Explain the circumstances in as much detail as necessary. – Eric Darby

I had been considering shaving my moustache when a squadron of nuns knocked my door. None wore habits, but they had that sturdy nun look. The young one said they’d come to surrender my daughter to me. I haven’t had actual sex in seven years, but here was this four-year-old daughter: Germina with scuffed shoes.

While the child gnawed a braid, the woman flustered paperwork at me, proving this address as the father’s. I tried to argue, Germina started to cry, and I can’t handle that shit. My afternoon hadn’t promised more than window shopping the meat case at Piggly Wiggly, so I said what the Hell. Not one nun blinked. They lobbed me a small backpack and flocked back to their van.

I paused on the porch to enjoy what I thought would be the last cigarette of my old life. Inside the house, Germina had found some newspaper, and the jar of gasoline I kept under the sink. She’d brought her own matches.

Eric Darby
Eric Darby lives and writes in San Francisco. Unlike the narrator in this story, he does not usually store gasoline in his own kitchen.

sinking feeling
Oil on Canvas
Ginny Fang

Ginny Fang
Ginny Fang makes art and lives in San Francisco. Initially drawn to nearly achromatic water-based mediums and the immediate gratification of large, abstracted figurative drawing on paper, she more recently expanded her exploration to embrace color and the slower meditation of oil painting.

Through The Night – Doug Johnson

Her wares neatly placed
On the uneven sidewalk
Drawn into the shadows
She offers a free smile

No one takes notice
No one takes a look
At the finely-woven
Blue and white blanket

Nor the silver spoons,
The carefully-organized
Tea cups and saucers,
Nor the beaded purse

Back pressed to the wall
Day exchanged for night
Patiently she waits
Persistent wind passing through

Hotel in Tenderloin
Photography
Eunbin Lee

Eunbin Lee
I’m eunbin lee from South Korea. Studying digital photography at ccsf as an international student. Currently living in Nob Hill in SF, trying to take more photos of my neighborhood and arround me.

her photo – Julie Southworth

because this time she told her dad to smile,
her photo because a camera shielded her
from his not now, goddammit face, because
a camera made him forget not now,
goddammit
, her photo when light rained
onto film as she pressed the button and
commanded cheese, when she ripped apart
the drugstore envelope that held it, freed it
from the stack, her photo since even with
her dad’s arms stretched past the frame, it
still held him down, since with his face
pushed beyond its borders, she flipped him
over, scribbled “Decapitated ‘88,” her photo
as she slipped the 3 x 5 into her Oxford
Anthology of Poetry
alongside Allen
Ginsberg

Julie Southworth
Julie Southworth’s poetry has appeared multiple times in the Milvia Street Art and Literary Journal. She received her certificate in Writing Poetry from Berkeley City College in 2018 and will complete her certificate in Writing Fiction from them this year. She is a writing coach at Berkeley City College.

Matthew
Photography
Steven Salinas
Carlo
Photography
Steven Salinas

Steven Salinas
Steven is a young digital and film photographer whose style incorporates elements of street photography and portraiture. His work reconciles past and present as he focuses on the streets and people of the Bay Area as a means of exploring the warped reality of nostalgia and past trauma.

Corsets and Heels – Tehmina Khan

stilettos
stilts – water birds wading
spike heels
wedge heels
short achilles
stutter step
stumble
stop
falling
sprain

tight bodice laced up
breasts squeezed upwards
woman as hourglass
sifting sand
through squished lungs
I can’t breathe
falling
faint

squeeze into
skinny jeans
smaller than
size six
calf muscles
constricted

tight tank top
underwire
plunge
D-cup push up
modesty panels
hide nipples
show cleavage

eat less
self-control
disappear
whisper
lightheaded
what was I saying?
falling
shame

loose shalwar
boxy kurta
tell the tailor
cut it loose
belly jiggling
free underneath
silk embroidered sleeves
catch sunlight
wind blown scarf shimmers
feet firm
running
away

eat more
savor spicy
deliciousness so hot
please
take more
take space
nourish self
feed others
speak
with full mouth
full body

Do not put me on display.

Tehmina Khan
Tehmina Khan has taught science to preschoolers and citizenship to octogenarians. She teaches English and Poetry for the People at CCSF. You might find her riding her bike on foggy San Francisco days. A keen listener, she strives to learn new words in hybrid languages. Her work has been published in Forum, Written Here, OccuPoetry, and PoetsEleven. Tehmina lives with her husband and teenage son in San Francisco and keeps close to extended family around the bay.

Aging Poppy
Photography
Gayle Markow

Sweep – Y Lowy

to closely monitor your working liquids
and to have found his voice glassy and
unbearable and to have left

the room to cry in the hallway
and to have found someone already there,
crying.

it’s just that you thought
the flood had already come
so long ago and now it’s

the aftershock,
all reels and strained waters
and you have to go home

to fish the mop out from the closet
so you can sweep the waves clean
back into the sea

stop hourly to drink ice water
and then continue
again

with your life,
all the hottest days
booked up for sweeping

the oiled blues from the cracks
in the
tile

Y Lowy
Y Lowy is a writer, visual artist, performer and musician based in San Francisco, California. Y’s poetry has been published in Fifth Wednesday + and Forum Magazine, and she attended the Ox-Bow School Fall 2018 Writer’s Residency program. Y is currently working on her first short story and full-length album.

River
Photography
Nathan Morales

Nathan Morales
A rediscovered childhood passion that is leading to new adventures. Currently living in the city, and retaking photo classes.

Baja – Helen Head

“Awake?” Katie calls. A beam of light sweeps over me and I give a thumbs up. Ready.

It’s 4:45AM, mildly chilly. There are 5 million stars in the sky, and I think I can see them all. I reach out of my sleeping bag, pull the plug on my sleeping pad and drop to the ground. In an instant, I am up stuffing things into their proper bag, changing my clothes and putting in contacts. I walk over to the kitchen, light the stove, put the water on to boil. Now that’s done. Take a breath.

With the water underway I walk down to the ocean to pee – as I approach, I turn off my headlight and crouch down. Little lights, like stars, glint in the waves as they crash on the shore. Bioluminescence, beautiful. I stay and watch, kicking at the water – spraying stars away with my feet.

5AM. Water boiled, Nalgenes filled with warm coffee and hot chocolate. I scarf down as much granola and powered milk as a just woken stomach will allow. Rinse my bowl, pack up the stove, divide the cook gear. Time for boats.

“1,2,3” Each kayak lifted, one by one, down to the shore, nose in the water. Sandaled feet testing out the water. Angled downward, kayakers find their kayak. Start packing. Stern first, then Bow. Plenty of space, plenty of time. Waiting, watching, helping others. Gather round. Time for a final briefing before launch. Follow the contours along the shore, to our next paradise.

Boats out in the water. Point first – I head out into the sea. One last push from the sand, and my vessel bobs down in the shallows, tucking in for a day on the water. Legs in, skirt on – peace. Pink coming across the horizon, the pod forming around me and I am right where I am supposed to be.

Helen Head

Giraffe in Namibia water hole
Photography
Constance Louie-Handelman

Constance Louie-Handelman
Constance Louie-Handelman completed her A.A. degree at CCSF in 1973. Now retired as a clinical psychologist, she has returned to CCSF 2019 spring semester with a focus on digital photography.

Billy and Johnny (Just What You Do) – Bill Lautner

Billy and Johnny
They were the best of friends
They grew up in the hills of Tennessee
Every fall when the leaves turned red, some brown
They’d play ball together in the fields, in the barn.
That’s just what you did after all.

Billy and Johnny
They were very much the same
They both grew up on their family farms
And they helped with the chores
And they drove the tractor when still young.
That’s just what you did after all.

For Billy and Johnny
College was not in the game
No money, few jobs
They hung out together; they tried to make a plan
That summer after graduation from high school.
That’s just what you did after all.

Billy and Johnny
They didn’t know what to do
But were loyal, patriotic, and true
So they went downtown to that office someone knew
Where you signed up for a few years or more.
That’s just what you did after all.

A war broke out
Billy and Johnny were strong and they were tough
It was sure what they would do
They would do what they were told to do
They would go to the front.
That’s just what you did after all.

Billy and Johnny were planning
To get leave for the holidays
Together, they’d visit the old ones
It would be the best one yet
The holiday that they’d get.
That’s just what you did after all.

Then one day Billy and Johnny got a call
“Go down this alley
Clear it wall to wall”
They picked up their guns and all
They knew that they would not run.
That’s just what you did after all.

So slowly Billy and Johnny
Picked their way together there
They were confident, they were scared
They were careful, they were sure
That they knew just what to do.
That’s just what you did after all.

Then a shot rang out
Silence at first was all that Johnny heard
“Billy? Billy!
Oh God! Oh no!
What am I gonna do?
You can’t…I can’t….oh what am I gonna do?”

And as their music died out
And as noise, voices, confusion ensued
Johnny held Billy in his arms one last time
As their life together slowly drained, drained away.
Johnny kissed Billy once, then laid him to rest.
That’s just what you do after all.

Bill Lautner

Wasuremono
Photography
Kimiko Satterfield

Kimiko Satterfield
Forgotten waste, forgotten place
Everyday’s the same in the alleyway

A Fire of Snow – Brian Michael Barbeito

Quiet was the forest way, and the snow would sometimes erupt like a summer fire for an unseen wind that had gathered it suddenly and brought it up like magic. Then there would be just Pines and old Oaks, the frozen pond small but present, or a winter bird going here or there. But, mostly the silence and the good fresh cold air. Up along the perimeter is a strange path with old mushrooms covered in snow, curled up to die, and a sprawling private second forest beyond. You can look and see that not even a rabbit, fox, coyote or deer has passed there. Not even a bird has stopped. There are no tracks. It’s all a peculiar dream thought up by the Whole, Source, by a universal Something. We paused many a time, and the fun of it was that there was no reason to stop. Just to experience the depths of the air, of the nothing and everything as it were.

Going onwards some more, a single house up the way, always a mystery, nobody ever seen around there, and a set of stables far off with surely hay and horses and all of that. Turn the bend then, and enter the forest proper. Some green leaves against reason and logic wait dangling. The sky parts and a bit of blue are seen, whimsical and picaresque. What’s this? A kind old soul approaching, unaffected and non-pretentious, – just walking. And stops to talk.

What kind of dogs? They seem to love you. Things are beautiful out here. I hope they never take away the forest for the stupid urban sprawl.

And so on.

I nod in agreement with everything and laugh.

We part ways. Far away someone is cutting down a tree or doing some kind of work. It echoes through the woodlands. We go the long way and enter an open space, 64 hectares, which is huge, – and again there is nobody, – just trees and paths and the air and the clouds. Just odd winter bushes and the wild red sumac near there waits quietly in the air sometimes the branches arched this way, sometimes that, – but always darkly, intensely red. Gone is the verdant summer. Here is the white snow on pine needles and the opacity of the low cloud cover. Everything is okay. We have hit our mark so to speak and entered the peak of the walk.

Wind.

Vast areas.

Our theatre.

And again, before turning back to the denser forest paths, the snow is brought up in the distance by invisible wind. It all pushes suddenly up and up and up twirling like white fire towards one of the openings blue in the heavy winter firmament.

Brian Michael Barbeito
Brian Michael Barbeito is a poet, writer, and photographer. He is the author of Chalk Lines (Fowl Pox Press), and is currently at work on the ongoing written and visual nature narrative titled Pastoral Mosaics, Journeys Through Landscapes Rural.

Trail
Photography
Matt Luedke

Matt Luedke
Matt Luedke is pursuing a Creative Writing Certificate at CCSF. You can often find Matt either hiking, heading up a steep hill on his beloved sticker-covered hybrid bike in the easiest gear, or bundled up at one of SF’s cold beaches with a notebook and pen.

Hubris – Jennifer Peloso

Try as I might,
I can’t cut Hope out of me.

I take scissors
and snip off my fingers
like a little girl
mangling her paper dolls.
And I find
that it satisfies
the tyrant in me.

I pluck off my hair, too,
One by one,
from my head

To test the follicles,
extracting the Hubris,
the Hope,
from their stems.

But new hairs begin to grow,
As soon as they are plucked,
and Hope still bleeds through my fingers.

I cut the blood-flow
with popcorn and Netflix.

But, still, it remains.
Still, it flows,
burns,
infused
into the bloodstream.

Festering. Coagulating.

I wish there was a pill
for Hope,
‘cause that damn infection
just won’t die.
It resists all antibiotics,
all pain-inducers,
every cure-all I’ve ever tried.

I’ll wrench it out of me, yet,
with tools.
The latest news report,
perhaps,
or my inbox,
full to bursting
with elegant-worded souvenirs
of all my failed poetry.

But, what’s this?
I’ve sent one off, again,
another poem
dropped into electronic oblivion.

I push forth
like the damn fool that I am,
like an insect, attracted to light,

Like a sheep
sucking at the teat
of optimism.
Ingesting gulp after gulp
of the gleeful poison.
It shrivels my organs,
plagues me with illness,
but it never quite kills me.

Can’t scratch it,
can’t purge it,
can’t sweat it out.

It seems this pixie-dust
is part of my DNA,
twined through organs,
pulsing through synapses.

Try as I might,
This Hubris – this Hope,
it doesn’t go out.

Jennifer Peloso

Tony Rosellini, Blacksmith
Photography
Tigran Demurjian

Tigran Demurjian
I’m an aspiring photographer born and raised in San Francisco. I find myself compelled to document the expansive change our City is going through. In the blink of an eye things disappear, and most are worth remembering. My work can be found here https://www.instagram.com/de_murjian/.

Making Bread for Those Who Imagine They Quite Possibly Could – Faith Hanna

Over two-decades of cooking has taught me that a lot can go wrong with simple recipes. Most cookbooks don’t include plans B, C, and Z. Take bread for example. Investment-prone people can convert practically any phase of bread– sums of unintegrated ingredients, doughy masses, steamy loaves, culinary innovations, or spoiled goods – into a feast’s worth of nutrition. But there are limits: ingredients and elements collude against even the most practiced fingers and fervent wishes. What’s left are the burnt or discarded remains of heroic experiments, or what many refer to as “food for thought.”

Thankfully, with enough sense and a trusty guide, you can choose your own bread-venture. Below is a fool-proof recipe for going on and off-script to make it happen:
 
1. Start by preheating the oven to the degree to which you care about doing this right. Temper your expectations.

2. Combine the starter or yeast, flour, salt, and sugar. Add in water. Work the ingredients until you get dough; knead the dough into a flexible existence. Sneak a piece. If it doesn’t seem right, pray or think your way towards a solution. If your earnest entreaty goes unanswered, think about what you value, act accordingly, and move on.
Author’s note: Nothing is well done at this stage. If something went wrong, it won’t quite surface until later.

3. Find a suitable place to allow the dough’s sugars to mingle with the yeast and excitedly bubble with carbon dioxide. If you’re unsure where that would be, consider where you’d like to be if you were about to process significant growth.
Author’s note: Some dough won’t rise, no matter how well you’ve worked it, how lovingly you laced each bit with top-shelf ingredients or A-grade effort. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been an outstanding citizen, a dedicated partner, or whether you’ve seen a therapist. Some doughs are simply unwilling to proceed as indicated. If you can accept the dough as it is, it’s very possible that you’ll be able to make it into something, even if it’s something other than what you wanted it to be. Crackers, flatbread, or pigeon-pickings are all possible. But they only have a chance to exist if you get out there and start experimenting.

4. You’ll need to score the dough so it can let off steam. The number is not as important as what you learn from making your marks. Observe how exposing what’s within changes everything.

5. If you’ve made it this far, your dough is ready to rise to its full potential. You’ll need to find a solid foundation to set it on–something supportive that can take the heat. Lightly coat whatever that is with a with a layer of cornmeal so the dough doesn’t get stuck. Place the dough where it belongs. Introduce it into the hearth. Wait however long it takes you to lose your immature sourness; if you are not good at waiting, set a timer and do something else, but notice every time you lose your cool. If you are fortunate, you’ll welcome a nicely toned loaf. Ideally, you’ll be impressed by its form, but still easily connect with what’s within. If you’ve strayed from the recipe to this point, good for you.

Author’s note: Some dough will cook just enough to look extremely promising, but when you get inside, you’ll notice the rawness. You may try to put back what’s stuck to you, only to find more of the stuff on your hands than you can handle. You could trash the doughy mess and resent it for stubbornly remaining formless despite all honest-to-god-solid effort. You could take the matter personally. But if you stop here, I assure you that not even an ocean can wash away the residual taste of immaturity.

5. If your bread become stale, all is not lost. Yes, you will feel guilty at this point, which will make it tempting to toss it, conclude that it was never meant to be. You may take this failure personally. If you undermine your creativity, you should. Instead, try adding water and warming the bread up until you can re-establish some balance of crunch and chew. Don’t leave anything off the counter.

Author’s note: The difference between master and amateur chefs is that the former often make use of what others discard. Stale bread is a key ingredient in caramel-laced bread-pudding, savory croutons, and crunchy breadcrumbs on cheesy casseroles.  

6. If your loaf grows mold on it, it’s moved on.

Addendum

After many cycles of making, you’ll become more willing to walk away from the suggested path and embrace a hunch or a fancy. You’ll become better at guessing which mishaps are worth nurturing, transforming, and leaving; you’ll know better than to let that experience stop you from trying something new.

You may think that your willingness to experiment will make you a better person in the long-term. You may be right if you continue to believe this. Whatever you do, don’t take the bread personally – most of what happened was out of your hands.
 
Oh, and if it wasn’t already clear, more often than not, you’re the bread.

Faith Hanna
Faith Hanna has a sweet-tooth for a good story which is why she’s been cooking up her own. She’s based in San Francisco and makes money in marketing to support a growing craft-habit. Her most recent triumphs include quitting coffee, making an appearance at her 5-year college reunion, and learning how to weld.

preserved
resin and hydrocal
Clara Davis

Clara Davis
Clara Davis was born in Redondo Beach, California and moved to San Francisco for college. She is in the process of completing her BA in studio art at CCSF and SFSU. She has been shown in multiple local galleries and currently works in a shop fabricating and installing public art.

City College of San Francisco's Literary Magazine