by Ramón García
After Gail Wronsky
I am reminded that I, too
come from a culture steeped in taste
But being Mexican, I never made
much of it. Amidst fancylesness
banqueting, savoring what couldn’t
be bought—joie de vivre,
the metaphysics of indulgence.
Not being French,
sex came with complications,
incurably guilt-sick. Love, obtuse,
The senses, Sidonie’s beloved
home, was for me darkly decorated
in Christ, the proverbial lack of money.
But look, mole is a lush carmine,
hefty with spices, secret excesses.
Rancheras are operas.
The flesh, the supreme study,
can be mastered in many languages,
all of them dead.
Longing doesn’t have to cabaret itself
Sensuality can also be mute,
after all, it doesn’t have much to say,
though it writes itself beautifully.
doesn’t need Paris, chateaus,
Gallic cads or any kind of gentlemen.
It does with little commercialized California
towns entrenched by churches and canneries,
with barrio dancehalls where Mexicans
dance cumbia in celebration of a baptism
or for no reason at all.
In these mundane towns
as in the world of Colette
the spirit is manifest in what remains
of the home country, children, animals,
heartbreaks, family attachments, strawberries,
perfumes and flowers.
Every ranchera houses memories
the blissful plaintiveness
of living fully.
Ramón García is the author of two books of poetry: Other Countries (What Books Press, 2010) and The Chronicles (Red Hen Press, 2015). He is a professor at California State University, Northridge, and lives in downtown Los Angeles.
“Sidonie,” by Ramón García featured in “Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month“ (American Academy of Poets, Sept. 19, 2017.)
by Ken Kimmel
Trap is sprung
onto the floor–
Acres of trees
outlived their usefulness.
to end in shreds.
on his nose,
held loosely together
by red tape.
The line for food stamps grows longer.
System is down,
come back tomorrow.
Fill out this form
and have a seat.
For ten-thousand bucks,
brunch with your
senator of choice.
men of honor, till
their last breath.
Register to vote and
for the draft.
Just one more form–
Arrival at destination
is noted in the record,
but the file cannot be found.
Are you a communist?
I’m an American.
Fill these out
and have a seat.
Cold stare fixed
on smug smile
as baby starts to cry.
Next in line.
Ken Kimmel, Winner of the American Academy of Poets Josephine Miles Prize
“Observations,” by Ken Kimmel originally published in City Scriptum ([Forum] 1990, City College of San Francisco).
“All our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death.” – MacBeth
This story explores a teenager seeking meaning in a seemingly meaningless event (the descent of an old woman into Alzheimer’s). While the parental figure clings to an ordered system of belief, the teenager obsessively fixates on the random and chaotic words of a woman who has lost herself to a debilitating disease. In the end, the teenager is filled with guilt as she realizes she has decontextualized and fetishized the woman’s decline and, though she is at the start of her life while the woman is at the end of hers, she finds herself in a similar place: lost.
(Autumn Krause, Artist Statement)
Sound and Fury
by Autumn Krause
You can’t get the smell out of your hair when you leave. Later on, when the new AMC puts the same orangey soap in its dispensers, you can’t use it and you have to douse your hands in your Sweet Pea waterless sanitizer from Bath & Body.
As you stand in front of her, you’re breathing out of your mouth so you don’t smell that disgusting cocktail of orangey antiseptic (you see bottles of it sitting in the bathrooms and at the check-in counters–that’s how you know it’s orange), old person pee, and microwaved food. This is what the end smells like, you think. And it smells pretty shitty.
You can’t help but study her. Her eyes are bluish. Only, not really. When she was young, they were probably blue, or who knows? Maybe even hazel or brown. Now they’re all washed out–how the fuck does she see out of them? But she does. She sees you and she smiles.
“Bertha,” she says.
And, two seconds later, “Gloria.”
You answer to all of them. For the Sunday afternoon, you’re Bertha or Gloria or Stacey or whatever old-timey name she calls you. And maybe it’s not so bad, you think. Maybe, in her head, she’s happy. Sure, she has no clue what day or month or year it is. But she remembers names. And those names are–or were–people, right? Her daughters, maybe. Friends, perhaps. Only you know she’s fucking terrified out of her mind. Her smile flickers like fluorescent light bulbs on the fritz. On. Off. On. Off. Happy. Scared. Happy. Scared. And, two Sundays ago, she grabbed your wrist. Grabbed it with her claw-like hand and too-long nails and pulled you close and said in your ear, “It’s told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”
And she was proud. Let you go and nodded, pleased. You can tell she was reciting something, so when you get home you googled the words ‘idiot,’ ‘sound,’ and ‘signifying nothing,’ and it turns out it’s Shakespeare. The woman who has whiskers on her chin and gunk in her eyelids fucking knows Shakespeare. Can’t remember her own name. Wears a diaper. Has to eat Jello. Sound and fury, indeed.
“Smile at her,” your dad says. “Talk to her.”
You do and you do.
“We don’t even know her,” you say to your dad as the two of you wait to be buzzed out of the ward. “Why do we have to come?”
“No one knows her,” he says. He tucks his Bible under his arm.
And you kind of hate him and don’t go for two Sundays. But then you need to go back. You need to see her. You have no clue why but she draws you in. She’s some kind of decrepit siren, one whose stink and madness and emptiness slips into you, stays with you, lingers.
Only, when you finally go back and walk into the nursing home, trailing behind your dad (who, for whatever reason, always calls it an ‘old folk’s place’) because you don’t like to walk next to him, Nurse Mariel waves your dad down and says, “She’s gone.”
“Where?” you ask, as though Nurse Mariel is going to say the woman has stepped out for lunch or gone to have her hair done.
“She’s passed on,” your dad says in his pastor voice. And you’re angry, robbed. You take a deep breath, even though that means sucking in that putrid nursing room air. You [sic] dad puts his hand on your shoulder and you shake it off.
There’s no need to be so upset, you think. She was gone a long time ago, long before you met her. You’re the freak who turned her slow and tortuous end into something else.
Sound and fury, you think. Sound and fury.
Autumn Krause is a writer in Orange County, California. She edits a wedding inspiration website and writes young adult fiction. This story was inspired by her many visits to an Alzehiemer’s ward growing up. To learn more about the author, follow @autumnsarahstory on Instagram.
“Sound and Fury,” by Autumn Krause originally published in Forum (Spring 2017, City College of San Francisco).
People Not Located
by Norman Davies
At thirty, I don’t wait for ideas, I chase them. They glimmer, and dart–I wish I could use my bare hands on them.
Ideas aren’t trapped in books, either. I open the cover, and get all tangled up. The ideas, greased in language, slip away, scatter. Or else (worse) just stare back at me in a line of print, not really telling me anything. Quiet. I hate that quiet.
Other people haven’t helped me much. They’re doing their own looking around. They don’t know anything yet.
So, what do I do? I sit, and I go after ideas. I go to work right inside–which is really outside.
The English Department at City College of San Francisco holds 35 past issues of Forum, the earliest issue dated 1948. Upon request, these issues are available but cannot leave the office.
During the 1970s, Forum was renamed with individualized titles: Reality Trip (1973), Double Mirage (1975), & other lovely insects (1976), and Undertow (1977, 1978). In Double Mirage (1975) visual art was creatively incorporated with decoratively drawn frames, hand-drawn typeface, and full-page sketches accompanying text. Student editors have fiddled with Forum‘s style for decades, building a legacy of unique perspectives.
Forum can better preserve past issues with digital archiving. Traditional archives localize physical content, whereas digital archives have no bounds. Ensuring that voices of past authors are heard would continue Forum‘s mission to give voice to the talented authors, poets and visual artists in our community.
by Ann Nelson Gleeson
I need a black leather jacket.
I wanna look cheap,
I need the Ozone Hotel.
I wanna act,
I need the Rolling Stones and drugs.
I wanna get lost
I need all those hungry friends.
I wanna get warm,
I wanna be there when
the rain turns to gold,
I wanna be under the
shower of good tears,
I wanna be available cheap.
Available for the storm,
riding the highest crest of the sea.
Available to rub my hair
across Neptune’s belly and ride the dolphin
to the rocks.
I wanna be available cheap
filament sizzles, bulb bursts
and glass shatters leaving splinters
in a thousand faces.
I want all that.
“Greedy,” by Ann Nelson Gleeson originally published in Double Mirage (1975, City College of San Francisco).