional language.

The minister bows from the hip, head over toe, his legs slightly wobbly. The Chairman looks up from under his spectacles. “What do you have for me, Comrade Hung?” he says, frowning slightly.

“Begging your pardon, sir. Reporting on—uh, that is—about the Han Dse[3]Reformation. Sir, I ca-can’t—” The Chairman cuts in. “May I remind you that can’t is not in my book?” He picks up a pocket-sized red book[4] from the desktop and waves it in the minister’s face. Embossed in gold on the red cover is Wisdom of Chairman Mao, apparently written in simplified language.

Screen Shot 2020-05-24 at 7.55.57 PM

“No-no, Comrade Chairman. That’s not what I meant. Forgive me…” He finds words in short supply, as he gasps for oxygen. He manages to regain his composure and begins to blurt out the opposing opinions from the academia. He reports that renowned linguists, scholars, Confucius elders, and the entire controlled media were gathered to work on the reformation of the outmoded traditional language. The methodology is simple. Chinese characters are made up of anywhere from one to thirty to forty strokes, perhaps more. To simplify you just take all the lengthy words—say eight or nine strokes or more, and chop off the excess, like taking a cleaver to a piece of pork belly. No use for the extra fat (words). 

Had this been English, Washington could lose its ton, the minister muses. Not sure what that would do to Whitehouse. But it’s a good rule—when in doubt, simplify. You can use it on any language, in any culture; even on people, if necessary. One can easily imagine chopping people down to size—say anyone taller than five-eight (that would be five-ten for westerners. Let’s give the Asians an inch or two)—chop-chop. That way there will be no ridiculous seven-footers to deal with in the paint. There could be a thousand uses indeed—a Swiss army knife of sorts, if you will. The more Hung thinks about it the more he is proud of himself for being so clever. He has outdone himself. He couldn’t help but smile a bit. 

“Wipe that smirk off your face. Show me some real stuff,” says the Chairman.

Hung flips open the briefcase and hands over a stack of papers. Pointing at a bunch of characters on the pages, he sizes them up as follows: 

Take these four characters: Love, factory, dear, andbirth. All everyday words in life. In the simplified form, the character love becomes, without the heart 心 in the middle; factory is now 广, making it an empty shell, devoid of workers or machineries that were there a moment before; dear is now , missing the other half 見, which by itself means see—so now we have dear but no see; as to , the life 生that was inside has just gone AWOL. 

The Chairman pauses his brush and fixes his gaze on the minister. 

“You know, words got out and people begin to sing their own renditions in the streets,” says the minister.

“Really? What do you mean?” 

“Well, goes like this—

Love—no heart,

Factories—kung kung[5],

Dear—half gone,

Birth—sans life.”

 

Screen Shot 2020-05-24 at 7.55.44 PM

An estimate of 2,200 commonly used words will be on the chopping block, the minister goes on, and it’s not without problems. The biggest stumbling block being time. The chairman wants it done in four years. But changing the face of 2,200 characters in four years is tantamount to fast-tracking evolution overnight. “You know what one old scholar said to me?” the minister says. “‘Our words are not made of alphabets. Each character is unique, and it can’t be cut to suit or reshaped overnight like some kind of jewelry piece. Words are people; they evolve, as do humans. Change the face of a language is tantamount to changing the face of the people…’ blah, blah, blah,” says Hung. “The nerve, comparing words to people.” 

The Chairman motions Hung to approach. The minister winces as he turns to face the Chairman’s cold stare. He does not know how else to explain it but to tell it straight. It’s his responsibility to mine the words. Changing the appearance of a word changes all of its associations on which other related words depend for meaning. Each character in the Chinese language is unique and they build on each other to form new, compound characters, which then evolve into even more complex words. Most of the 30,000 words in the dictionary descended from merely 250 basic characters through thousands of years of history and evolution. Imagine these words getting a face change virtually overnight, their roots gone forever. Besides—

“What? Out with it,” says the Chairman. 

In a wavering voice, the minister relays the concerns from the scholarly experts on the imminent catastrophic impact on the cultural reference systems. Ancient scrolls, cultural sites, fossils and cave carvings, not to mention tomes upon tomes of history, all recorded in traditional language, are now doomed to become objects of amnesia overnight. Reforming history necessarily means destroying it. People will become strangers to their own culture…

“Let me understand, you’re saying that my four-year plan is—” Mao drops his brush and takes off his spectacles, “unrealistic?” 

“Ye-yessir. No-no-sir. Sorry sir. That’s what all my experts tell me. Not me, sir, you understand—I’m all in,” again with a bow.

The Chairman gets up from his desk and starts to pace around the room. “I’ve been thinking about this myself lately. And I concur. The Four-Year-Plan may be a bit ambitious, but no one else needs to know. It’s just a random number I threw in for our big brother in the Kremlin.” He looks up at a large map on the wall. China lays bare like a shriveling maple leaf. A big chunk of the northern lands is missing, as though some worm has taken a big bite out of it. The Chairman points his finger at the missing part, namely the Outer Mongolia, now a newly minted buffer zone that was gifted to Stalin in Yalta.[6]

“The Russians are taking over the territory, pushing our people out,” Mao said. “Those who stayed behind were forbidden to speak their native language. They were forced to speak Russian. That’s how they do it. Stalin told me himself—to tame the people, you fix their language first,’” he said. “But I can’t deal with that right now. Outer Mongolia is done. Nothing we can do about it. Now we must bring down the old bourgeoisie. It must go, and it must go now.” He fixes his eyes on Hung and cleaves his fat palm through the air. “Chop-chop.”

“Chop-chop?” The minister’s face turns white. 

“Not you, moron,” says the Chairman. “I mean the old language. Just do it. Chop it up—slice or dice, whatever. The traditional language is too difficult for the masses to learn, that’s the reality. The rest of it is pure nonsense. Who cares about the street noises! It doesn’t matter. Revolution has consequences. We’ll deal with whatever side effects after we take care of our enemies. Is that clear? Now off you go.” 

The minister steps back and takes his leave. The Chairman picks up the red book and thumbs through the pages. Before the minister reaches the door, the Chairman calls him back and tosses the red book to him half-way across the room. “Give me the traditional version,” he says. “Can’t read this crap!”

Screen Shot 2020-05-24 at 7.55.28 PM

Screen Shot 2020-05-24 at 7.55.15 PM

Written by: John Tsao

I had been an engineer–now retired, trying to write, and is currently enrolled in the Short Fiction class at CCSF. Formerly I’ve attended the MFA program in nonfiction at USF and graduated in 2014. I’ve been writing ever since.

Un Puño de Tierra

Acostumbrada está mi cuerpa de mujer a las muchas vejaciones,
tantas ha sentido en cada uno de los días.
Hoy amanecí en un tiradero.
Mucho le pedí a él que la vida me dejara,
tengo familia
voy a la escuela
me esperan en el trabajo,
solo iba al cine y por un helado
mis amigas me extrañan.
No escuchó
ni mis ruegos
ni los gritos
ni el llanto o los gemidos
ni las muchas quejas que de toda mí salían.
Considera, mucho repetí, mi futuro, cada uno de los días.
Con tímido pudor y ese último aliento, desde muy profundo le imploré,
cuando ya termines y me dejes ir
tápame la desnudez, ponme otra vez la ropa,
—por lo que más tú quieras—

no me botes así nomás por ahí,
échame encima al menos un puño de tierra.
No escuchó, ninguno de los días.

“A Handful Of Dirt”
My her-body is so used to all harassments
So many has she felt each one of her days.
Dawn caught me today at a dump.
So much I asked him to grant me my own life:
I have a family
I go to school
At work, I am expected
All I wanted was to catch a movie and have some ice cream
My besties already miss me.
He didn’t listen
Not my pleas
Not my squeals
Not my cries or the wails
Not the much hurt exuding from each one of my pores.
Think about, constantly I repeated, my future, each one of the days.
With timid modesty and my last breath from very deep inside me I begged him,
Once you are done with me and you let me go
Cover my nakedness, dress me again,
— for goddess sake—

Do not just discard me somewhere
At least, throw a handful of dirt on top of me.
He didn’t listen, any of the days.

Written by: Fernanda Vega

 @laveganda: migrant womxn of color who loves letras (literature). she is a borderlands dweller who spends her days fascinated by Kumeyaay lands and the beautiful fresh and salty waters and desert surrounding Tijuana-San Diego. Her most recent dream is to bring awareness to y’all about the femicides south of the border, please look over the fence!

Prepping

where i’m from there’s a lake full of gold which is also a pond full of people & my pops my old
man has taken to buying gold because it’s that or cryptocurrency that will be salvaged in the
flood & people drowned in that pond men who never learned to swim striking out like Michael
Phelps and sinking amongst bubbles and kelp & there are great open spaces where i’m from with
tree lines that stand on toes to respect the expanse of hay & if a flood is coming the lake will
overflow & the gold will carouse through these labored fields & the bodies will still be full of
water & they will still be unpracticed & littered amongst the wreck like salmon on a slippery
deck & i wonder what my dad will think of that

Written by: Paolo Bicchieri

Paolo Bicchieri is a Chicano novelist, poet, and journalist living in San Francisco. His work can be found in Standart Magazine, Nomadic Press, Flash Fiction Magazine, and bookstores all along the West Coast. He loves working with volunteers and students at 826 Valencia and looking at snowy plovers at the beach.

Abdication

At first I think
of postage stamps and the faces of queens, immortalized
in their black-and-white moment. The shades of the past
are monochrome, marred only by some accidental fold,
some streak of pale lightning. Pink roses blooming
on the wallpaper of my bedside dresser. When I take
this photo between my thumb and forefinger, I find
a child. Younger than I, somehow:
roundcheeked in a stiff-collared dress,
lips peeled back in what we called a shuaya smile—
“brushing teeth” in perpetuity, to appease some ghost
behind the lens. (Her own mother, as it turns out).
Her eyes are dark and wide. In her entirety
my mother is barely larger than my thumbnail.
(I am eight years old). Here are things that surely
must always have existed as they are
now: Mars. Stonehenge. Mt. Everest.
The swelling of the seven seas.
The gnarled roots of redwoods, reaching
deep through the soil of the earth. When
she tells me of my grandmother
witch, who sent her away at two, expecting
love at six, and then a smile flashed for the future too,
I cannot help but
shrink away from the unframed tears, saying
Bu xiang can le. I don’t want to see. Burying myself
in the legos scattered on the carpet, and the photo
underneath the socks in the uppermost drawer
of the dresser, floral and pink.
On nights when the moonlight streams through
my window slats like tiger stripes,
slinking slow across the ceiling, something
brings me to rummage out the past,
to gaze back at a face younger
and more vulnerable than mine, though somehow also

still sleeping in the room right beside me.
I wonder who else had watched Princess Diaries,
and pawed through their mother’s things, seeking family
heirlooms: perhaps the gems
of royalty, or an alternate path
towards nobility: “You were adopted!”
My mother tells me that she knew, at ten, that
her daughter would be a princess.
It is often the nature of things to follow
patterns, branches to twist onwards
as tangled as the buried roots.
Yet she does not curse me
with her inheritance—the mother of hers
who had chosen favorites, withheld
love. Could I too have
hacked a clean cut at the past?
Loved the usurper, that baby brother
like I would my own children? Transmuted
my blood into garnets
at each joyful coronation?
Never my (her) own.
(I am twenty six). Older
than the not-crying child in the photo,
older than her mother when her mother had her, nearly
older than the mother she herself would become
upon having my older brother
in this far and foreign land. The beautiful country.
Now when we hug and she says that
I am her dream, born into being, I wonder
if it is too late to throw down my crown.

Written by: Jessica Yao

Jessica enjoys exploring winding roads, new ideas, and interesting combinations of words. Hopefully one day this all coalesces into something beautiful. In the meantime, she continues to mash at her keyboard.

Maau!_Visual Arts_Photography_Kayla Wilton

Art title: Maau!

By: Kayla Wilton

I received my English degree with a Spanish minor from CSU Stanislaus in spring, 2019, and I will complete my creative writing certificate at CCSF in spring, 2020. Writing is my passion, but I also dabble in drawing, painting, photography, and performance. My work has appeared in Penumbra Literary Magazine.

Colliery

At the MoMA there is a series of photos, black and white,
Bernd and Hilla Becher who captured old steel mills, toppled
tipples now destitute. My heart is a braitch hole, once full now
excised of any valuables, cavernous drop through earth.

Fingers pick me over, break away the slate from the good coal.
Uniform pieces of anthracite so when heated I might burn
efficiently. Our purpose is limited: fuel the fire for those
who will forget our ash. The best poor man’s country stripped,
carted away by lokies, thirty at a time. Coal mine no. 9

These photos hang quiet, their reverence is a taunt.
Each frame remembers I am from the stepping stones
of industry, remembers that I am just a girl from south
of the mountain. Did the Bechers know how they
commemorated forgotten things? The resolve
of my lonely mountain towns, ugly from strip mines?

Oh, there are valley creeks converging in me, mine
run-off lays waste all these years later, the mud is xanthic,
smelling of peat and sulfur—this is my yoke. Tears ooze,

like oil, to leave stains upon my collar.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Make Your Visit

Evening signs a tremendous breath against
the groaning weight of this city.
Day away to rest, with its falling rays catching
sliding on arms straining beneath
rolled shirt sleeves, fishers back
from dock leaning out windows
butt-ends clenched between teeth,
curling tobacco rosettes
against flushed sky.
Falling light dusts long heads
of those impatient in their patience
for this pilgrimage, restless,
beneath bus stop awnings astride
funereal streets.
Where if you tried—just try—to
peer through shuttered life to glimpse,
to see
the hidden acts of plays best viewed
at this pale hour.
NEXT STOP
Here, a head held in hands, elbows bunching
mug ringed newspaper, lost amidst stacks of things
to-do.

To catch a moment between thumb and index,
where the pit of an ashtray overflows with ends, with
beginnings stuck between movie theatre cushions
where one single someone sits,

unfinished illumination.

Buzzing neon OPEN glowing red, cutting
long lines across a face, shuffling,
table to table
pouring coffee.
LAST STOP
Now look, a mumble about a room
Unbothered by the leaf-litter of his solitude,
he sets the kettle not for two. A life marked
by half finished things and Rachmaninoff plays
from the next room
tumbles front over end,
end over front.
THIS IS THE LAST STOP
He smiles for the whistle of a steaming spout,
presses forehead to window pane
to watch the falling of the day.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Mother of Pearl Rosary

My brother Herbert and sister Luisa laughing
Sitting and swinging on a church gate
A black robed priest, wearing a crucifix,
swearing at them, to get down
Confirmation day, white dresses
Wearing a white carnations corsage my mother had given me
No indication of oncoming storms on that sunny May day
No indication of how our faith would be tested
No indication of oncoming heavy rains
My mother drowning in winter
Riding in the back of my father’s olive Volkswagen,
with my brother Herbert and sister Luisa
Drunken father, speeding Volkswagen
Terror of crash
After my mother’s death,
He broke down, crying
He neglected to put food in the refrigerator
I was a hungry child, searching for sandwich ham
Opening an empty white refrigerator
Finding only dismay and a bottle of cheap Italian dressing,
to hungrily gulp down
Under an apricot sunset
I walked along a crumbling seawall,
in need of repair
Broken heart
in need of repair
This pier has become my anchor
Dolphins joyfully leaping in ocean waves,
my consolation
Broken faith
White adobe church of my youth mocking me,
as I knelt on my knees to pray

Written by: Rocio Ramirez

Rocio Ramirez is a Counselor who works with families. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has been a Presenter for IVAT, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Trauma, in La Jolla. She has recently presented on the use of Sandplay therapy and Collage with Domestic violence survivors. She is currently writing a book on sandplay therapy and art therapy with disenfranchised populations. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.

Crossing

A new tongue cuts through the canyon,
where the dusty road dodges.
The water dims with the red sun.
We did not build the bridge,
but our toes sparkled across it
until we heard the creaks
of someone else’s back.
We did not build it,
nor did we keep it from crumbling.

Written by: Matt Luke

Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum who continues to be inspired by the writing community he’s found through CCSF. He has also been published in Prairie Light Review and Ripples in Space. Links to his published works are at mattluedke.com.

Who Are These People and What are They Doing in My Living Room?

Your mother’s brother stands
in the foyer, che this, che that
accents of Argentina eja he says
en vez de la ella de Mexicanos
Tall and thinning, ruddy faced
white beard groomed

Su tía esta arreglando todo
Couches, tables, chairs aligned
in an oval lace covers
crystal dusted and untouched

The couple on the couch squints
at us, points an index finger
back and forth
morena at mi pareja
güera at her mother
güera morena yo les dije, es la hija de mi hermano

tía Anita frustrated
the daughter
of my brother who is not here
Mi hermano, sí, moreno

You feel they want to turn
to me if they could
and you are no response
we are all seated in our place
eating tiny white cakes
and a candle for tia’s
birth; feliz cumpleanos
sing Mañanitas
Beto y Maricela on their tiny space
heads moving from side to side
from Mascota, Pueblita of familia no one says where we are from
Mascota of the mountains I told you, she is the daughter

of my brother

Who are you? they want to say to me.

As we talk about where we come from

Blue eyes Brown eyes
Dark haired hija Mother once blonde, now grey
speaking perfect Mexican Spanish
And I say, soy pura judia knowing this has to be a lie
generations of undiscovered paths
rapes and some intermarriages

am only Jewish
And the cousin of tu tía on the couch
without missing the bite going into his mouth
que lastima sobre el holocausto
Yes, too bad
because there is no time
to search for other
phrases
Unless sitting on my stiff backed chair
eating my piece of cake about to fall
off the spoon

I say si, estamos juntas como maridos
pero diferente
I could take my beloved
across the patio below
with children and forgotten
toys, away from pristine crystal and lace
because we are together
but not really a married couple

so how can we fit this into idle afternoon conversation?

Written by: Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

Copy of Spitblossoms_#_Capricorn_Visual Art

 

Art title: Capricorn,

By: Spitblossoms AKA Carlos Ortega-Haas

CCSF student, Bay Area born and Tijuana-raised, Spitblossoms is a visual artist and successful musician who has always found joy and meaning in realizing his artistic visions and sharing with a community of artists. For Spitblossoms, art is a meditation, release, source of pride and sustenance that helps him perfect his vision, overcome hardship, and continue to push forward to achieve his goals and dreams.

Ode to the Olive Trees

Hardened after decades of adaptations
deep rooted desert strains
a tantalizing sun, scintillating
leaves in air that steals your breath, ghosts
Of children hidden to fight wild hamsin winds—
Climb boughs, deflect the scratches made by rough bark,
Fall over into toughened earth, catapult
stones at the armed men waiting at the barbed-wire fence.
Rows and rows of irregularly spaced
crooked gnarled branches growing into eternity
a grove of olive trees, children behind
an unmovable rock, calls to the Jordan river.
In Bethlehem the tree that has survived the longest
would take only seconds to destroy—
A hack saw electric style to the tree’s trunk
An explosive bullet in a young boys leg
Children surge to the forbidden border
a stream of rubberized smoke, burning tires
a slingshot of stones against barrier
barbed wire and the wall, earth cleared
Where sacred olive trees once stood, an opening
to aim rifles at the marchers’ heads, an armored
tank oversees roads Palestinians cannot travel
Military tear gas to upend the bodies moving toward the wall
Families, whole villages gather to harvest the olive trees
In the shade, a claim to their lands, women sit
Embroider starlike patterns into black cloth
reds that bleed, reds that refuse removal
while settlers from illegal outposts trample
the harvest, steal the olives left behind when harvesters flee
danger. The olives shaken from these ancient trees
press into the finest oils, the daily flow of resistance.

Three hundred year old trees
steadfast against the scars
etched into strong untainted wood, the people
continue to the march of return, raise their hands
with gestures of drawing their faces
on the maps of villages their grandparents recall,
forced removal and release incantations

Al-Quds
Einabus
eternal spring
Isdud
Lydda
sumud

the keys to their homes
in their pockets
Jibata
Al-Quds
Al-Asqua Mosque
the Prophet waits their gifts—
olive seeds, oil
hands that caress ancient

roots.

Written by Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

 

City College of San Francisco's Literary Magazine