All posts by editor415

Getting Out – Helen Head

Finding friendship in the woods of North Carolina

Safety
I stood at the water pump. Everyone else had their lunch in hand, sitting or squatting on old wooden logs. I looked down at my red plastic shoes labeled 37 and in a moment they were off and I was sprinting away as fast as my legs would take me. I ran across a rocky stream bed and out onto a dirt road. I saw a house, jumped a fence and sprinted to the door, knocking loudly and desperately. A middle-aged man with no shirt and a bulging tan potbelly opened the door, “I NEED TO USE YOUR PHONE,” I shouted at him. He let me in and his wife handed me the phone. I dialed my mom’s cell. No answer. I dialed my home phone. No answer. I dialed my mom’s cell. She picked up, “GET ME OUT OF HERE.”

After my dash for freedom I was escorted back to basecamp. Here I waited a day while my mom drove the seventeen hours to North Carolina to tell me in a shaking voice that she was not taking me home. I tried to convince her to take me by telling her we could eat ice cream together, a food I had not enjoyed for over a year. She told me if I wanted to get better I had to stay, and she wasn’t letting me come home.

My running away had consequences beyond crushing my hopes of escape. My feet were bruised and I was put on level 3 watch. At night I was rolled in a tarp and sandwiched in between two counselors. Every time I shifted in my sleeping bag the tarp crinkled noisily. My running away also prolonged my stay in the first stage of the School of Urban and Wilderness Skills’ (SUWS) four-stage program – Safety. In the Safety stage students had to take control of their safety and well-being. This meant eating enough, not running away, and no self harm. I had trouble with all three.

I came to SUWS for a variety of reasons. I was five-feet six-inches tall and eighty-five pounds. I was depressed, disconnected and suicidal. When my parents asked me to go to SUWS I agreed. I knew they wanted the best for me. They had been trying, really trying to help. Nothing seemed to work. I had suffered through five therapists, six antidepressants, and a two-week hospital stay. SUWS was my Hail Mary.

When I arrived I was stripped of all my possessions. I was given a bright orange hoodie, blue pants, and red numbered shoes to wear. The staff member who escorted me through this process held a brown clipboard and roughly checked off boxes as my things were taken away.

On the third day of my then hopeless stay at the SUWS base camp a young boy came back from the field with a broken leg.

“What’s going to happen to him?” a younger student asked.

“He’ll have to go back home,” a counselor responded, “he can’t hike on a broken leg.” Soon after that I ventured behind the bathroom tarp, found the biggest rock I could lift with one hand and dropped it on myself. The first time I missed my left hand, which I had laid on an adjacent rock. The second time the rock hit my hand and bounced – literally bounced – off it. Immediately, a large blackish bruise blossomed from the hit. I walked back to basecamp like a dog with its tail between its legs. I shielded my left hand behind my back and never spoke a word about it to anyone.

While I was at basecamp I met a variety of students. Most had been forcibly escorted from their homes in the middle of the night and were at SUWS for excessive drug and alcohol use. I was the odd man out. I silently judged others as I worked diligently on my various assignments, which I was certain would lead to my expeditious completion of the program. I hurriedly filled out my little green notebook, identifying tree and plant species, and filled my journal with meaningful entries, which I hoped showed rapid psychological improvement. I socialized with only a select few: a young girl, who I remember as being very dirty and extremely energetic and a young counselor who was still full of optimism and the desire to make a difference. She came up to me one day while I sat crying under a tree. “It comes in waves doesn’t it?” I nodded, and smiled at her. Her name was Wren and she was the kindest person I met at basecamp.

Finally, through a desire to get out as quickly as possible I started eating, slowly at first and then greedily, like a drowning man gasping for air. I stopped dropping rocks on myself and I didn’t run away again. I got my assignment for a field group – group C, Charlie: a group notorious for girl fights and lengthy program durations. I got out of Safety and headed for the mountains.

Individual
In the second stage – Individual, I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone. I entered into Group Charlie with three other students: Elena, Elizabeth and Maddie. We hiked silently during the day taking breaks often. At lunch we were assigned small plots of dirt facing away from one another. When I glanced over my shoulder I could see Elizabeth mock smoking with small wooden sticks. She said it helped.

Elena, Elizabeth, and Maddie had been at SUWS for a while when I arrived. They all did drugs, had sex, and were under the age of fourteen. We were allowed to speak to one another during brief windows, once in the morning and once at night. There wasn’t much to say. Mostly we just gossiped.

“What’d you do to get here?” Maddie asked on my first night.

“Is it true that you ran away?” Elizabeth chimed in.

I wondered how gossip circulated in a place like SUWS. Miles of wilderness separated different groups and yet it took mere days before every tiny bit of juicy gossip was known by the entire camp. Maybe the wind carried it to us, knowing we needed this small source of entertainment and humanity.

Elizabeth, Elena, and Maddie didn’t like me. I was a goody-two-shoes, a teacher’s pet who worked hard to set up trap lines and start fires each night so I could get out as quickly as possible. I didn’t break the rules or talk back. I thought I wouldn’t have sex until marriage, I wouldn’t drink until I was 21, and I would never so much as associate with anyone who used drugs. I was judgmental and it showed. At first I didn’t care much. I had one goal and one goal only – get out. So I studiously whittled traps and struck fires from steal and stone. In a week I had caught up to Elizabeth, Elena, and Maddie. But eventually my loneliness weighed on me. I went all day without speaking or being spoken to and at the nightly circle I was attacked or worse, ignored.

After two weeks of loneliness I could take it no longer. I dropped a rock on myself and tried to run off a ledge. A counselor restrained me until I was calm enough to be let go. I sat hunched over in the dirt, sobbing uncontrollably. Elizabeth approached me. “It’s much harder at first…” She said, “but it gets better, I promise.” She stood beside me until I stopped crying and then helped me to my feet. Elizabeth, I realized, was no different than me. We were just two kids who had gotten into some bad stuff.

After my breakdown I slowly became closer to the other girls in my group, and especially to Elizabeth. Nightly circles now contained occasional moments of laughter and always a mutual hatred for SUWS and our counselors. Even Elena, a former thirteen-year-old drug dealer with biceps the size of my head, warmed up to me. Instead of threatening me, we colluded to take down our counselors.

My birthday occurred during one of my final days in the Individual stage. It wasn’t anything special. I received a few brownies (which Elizabeth told me I didn’t have to share if I didn’t want to) and a card from my family, but other than that it was SUWS as usual. When we got to camp I spent the afternoon working on my traps. Towards dinnertime Elizabeth and Elena approached me, hiding something behind their backs.

“We know it sucks to be here for your birthday, so we made you something to help you forget,” Elizabeth said, holding a few pieces of torn paper in her hands.

“Close your eyes,” Elena instructed.
And then Elizabeth started reading,

“Snowy mountains covered in white,
On to the ski lift, hold on tight!
Stop by the lodge for something to eat,
Something chocolate and moist, some kind of treat!”

Elizabeth read on, describing each lovely escape in a wishful voice. She ended with,

“Blinking starts burning bright,
Welcome to the city of light!
Blue moon, bright in the sky,
Thank you for coming, goodnight and goodbye.”

I opened my eyes to Elizabeth and Elena’s grinning faces. They handed me the torn sheets of muddy paper. On each was a picture drawn by Elena, and on the back the corresponding poem written by Elizabeth. It is to this day, the best present I have ever received.

On one of the following days Elizabeth, Maddie, Elena and I were told to join hands. We were told that in the Individual stage we were black bears – solitary, independent creatures – but now we were to become wolves – pack animals. We were given a circle of rope and told to lean back. Together we kept one another standing.

Community
The third stage – Community, could almost have been considered fun. Elizabeth, Elena, Maddie and I spent the afternoons sitting under the main tarp building our wood drills, which would later enable us to make fire from two pieces of wood.

We spent our layover days helping one another make fires and meeting with the therapist for Group Charlie. Our therapist’s name was Amber. She hiked out to our group once a week, and met with each of us for thirty minutes. I would talk about the week and she would assess my progress. In addition to all the hard skills I had to complete to get out, there were also mental skills that Amber had to check off in my little green notebook with her special red pen.

By the time I reached the Community stage two other girls had joined our group. They were nice but Elizabeth, Elena, Maddie and I didn’t talk to them much. They were still in the Individual stage. After one of Amber’s visits we circled up for a “truth circle”. Someone had broken the rules and if they admitted it in the truth circle they wouldn’t get in trouble. As it turned out the two new girls had taken Amber’s pen and checked all the boxes in their notebooks.

After this, truth circle became a regular occurrence. This was also the time when I let loose and rediscovered my love of breaking rules. I stopped filtering my water, poured soap into the rivers we passed, and swapped personal food items. It wasn’t that I wanted or needed to do these things, it was just my way of saying “FUCK YOU” to the SUWS program.

Near the end of my time in the Community phase, Elena was removed from Group Charlie. It was a sunny day and we were hiking up a steep wooded hill. We came to a cross trail and took a break. A counselor asked Elena to take a walk with her and bring her pack. Fifteen minutes later the counselor returned without Elena. She announced that Elena was being moved to another group. We had gotten too close and, as the councilors put it, “You do not come to SUWS to make friends.” Elena’s only goodbye was a hastily written note telling us how much she would miss us. We never got to say the same to her. A week later gossip circulated that Elena’s parents were pulling her from the program because she was making no progress. That’s the last I heard of Elena.

That night two counselors awaked me in the middle of the night. They took me down to the river and launched into a long speech about my progress. At the end of this ceremony they handed me some beads and told me I had made it to the last stage in the program. I was the first one in Group Charlie to do so.

Responder
In the last stage of SUWS four-stage program I was finally allowed to know the time and use the map and compass. These privileges, which had seemed paramount throughout my time at SUWS, soon seemed unimportant and I rarely exercised them. Responder wasn’t much different than Community. It just meant I was one step closer to getting out.

One afternoon while Maddie, Elizabeth, and I sat sewing leather medicine bags, our conversation stumbled upon the topic of getting out. Elizabeth and Maddie were indifferent about their situations. SUWS was bad but what was beyond SUWS wasn’t much better. I, on the other hand, exclaimed joyously “I think I’ll be going home soon!”

“Doubt it,” Maddie said, “You’ll go to a boarding school just like this, like the one I came from.”

“My parents would never do that to me,” I said confidently. “They can’t wait for me to come back home.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure,” Maddie replied. “Everyone here says that.”

I nodded nervously. Trying to hold to my convictions. I couldn’t imagine my parents sending me away. Then again, a few weeks ago I couldn’t have imagined my mom telling me I had to stay here either.

My conversation with Maddie made me so nervous that I ate all my lunch food, an amount of food that had been intended to last for a weeks worth of lunches. Horrified I ran behind the bathroom tarp and tried to make myself throw up. After many attempts (which produced only uncomfortable gagging) I stopped and walked hurriedly back to camp. I immediately sought out Elizabeth to tell her what I had done. Awhile later a counselor pulled me aside, “Elizabeth told me what happened.” I was startled. I had never thought Elizabeth would care enough to tell on me. When I returned Elizabeth caught me by the arm and asked if I was okay. “I want you to get better,” she told me.

Soon after my food frenzy I was told I would be going on a solo. I would spend a whole day and one night alone (though close enough to remain under the stifling surveillance of SUWS counselors). I was told this would be an opportunity to reflect on my progress and become more independent. Nature and solitude would work in tandem to fix me.

In the morning black charcoal was rubbed on my cheeks and I was given a bag of rice and a metal bucket to cook with. When I got to my solo plot of land I set up my tarp, built a fire pit and started a fire. Having the whole day ahead of me I found I had nothing to do. I tried to fill the seemingly endless hours by washing my clothes and drying them by the fire. Then I cooked my rice, well before a reasonable lunch hour. Finally I resorted to writing.

I wrote about the trees overhead and the people I had met. I wrote about food – wanting food, not wanting food, and not being able to stop. I wrote about my parents and how they had forced me to stay here. I wrote about Elizabeth, Elena, and Maddie. I wrote about how terrible SUWS was and how I longed to get out. I fell asleep curled around my notebook.

The next morning I took my place next to Elizabeth in our breakfast circle, relieved to once again be in the company of others. We filled our cups with lukewarm oatmeal and a spoonful of powdered milk.

“I have some special news,” a counselor said. She paused and continued, “Helen will be released next week.”

Warm sweet relief filled my entire body. Elizabeth threw her arm around my shoulder, squeezing me into an excited half hug.

After seven weeks at SUWS I was finally, finally getting out.

Leaving
I had the morning to gather my things and say my goodbyes. Elizabeth and I wrote our contact information on small pieces of paper, and tried to sneak them to one another throughout the morning. But the crumpled piece of paper I had stuffed hurriedly into my pocket was discovered and taken by the counselors. “You do not come to SUWS to make friends.”

Before I came to SUWS life was meaningless. I would wake up wishing I had never been born. I would get through the day dully mimicking activities that had once brought me joy. I would fall asleep without hopes of a better tomorrow. Before SUWS I had nothing to live for. SUWS gave me a purpose – get out – and for that I am eternally grateful.

I cannot tell you that leaving Group Charlie was sad. In fact I hardly remember it. I am certain that I hugged Elizabeth and Maddie goodbye. I am sure I was sad to leave them, with no hopes of ever finding them again. But I was getting out and at the time that was all that mattered.

Helen Head

Winny
Photography
Bryan Guzman

Bryan Guzman
My name is Bryan Guzman. I’m a first year student at CCSF majoring in Studio Arts. My heavy admiration for photography and film has completely grown throughout the years. I enjoy shooting people in any way, shape, or form, capturing their many emotions and giving myself and an audience the ability to feel lots of things.

Renaming This Life – Anita Kline

This is not a march she says.
This is a walk, each step a prayer.
Her words a kind reminder in the voice of the ancestors
who knew the earth as Mother, the sky as Father.

This re-emerging language of native friends
who spot a sinuous cloud crossing the face of Grandmother Moon
and call it Protective Serpent.

This re-imagined way with words—
pipe evoking peace, not bombs,
relative relaxing the moment of greeting,
kin or stranger, no matter from where or from whom.

All were welcomed to Standing Rock,
home for months to water protectors, sacred-site defenders,
indigenous people converging from every forgotten place.

Dakota, Lakota, Sioux, and more-than-enough-more names
to make this the largest gathering of native nations
for over a hundred years.

Irresistible, this call to come together, drum together,
sing, cook, circle together on land now also of burying together
old animosities.

Irrepressible, the visions. New ways of being together
on land long consecrated by ceremony,
then violently desecrated by greed, misnamed as need.

Water is sacred they teach us. Ancient wisdom,
calling into question all doing done in the name of destiny,
in the name of progress, in the name of resources,
in the name of mine, in the name of My God!

Anita Kline
Poetry came late to Anita’s life as she moved into retirement from her job as a social worker at SF General Hospital. “Renaming this Life” arose from transforming encounters with Older Writers at the Bernal Heights Library and with indigenous activists working to heal the planet in the face of ecological devastation.

Clearing Storm in Yosemite
Photograph
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.

For Kindness – Kati Spitz

To know having
You must first have lost
Walked past the grocery store carts full of food
While counting the pennies in your pocket
To buy eggs you hope will keep everyone full for the rest of the week
To appreciate a Thanksgiving table
Piled high with green bean casserole
First you must
Have gone to bed hungry
There’s no Joy in having
Without
First having lost
You cannot know the fresh squeezed joy of birth
Until you have held someone’s hand
While they slipped away from this world and into the next
There’s no love without grief
No joy without sorrow
No ecstasy without pain
To know the breath of life truly
You must have felt the hot burn in your lungs
While you sink below the waves
Watching the sunlight shimmer and streak through the blue grey water
There is no with
Until there has been
Without.

Kati Spitz
Kati Spitz is a painter, writer, and pastry chef living in San Francisco.

Lost in the Cosmos
Acrylic on Canvas
Michelle Engeldinger

Michelle Engeldinger
This piece, titled “Lost in the Cosmos,” is inspired by space. There is something so dark and mysterious but also beautiful about the depths of the universe, which is what I hope to convey through this piece.

Unrequited Heart Athletics – Helen Dannenberg

O.K. Heart
It’s time to shape up
It’s over now, ended
Stop hurting
Stop aching
Let Ms. Brain earn her keep and
Direct the show
Let go dependence
Loosen need away
Figure out how to tame the
Fanged lion of loneliness
Heart
Keep that bopping beat
While
Ms. Brain gets organized
Skin Cells
Try Amnesia
Ms. Brain cast that net wide
Fill that need for one to one
Another
Way

Helen Dannenberg
Helen Dannenberg used spoken word in her choreography. She has done poetry with Sally Saunders and currently Older Writers Lab (OWL).

rose ancienne
pen and ink
veronique fleming

veronique fleming
veronique fleming is a local sketchbook artist currently living on the island of alameda. “I draw to tune into a deeper sense of calm. It is a way to practice being internal, allowing my attention to focus completely in the present moment through whatever is being created on the page.”

Libertad – Eric Imperiale

This night, like every night, Angelina stands at her kitchen table in the light of a bare bulb, cutting leftover bread into small squares. Her long black hair is neatly wrapped in a bun, like a little hat on the top of her head. A silver cross, hanging from the brown leather neck, glimmers with her rhythm. She drinks a cup of yerba buena tea, fighting off a cold so as to not let her friends down by missing her morning appointment. She places the bread into an old shoe box, using the care of a mother laying her children to sleep. She goes to the bedroom where she will rest the tired body, free her mind of the barriers of flesh for the night.

She rises with the sun and emerges from her once-white studio apartment into the noise and decay that exists even in the dawn of the city. She wears a pink skirt bought at a church bazaar and a light blue sweater she found hanging from the fire hydrant around the corner. Under her right arm is the shoe box of bread which is kept closed with a rubber band.

She walks down the street, passing corners where boys live and die selling highs to those who have only known lows, passing sleeping drifters, the broken glass of windows and beer bottles, the sticky thickness of drying urine mixed with cool morning breeze, the cry of a baby, the roar of a bus, until she arrives at Our Lady Of Grace, crosses herself and then the playground between the church and the classrooms to the clogged water fountain where pigeons drink and bathe their dusty feathers.

A couple of feet from the fountain she slows and leans against a flowering plum. Its dark purple trunk, only inches taller and slightly sturdier than Angelina, bends under the weight of her years. She looks around the playground at the tire swings and wooden jungle gym and at the tile roof of the church. “Pajaritos.” She claps her hands twice. “Breakfast, el desayuno. Angelina’s here.” She slides the rubber band off the box and onto her wrist and sets the lid on the cracked earth at the base of the tree. A few pigeons fly to Angelina and land at her feet. She takes a handful of cubed bread and broadcasts it in a sweeping arc. The birds peck at the bread, bobbing up and down as if bowing in appreciation of her generosity. Now others fly down from the church roof and join in the meal.

When she was six, her mother brought her to the capital to see the main cathedral. It was so large and beautiful. The great stones! And the ceiling was so high it seemed to reach to heaven. At the plaza in front of the cathedral her mother bought a small bag of seeds from a skinny boy, so Angelina could feed the pigeons. They looked funny to her, clucking and hobbling around, their little heads tilting side to side. Her mother explained that the birds were the spirits of people who were searching for something they had lost, and after they found it, they could spread their wings and fly to heaven.

Now, over fifty years later, Angelina feeds these grey creatures, these wandering souls, wondering what it could be they have lost. Self-respect, fortunes, a leg, or are they like her and lost their country?

She thinks of times past, before her husband’s plan of coming to the United States and making a new life, before their long journey from Guatemala, to Mexico, to The Border, before encounters with opportunistic coyotes and power wielding border guards. The same guards who beat her Antonio and left her without a husband in a strange new land. She misses the open-air markets, orchids growing on roadside trees, the abandoned temples of her great ancestors, the song of the marimba.

But most of all she misses her husband, a stubborn man, whose head was full of crazy ideas and dreams. None of which she understood until now. Like the times he spoke of organizing the people to overthrow the government. Or being a bird. He had always wanted to be a bird. “So I can fly above cities of tyranny and corruption with a freedom and grace I have never known,” he had said.

Angelina casts another handful from the shoe box. Bits of bread drop to the pavement like tears. She looks at the feeding birds. “What are you looking for, m’ijitos?” A pigeon with a red thread tangled around one of its legs lifts its head from the crumbs and turns a curious eye to her. Angelina looks at the thread and wishes she were a caterpillar. If I were the size of a caterpillar, she thinks, I would wrap my little body around that thread and be taken high into the clouds. She looks back at the pigeon who is now busy pecking at a piece of crust.

“I’m looking for my husband,” Angelina tells the bird. “He’s been gone for years now and the sad thing is—” her words are interrupted by the first gun shot of the day. Whether the shot came from the gun of a police officer, a gang member, or an angry husband, she doesn’t know. It was blocks away, though, and Angelina knows there is no cause for alarm at this distance, but the pigeons scatter. She looks to the sky and watches grey bodies disperse against blue. “The sad thing is,” she continues, “we never got to say goodbye.”

She remembers the crack of a nightstick against her Antonio’s head and the flutter of wings, the frozen fear on his face, the look of mad pleasure in the eyes of the border guards, and running – so much running. Running from the fat-bellied laugh of corrupt politicians, the emptiness of poverty, the back-breaking work of cotton and coffee plantations, cleaning the dirty houses of rich light-skinned women, and the cold certainty of hot bullets. Running to a better life in a country built on the gold and bones of her ancestors, the acres of lettuce and tomatoes, to garment sweat shops, to cleaning the homes of the rich, to the emptiness of poverty, the worries of a widow. Nothing better than before. Memories and pigeons, her only company.

“Come back,” she looks at the terra cotta tiled roof of Our Lady of Grace. “Come back.” Feathers rustle softly behind her. As she turns to see, a pigeon flies past her like a memory of forgotten dreams and rests on the green copper cross at the top of the steeple. They gaze at each other, eyes fixed in silence. She opens here mouth and a warm whisper is carried in the light breeze. “Good bye.” The breeze fills the bird’s wings and it rises – above Angelina and the playground, above the corner stores and rotting apartments, upward, past the humming power lines, beyond shouts of pain and despair, into the blanket of sapphire sky, and disappears behind a soft white cloud.

The tide of Angelina’s soul surges in her eyes. She sighs and looks at the crumbs scattered across the pathway, then bends over and picks up the pieces and places them in the shoe box, saving them for tomorrow. She walks the path between the church and the school towards the street. A car pulls up and a young girl with long hair the color of chestnuts jumps out yelling, “Thank you, Mommy,” and runs to the classrooms. Angelina smiles and continues walking, wondering how much it will cost to fly home.

Eric Imperiale
Eric is a proud graduate of City College who believes in the power of words to not only entertain, but to express, heal, and affect change.

Dia De Los Muertos
Photography
Meredith Brown

Meredith Brown
Meredith Brown is a CCSF student who seeks to interpret her world through printmaking, photography, writing, and interior design.

Rousted at Civic Center – Thomas A. E. Hesketh

Rousted at Civic Center
As leaves from fallen lives
Delivered from their thought trees
Gracing the morning moist sidewalks of despair
Between the monuments of culture:
Civic Center’s Main Library
And the Asian Art Museum, alike solemn
Bastions of the tax base

Encamped against the barrier wall
Itself holding stacks of books in and the populace out
Under the protection of Pioneer monuments
Celebrating the conquest of California
Dominated by the Goddess of Victory
And her tamed verdigris, bronze, golden bear
Each with their gaze fixed on the City Hall Dome
In the style of conquerors as only statuary can stare
With a grey pigeon perched on the Goddess’ head
White deposits crusted beneath, accreted, accenting her crown

This the moment, humanely half-seven
When the homeless are roused
Rousted from overnight nests of cardboard and disaster blankets
Raked up by officers wearing baby blue plastic gloves
As a barrier against the contagion of unmanageable lives
Lest our finest be fouled gathering what is left behind on sidewalk,
Stain makers’ leavings, untidy evidence of eking out an existence

As some mothers’ children – many parents themselves – now haggard
Windblown, sundried, eyes glazed to the squint of lost focus
Tumble without conviction to begin a new last day, another rung on a ladder,
Directionless, herded, heedless away, with tattooed emotions licking their pours for salt
As the unnamed, unwashed, unfed, unattended
Slowly disburse along unmarked paths to elsewhere
As they emerge in pairs or alone, with unleashed dogs, guided by scent more than sense
Or tethered themselves to the providence of a wheelchair, or rubber tipped walker
Zombie-shuffle to today, with the past trailing like a wheel across the plains
Ruts cut too deep to close the flesh of the earth, too deep to leave an open mind

As they flow slowly into the community, preachers find corners
To preach the unspoken word to absent audiences
Philosophers serve notice by soliloquy unnoticed by the absent crowds
Indifferent seagulls peck at stirred refuse in competition with the spilt crack harvesters
Workers hose down the sidewalk encampment to still the odor of homelessness
Urine San Francisco someone laughs without glee or commitment
You’re a species of feces another flings a retort
And toothless mouths laugh, glancing sideways
Even numbness has feelings so the paranoid used to say.

Thomas A. E. Hesketh
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on a cusp, in the last half of the last century of the last Millenium. I once saw a meteor explode in the heart of Orion. Otherwise, what has happened to me has happened to other persons, too; so it seems.

Loving Couple
Photography
Tigran Demurjian
Concrete Crucifixion
Photograph
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/.

Popcorn – William Petersen

One night after work I asked her if she wanted to go for a drink. I hadn’t slept with her yet but it was looking pretty likely. But nothing had to happen, I liked her well enough just to hang out. While we were in the bar she recognized a waiter she used to work with. She went over to say hello, and came back with a couple of Qualuudes in her palm.

When we got back to the car, she said, “I want to kiss you.”

I leaned her against my car and we kissed.

“I knew this was going to happen,” she said. Like there was some force operating outside of our own volition.

We were going to go to my apartment, but first, she said, we had to stop by this guy’s place to put him to bed. She got paid through the State for helping him out. We pulled up to a sagging little house in a modest working class neighborhood. A ramp that had been built for his wheelchair zigzagged up from the sidewalk to the porch. The house was dark except for light jumping around in the living room from a TV.

He was a young guy, paralyzed from the waist down. Someone had shot him in front of his house one night in a drive-by. There was no explanation for it. He was going up the steps and heard two pops. The second pop had hit him in the back. He didn’t know anyone who hated him. He had a bit of history with drugs and booze and sex, but he couldn’t think of anyone who would want to shoot him. Maybe it was just for fun.

He was sitting in front of a muted TV when we went in. He’d probably turned the sound down when he heard us pulling up to the curb. The sound was muted but from the images it looked like a lot of pops and explosions and yelling going on.

She said hi, and introduced us. He didn’t seem surprised to see me.

She clearly had the run of the place, and straight away went into the kitchen without turning the light on and brought out three bottles of beer from the fridge, then announced that she was famished. She returned to the kitchen, this time switching the light on, but it was still dim in there. It was like light didn’t matter that much.

She rummaged through the cupboards, pulled out a jar of popcorn kernels and came to the doorway, presenting it to us like she was doing an ad.

“I’m going to make popcorn,” she said brightly, pleased with the idea.

He said he wasn’t hungry and was ready to turn in, but we should go ahead and make ourselves at home.

I heard her putting him to bed. There was metal clinking as she removed what must have been braces or something, as she got him out of the chair, then the crunch on the bed from his body weight. There was muffled talk between them, and silences in between.

She took her time. I was a little annoyed at just how long she was taking. I wondered if anything was going on between them. She had told me that he had no control down there, that he got erections, like in the morning, but there was no sensation. I wondered if she didn’t fiddle with him anyway. I would bet that she did, if only out of curiosity. She had plenty of curiosity and genuinely cared about him and he was young and she was young.

She came out from his room, said hi, and went back into the kitchen and proceeded to make popcorn. I listened to the kernels erupting, the shake of the pot on the stovetop. After all the talk, I was looking forward to it. She brought it into the living room on a big stainless steel bowl. With herbs and butter and lots of salt. Herbs, that was a new way of doing it then.

We sat on the sofa, the bowl between us, and mashed popcorn into our mouths with the sound of the TV still off. After a bit she turned to look at me, like she’d forgotten something.

She plucked a kernel from the bowl and tossed it at me, then another. I scooped up a handful and pelted her in return as she moved around the room, ducking. It was all breathless and on the edge of giggling. I gave her a shove onto the couch. The bowl slid to the floor, spilling, her skirt riding up her thighs. Light stuttered from the screen. I hesitated and she read my face.

“He likes to listen,” she whispered.

William Petersen
William Petersen has worked as a musician, a cook, and a video producer for multimedia. He has published in several literary magazines, The Washington Post, and the anthology Fathering Daughters, edited by DeWitt Henry and James Alan McPherson. He is an admirer of Forum and its staff.

drawing #1
Gouache
David Hart
drawing #2
Gouache
David Hart
drawing #3
Gouache
David Hart

David Hart
I was born in San Francisco in 1943. Except for about 15 years I have lived here all my life. In 1965 I graduated from San Jose State with a B.A. in philosophy. Since my retirement in 2013, I have been attending classes in the Fort Mason CCSF OLAD art program.

swamp monster – Eddy Funkhouser

when it happens in 2009 you wonder
you wonder if it was
quite right
quite appropriate
quite consensual

being drunk
being reckless
not physically resisting
you must have consented

you tamp it all way down
bury the monster
with mounds of sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)

the legality changes in 2013
the federal definition of rape updates
for the first time in eighty years

the new definition is
“penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.”

the United States recognizes that
rape doesn’t have to be “violent”
they don’t know all rape is violent
the Department of Justice removes
the word “forcible”
the phrase “against her will”

in the announcement the Department of Justice writes
“a victim can be incapacitated and thus unable to consent because of ingestion of drugs or alcohol… Physical resistance is not required on the part of the victim to demonstrate lack of consent.”

you read about the updated definition in your feminism class
underneath the mounds of sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
something awakens
a swamp monster arises from the depths
shedding layers of algae and condoms and duckweed
she stands up and dwarfs the wetland
dwarfs the last four years
dwarfs your conviction that you are okay  
she starts screaming
she doesn’t stop

you finally consider for a moment
that you were assaulted
that you were raped
that a monster was birthed in you
she won’t stop screaming

you try to keep the course
bury her in sex  
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)
rebuild the layers
to blanket the swamp monster
suffocate her in sweaty sheets
at least muffle the screaming

the screaming intensifies

you tell someone
you say rape
your friends already know
they were waiting for you

now you want to scream so you do
and you and the swamp monster scream together
neither of you stops

sometimes one or both of you takes a breath to tell your therapist about 2009
sometimes one or both of you quiets a little
sometimes one or both of you stops screaming
sometimes one or both of you whimpers a little

the swamp monster is still here but not as loud
not buried in sex
(definitely consensual sex) (definitely bad sex)

you’re not friends but not enemies either
sometimes one or both of you nods to the other on the street as you pass
acquaintances bound together by shared screaming

Eddy Funkhouser
Eddy Funkhouser is a queer non-binary urban farmer and garden educator living in San Francisco, CA. Their work can be found in Dirty Girls Magazine, Beyond Bloodlines, Awakened Voices, Stonewall’s Legacy, and Written on the Body.

Defeat of the sun by the Night King
Mixed Media Paper and Digital
Yousef Kazerooni

Yousef Kazerooni
Yousef is a queer artist who grew up in Iran. After immigrating in his early twenties, CCSF became his home. He found an international community of students, and traveled to different parts of the world. Yousef is a storyteller and his work is inspired by mixing different cultures and traditions.

Rapid Fire, 1993 – Isabel Magdaleno

It was Chrissy that first introduced Alma to Judas Priest one afternoon in the living room of Chrissy’s mother’s apartment. That afternoon, at least, they weren’t friends. Not yet. They weren’t exactly friends, as maybe Alma wouldn’t be quite comfortable calling Chrissy her friend. Not that day. Chrissy had a reputation at school for being tough and being trouble. She’d transferred in half-way through the school year, which made her the subject of all manner of rumors and implications she either didn’t notice or didn’t care to deny. Alma, however, who was not wealthy and not white, couldn’t afford to be a pariah. Though she never repeated what she heard, she didn’t defend Chrissy either.

Allegedly, Chrissy got kicked out of her old school for kissing a teacher. Allegedly, students had seen her drinking at a high school football game with some older boys. Allegedly, Chrissy had a fake ID from Rhode Island that said she was 18 and she used it to buy cigarettes. At least that last one was believable. At thirteen years old, Chrissy was already a tall young woman in ripped jeans and an oversized t-shirt, a men’s flannel tied around her waist. In practice, Chrissy didn’t talk to anyone in her classes unless it was necessary and spent most of her lunches sitting alone on the patch of grass at the edge of the quad or with another boy in their grade who missed a lot of school and always seemed to be in need of a haircut.

In Social Studies earlier that day, Chrissy had leaned over to Alma while they filled out worksheets. “Hey Alma, you should come hang out after school today.” Alma looked around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody did. In truth, Alma didn’t have many friends either, and nobody ever asked her to hang out after school. She tried to sound nonchalant.
“Yeah, that sounds ok.”

“Cool. We can hang out at my house. My mom won’t be home until five but she can drive you back to your house after. She’s really nice.”

All day Alma wondered how she’d get away with this. Her parents barely let her go to the movies with friends from church, let alone into the home of a white girl who wore lipstick, especially while her mother wasn’t home. During lunch she hoped Chrissy wouldn’t approach her in front of the small group of girls she’d gradually assembled over the past two years. With relief Alma saw Chrissy’s flannel back on its usual patch of grass with her usual lunch companion, Kevin. He held open a comic book and seemed to be laughing.

Instead of boarding the school bus in the afternoon, Alma met Chrissy at the back fence between the soccer field and the custodian’s warehouse. The two walked half a mile through the neighborhood of large stucco houses and across a boulevard four lanes wide in each direction. As they crossed, a driver whistled at them out his car window. Chrissy turned toward the man and yelled out “PERVERT! What’s wrong with you?” and continued to the other side while the man honked his horn. Under her breath she said, “Pervert asshole.”

This had happened to Alma a few times before and always left her disoriented, with a damp heat crawling through her scalp and a cold sickness in her stomach. The times this had happened to her, she’d never dared to confront the drivers. If she was alone she’d run away and hunch her shoulders in an effort to diminish the size of her developing body. Alma saw her own shadow walking next to Chrissy’s and noticed how childlike it looked. Across the boulevard Chrissy stopped in front of a large apartment complex and punched a code to access the front gate. Past a swimming pool and around some landscaped pathways, Chrissy led Alma to her front door. The inside of the apartment was dim and smelled of cat fur and un-vacuumed carpet. Alma followed Chrissy inside cautiously and kicked off her shoes in the entry as Chrissy did. From the dark hallway came the tinny sound of machine gun fire and classic rock music.

“Lame,” Chrissy declared. “My asshole brother is home. He like, never leaves the house.” She shook her head. “What an asshole.”

Chrissy threw her backpack on the sofa and invited Alma to do the same, which she did, though with less enthusiasm. They entered the galley kitchen, the long counter bare except for a finger-print smeared microwave oven and a dusty coffee maker. Chrissy pulled a pizza from the freezer while Alma called home. Her mother answered.

“Ma,” Alma said in Spanish, “I didn’t take the bus home.”

After a deep sucking breath, her mother said,”Oh Alma, why are you so distracted all the time? You missed your bus, and you know your father is working a double shift today. He won’t be home until late and won’t be able to pick you up. You’ll have to walk home and it’s so dangerous out there.”

“No, Ma.” Alma sighed, “I have group project to do, so I’m studying at the library with a friend. Her mom will drive me home around five. Don’t worry. See you later.”

Alma hung up the phone before her mother could ask which library and which friend. Chrissy handed her a can of diet cola and the two sat on the white living room carpet, their socked feet propped up on the low coffee table.

Chrissy slurped her soda. “Wow, you speak Spanish, Alma? That’s so cool. I had no idea.”

“Oh.” Alma tried not to feel embarrassed. “Well, yeah. My dad speaks pretty good English but my mom still… I mean, she can speak English, we just mostly speak Spanish at home. It’s easier for her.”

“Crazy.” Chrissy turned on the television to the music video station. Alma tried not to stare at the screen, to act as if she’d watched the channel before. A young woman pouted against a chain-link fence, tossing her blond hair around in time to pop music.

“So, what kind of music do you like?” Chrissy asked. “What’s your favorite band?” She pulled a binder out of her backpack.

“I dunno. All kinds, I guess.” Alma shrugged. Chrissy was still waiting for a convincing answer. “The Beatles?” then again, more assured. “I like The Beatles.”

Chrissy laughed. “Well, this is my favorite band.” She turned off the television and put a compact disc into the stereo, fiddled with the knobs for a moment and stood back, waiting for the music to begin. Out of the speakers came the most raucous sound Alma had ever heard. It seemed impossible for anyone to play music so quickly and with so many instruments going at once. A man’s voice sang ugly words Alma could make out as being about destruction. Alma had expected Chrissy’s music to be unfamiliar and possibly loud, but this noise was what her parents and their church magazines must have been referring to when they described modern music as Satanic.

Chrissy searched Alma’s face for a reaction.

“What do you think?”

“Um, it’s really fast.”

“Fast? I guess. It’s Judas Priest. It’s like, just regular metal. There’s way faster metal.”

“Oh, no. I mean, I guess I never heard heavy metal before.”

“What? That’s crazy. This album is super old even.”

After a moment, after “Rapid Fire” had started, Alma breathed deeply. “Chrissy, my parents are super strict. They’re not super religious but they are really protective and they don’t let me listen to regular music. Only Oldies. And Spanish songs from like, the 70s.” It was a difficult thing to confess, and she was a little relieved Chrissy had no friends at school, except maybe Kevin.

The two girls sat together, not talking, and gradually the shock of the music wore off. By the time “Breaking the Law” came on, Alma nodded her head along to the melody. She said, “My parents think any music with too many guitars is devil-worshipping. If “Paint It Black” comes on the Oldies station they make me turn it off until it’s over. I don’t even know what they’d do if they caught me listening to this.”

“What?” Chrissy stood up. “That’s so fucked up. You should just tell them to fuck off. It’s just music.” She walked to the kitchen and returned with two slices of cheese pizza on paper plates.

Alma felt obligated to defend her parents. “It’s not that my parents are bad people. They worked hard to move me and my little sister out of the neighborhood where we used to live, just so we could go to good schools and be safe. They’re just really strict. And overprotective. About everything. TV, boys, music, clothes. Everything.” Chrissy shrugged.

They ate while flipping aimlessly through their respective schoolwork, and as the rest of British Steel played Alma could begin to make out the individual words. The guitars soared and the drums thumped in her heart and she realized she didn’t care about society’s opinion of young girls either. Chrissy bobbed her head along and looked pleased. When it ended, Alma asked, “How did you even get into this?”

Chrissy said, “Oh, you know. I was at the record store on 17th street and I felt a calling to it. The cover was all black with a big razor blade on it. So, I stole it. And it’s been my favorite ever since. Judas Priest is totally sick. My mom said they went to the Supreme Court or something because all these kids were listening it and then killing themselves.”

Alma wasn’t sure if that was true, but opted not to doubt Chrissy.

A door opened and Chrissy’s brother emerged from the darkness. He was tall and too thin for his frame, his bony arms hanging out his black t-shirt with the sleeves cut off. He pulled his hair back with a rubber band and sniffed the air. “Did you make a pizza? Maybe you’re not so fucking useless after all.” Without looking at either of the girls, he walked into the kitchen and came back, holding half the pizza on a baking tray and can of beer.

“Fuck you, Jeremy,” Chrissy called after him, but her voice sounded small. He turned toward the living room and looked first at Chrissy, then at the stereo.

“Chrissy, you poser. This is my Judas Priest cd, huh? I’ve been looking for it all week. If you scratch it, Chrissy, I swear to God, I will fuck you up.” He walked back into his bedroom, slamming the door behind him.

Chrissy’s eyes turned watery and she sniffed. Feeling helpless, Alma offered her friendship. “Man, Chrissy, this is so good I could listen to it all the time. Do you think you could tape it for me?” Chrissy blinked twice and the tears were gone. She sprung from her seat and rummaged for a blank cassette as if she’d been waiting all day for this moment, popped it in the cassette player and re-started the cd. They listened again, doing homework separately, side by side.

Just after five Chrissy’s mother called to say she wouldn’t be home until late. “Shit,” Chrissy said. “I guess I can’t give you a ride home. I’m so sorry.” Her shoulders twitched in her oversized t-shirt. “Do you want to call your parents to come get you? I can walk you home, too, and ride my bike back.” The cd ended again and Chrissy pulled the tape out of the cassette player. “I don’t want you to get grounded or something. What do your parents do if you break the rules?”

Alma took the cassette from Chrissy’s hand before she could stick a label on it and snapped it into her Walkman, which she tucked into her sweatshirt pocket.

“Um, I don’t know. I’ve never broken the rules before.” On the few occasions Alma had gotten a ride home from the library, she’d found her mother sitting on the front porch, smoking cigarettes and rubbing the beads of her rosary. Alma pictured her mother smoking one cigarette for every ten minutes past five, and now at close to thirty minutes past and at least an hour until she could complete the three-mile journey, the pack would be almost gone by the time Alma came walking up the street to her door. What would her mother do? She waved Chrissy away. “Don’t worry about it. What are they going to do- only let me go to school and home and church? That’s my regular life anyway.”

She gathered her books into her backpack and put on her shoes. At the door, Chrissy said to her, “Hey, if you like Judas Priest, I can make you more tapes. I’ll make you another tape tonight and give it to you tomorrow at lunch or something.”

“Yeah, I’d like that.” Alma pulled her headphones over her ears and started the walk home.

Isabel Magdaleno
Isabel Magdaleno lives and writes in Oakland. She is a co-op member at Adobe Books in San Francisco, and occasionally works toward a creative writing certificate at CCSF. Rapid Fire, 1993 is her first published work.

Bay Area Band Psychic Hit 1
Photography
Rome Jones
Bay Area Band Psychic Hit 3
Photography
Rome Jones

Rome Jones
I first began photographing bands because of the passion musicians display while performing. It’s like siren’s call to the audience it drives us wild allowing us to shed the mundane insane aspects of ours lives. It’s my hope to capture this tribal passion.

Land’s End – Francesca Bavaro

There’s a place
called Land’s End
where I stand to look,
clear my head.

I stand there,
again and again.
Never once, experiencing
the same setting twice.

This time
Waves kiss the rocks
again and again.
No two pecks alike.
some drawn out,
others putter off

Off into the harbor,
Fog and the mist set sail
blown forward by
The ocean’s deep breathe,
Out
and rest midway the Headlands.

I hear a crow, a caw
as native fowl sail and soar
before skimming their bellies
across the shore.

The sky falters,
into daylight no more.
The portrait I stand before,
Sets forevermore.

Because what is before
Is nevermore,
but tomorrow’s
almost ashore.

Francesca Bavaro
Francesca enjoys reading and writing poetry and short fiction. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, walking dogs, and frolicking in the grassy knolls of Golden Gate Park. She is terrified of birds.

Illusion, Reality
Photography
Tyler Graves

Tyler Graves
As an active artist, Tyler Graves is mainly a musician, but he also partakes in photography, printmaking, and drawing. Tyler finds inspiration through his wife, cats, and the cityscape/landscape of the Bay Area.