It’s honestly a wonder that anything at all happens here in the afterlife.
I say that not only as a Pleasantly Surprised Atheist, but also because of the truly staggering bureaucracy of all of human history’s souls learning to coexist, with more arriving every day than the day before.
Here’s my experience with how everything works here. On Monday, I saw your hand tremble as you sold the soccer tickets we’d bought together months ago, to someone outside the stadium. When I saw that Jane and Mark were going to come over to watch the game at home with you, I got an idea. I rushed over to the Sports Miracles department and grabbed one of the forms. I crafted a perfect goal: Tie game, in stoppage time. A cross from the far left side of the field. Here comes the striker, leaping up, higher than the defender. The goalie’s outstretched hand is going to get the ball first, but wait! There’s some bend to the kick, and no, no way, the striker’s able to head the ball down and past the goalie, and it goes in!
That was the plan, anyway. I filled out the form and craned my neck to take in the line, which wrapped around the Sports Miracles building. I sighed and shuffled to the back. The woman in front of me asked which team I was for. When I told her, she shook her head. “I grew up watching the other team,” she said. “I guess our miracle requests cancel each other out.”
Then, the man in front of her heard us and joined in. “I’m actually for the same team as you,” he told me, “but I want the team to earn the victory all by themselves. I’m here to ask for no miracles to happen.”
I sighed. No wonder these things happen so rarely. I walked back to the Observing Area with my head and shoulders down, and arrived just in time to see you with our friends, and the game on. Your eyes were moist and you barely moved or spoke the whole time. That was Monday.
On Tuesday, when the beautiful little freckles underneath your eyes tilted downward as you got ready for work, my heart sank. But after the previous day’s debacle, I had no idea what I could do.
There’s the Museary, where I could go to request that the author you like finally gets that next book out in their series, or that the movie version actually does a good job. But I hear that place is really snobby, and they only approve the most subtle of miracles, and almost never to the same artist twice.
There’s of course the Politics Department, but that is crawling with those annoying purists, like that guy from the sports line, and they’re always saying things like “powerful movements only develop in the absence of miracles.” Not helping.
Everywhere I turned, there was gridlock, delays, or committees. I had to find something I could do to make you happy. I finally spotted a building with a relatively small crowd around it, and went in without reading the sign.
Colorful maps swirled on the walls of the huge lobby. Countless globes slowly turned above my head, distracting me until I bumped into someone standing in the only long line in the building, which led into the Large Weather Events Office. I wasn’t going to wait in that.
Up on a balcony above, I spotted a door with just a few people waiting outside. I climbed the stairs, got in line, and only a few minutes later, success! My request to the Tiny Weather Moments Office was in.
As I left the office, I pictured your smiling face when the early autumn breeze I requested would rustle the leaves in the front yard outside your house, carrying the smell of apples, and cooling your ears in the same way the air did every fall growing up.
But later that day, when the big moment finally came, and the breeze met your face, you were still… hardened. Your eyes froze, and your breath quivered. You shook even though it was warm out.
I went back to the Tiny Weather Moments Office on Wednesday, searching my mind to try and cook up something better this time. But as I clicked my pen above the clipboard over and over, what I’d seen the day before finally caught up with me. I have no idea if any of the requests I put in will actually make you happy. I hope they do. But if they don’t, I get it.
So tomorrow, there’s supposed to be a sunbeam reflecting off a perfect, crunchy oak leaf on the driveway as your bicycle tire rolls over it. And the day after that, if they don’t mess this one up, there should be a blended purple and pink sunset outside the window and between the trees, when you need a distraction from doing your taxes. You’re supposed to be able to hear the frogs and the nearby creek at that same time, but the person in the office was kind of inattentive when I’d told him that part, and I couldn’t tell if he really got it or not.
But these moments don’t belong to me. Whatever you do with any of them, is all yours.
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.
Jalil Kazerooni is an Iranian artist. He infuses his art with his passion for archeology and history. He sees his work as a way to reveal stories that lie all around us, hidden in cracks and rust. you can find more of his work at instagram.com/jalilkazerooni
You will not be born for many years.
But I want to tell you who you are.
You carry stories from five continents
in your blood.
You have travelled from
Afghanistan to India
India to New York
New York to Oklahoma
Oklahoma to California.
You have travelled from
the Philippines to San Francisco.
And from El Salvador to San Francisco.
You were brought
from West Africa, in shackles,
to the United States, ending up in Oklahoma.
The parts of you met here in California
where stories upon stories speak to each other
My precious grandchild,
If you are a girl
I will give you my saris
that unfold like silk rivers,
saris my grandmother folded into her suitcase
and flew to New Jersey
where she died
right before I married your grandfather in Oakland.
My beautiful grandchild,
It is 2018.
Your father is still a child
growing into a man.
He has not yet fallen in love.
Not yet had his heart broken.
I can only pray and trust
that you will someday be born.
I cannot promise you much.
It is 2018
and the town of Paradise has burned to the ground
and even in San Francisco,
we have breathed its particles.
Your dad has asthma.
He has struggled to breathe.
I wonder now where I will take you
to experience majesty and awe,
Yosemite, with its silver granite cliffs,
Will its trees burn away?
Will its winter snow become yearly rains?
Tassajara , where I go to meditate
and write poetry by the creek?
Last year, the fires came to its edges,
and smoke filled the valley.
And our own Crissy Field?
Will the tides rise and swallow it up?
Where then, will I take you to look for sand crabs?
If the snowpack runs dry
What will we drink?
Will the bees still be around to pollinate our fruit trees
and give us precious honey?
I cannot promise you much.
All I have is my voice and my poem.
I speak for the trees.
I speak for the air.
I ride a bicycle.
I can grow vegetables.
I can speak to the Divine.
She is the ultimate healer.
I speak for you.
My infinite love,
Tehmina Khan has taught science to preschoolers and citizenship to octogenarians, and she now teaches English and Poetry for the People at CCSF. 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.
Natalia was born and raised in Poland. She is a Graphic Design student at CCSF. She loves to meet and learn from people from all corners of the world. Natalia is passionate about craftsmanship in design. The Drop Cap letter is a metaphor of her past and present life.
Theyyams A ritual form of worship in Kerala where gods and goddesses enter the earthly realm by possessing the body of a dancer.
Temple courtyard, Kerala
Aniyara: the changing room
Still as chameleons changing
colors, they await
their transformation from just
one more painter in the city
nine months of the year,
to goddesses in their village shrine.
Their faces, milky-red, inscribed
with yantric cosmologies,
make them one
with the stars, enormous
eyes plummeting them
to depths where consciousness
sleeps and wakes.
A mountain, vast as Meru,
sit atop of their heads,
the ocean, where gods
churned Amrit, swirl
around their waists.
Tonight, on the border,
where farm greets forest,
the land glistens,
an ocean burning light.
Tonight, a thousand injustices
festering, bring brahmins
and dalits alike,
to this dalit shrine.
Farmers with broken faces,
empty wells with water stolen
reappearing in locked city taps,
money lenders, sweet vendors,
home-makers and mothers,
bored children in tow,
the odd tourist with camera
come with his city guide
village customs in a Western light—
all come to behold
Makkam and Puliyor Kali
inhabit the earthly bodies
of theyyam dancers,
come for blessings,
for good deeds and bad,
for the goddesses to
with their shimmering
beauty, dark fury.
Ready at last, the dancer
dressed as Makkam
looks in the mirror—
window opening to the sky.
At that very instant, the goddess
stops by in the sky, sees
her face in the mirror:
fanged mouth to devour
constellations, enormous eyes
that see beyond seeing.
A flash—faces blur, dissolve.
In the blink of a sky’s eye,
the world turns over
as Makkam slips through
the doorway of the dancer’s eyes,
electrifies his inert body
into cosmic motion.
good and evil flaring from
her slanted stare,
Makkam hisses and spits
one mountain step at a time—
to the thunder of the chendu
lightening of veeni.
Singers tell her story:
when the mighty Makkam
was a mere mortal woman
falsely accused of adultery
beheaded, along with her children
in a dark, deep well
streaked with red—
like the red ribbons that once tied
her oil-glistening plaits.
Tonight, she dances—
a flickering flame lapping
the edges of the world.
She unfurls her fury—
skirt of fire
in her burning third eye
as she admonishes:
You—murderers of female fetuses
You—rapists in light and dark
In homes, on the streets, on rumbling buses
You—demanders of dowry with advanced degrees,
You—voyeurs looking on in silence.
Take heed! I am all
women, and all women are
Makkam. I see you all
with daggers in my eyes.
Open your eyes—
See the darkness inside you.
I am coming for you!
Goddess Puliyoor Kali, the tiger goddess
Waiting in the wings,
a second dancer looks
into his mirror just as Makkam
takes her leave. Within seconds,
the goddess Puliyoor Kali
steps inside his eyes.
Her fire spreads across
his body as she leaps
into the courtyard.
Gamboling with the goddess’
giant steps, burning stripes,
a thousand smiles of gold
and lightning, suns track
around her head.
She purrs, snarls, growls
and with a deep, throaty roar
demands to know:
Where have all
the brave hearts gone?
When I along with
my four tiger brothers,
broke into a cattle shed,
heroic human soul,
fought them and died
protecting his friend’s cows.
Today, our mother cries
mountain peaks of tears
for lost forests and groves—
for Akli, its pale yellow flowers
for Aini, hardy sustainers of boats.
Arayal, sacred heart-leaves fluttering
Peral, sprawling tree city
with branches for walls—
but no one listens.
Elephant, leopard, crocodile, tiger—
reduced to bags and shoes.
Only the oceans that dance
around my waist are full—
brimming plastic,oil and tears.
Swirling cartwheels of fire,
Puliyor Kali’s roar reverberates
through the forest.
Inside the cochlea of a shell,
sea meets shore. Yet,
non-believers still ignore
her dying roar.
Spent, the dancers crawl out
of their mountain dresses.
They remember nothing
of the dances, the goddesses
that spoke just a few minutes ago
through their mouths and bodies.
The crowds are already
starting to disperse.
Children nag to go
back to their televisions,
the tourist comes by
for a few final shots.
He thrusts a few rupees
into their hands. They take it,
ask for more.
Soon, the dancers must return
back to the city to repay
accumulated village debts,
back to scraping filth
from crumbling walls,
their own skin that can never
come clean. Already,
they long to return
to their village, return
their bodies back to the gods,
for them to make manifest
the world’s untold grievances
inscribed over centuries
with their bodies–
the goddesses pen—Ishika
rhythms, dynamic motion
the cosmic script.
Athena Kashyap is the author of Crossing Black Waters (SFA Press, 2012) and Sita’s Choice (SFA Press, 2019), both collections of linked poems exploring borders and women’s issues in India respectively. She was born in India, but currently makes her home in San Francisco, where she teaches English at City College of San Francisco.
One day there was a girl who climbed an overpass and looked down on the interstate. She stood at the edge, holding the railing. A squadron of police cars gathered below her, and a man called up to her with a megaphone, remarking that she ought to think about those who love her, and offering her various quid pro quos—don’t jump and we’ll. His name, he told her, was Lieutenant Candy. Candy? Kandi? Khandee? No first name. She squinted. He was of ambiguous ethnicity. He had thick grey hair and black eyebrows and a mustache. Why do they all have mustaches? “I want a cigarette!” she called down. An officer of the law shimmied out to where she stood and gave her one. He was sweating as he lit it. She held herself by her fingertips, suspended over the interstate, and because of that he held his hand up as though to say whoa, whoa, and backed away. She laughed. She didn’t even smoke. The negotiator, Lieutenant Candy, said: Life is one tragedy after another—everybody knows it—everybody’s felt it, in a resigned voice, as though he himself had been up here above the interstate, contemplating a handful of pills, behind the business end of a gun, and had made the life choice. It was hackneyed, but she almost came down because of it. You are not alone, on the other hand, and she almost jumped from the sheer bullshit. How do you know? The traffic was backed up as far as the eye could see. Do it already! shouted a frustrated motorist, and a plainclothesman pointed at him sternly through the car window with his cop sunglasses. The sun was high in the sky. It could have been worse, traffic-wise: they were still a few hours from rush hour. She would be cleaned up by then, probably, but then again, what did she know? Maybe there was a chalk outline had to be made and then photos and whatnot, a whole beaurocracy. She wasn’t up on her police procedurals. It struck her with what little knowledge she had gone into this enterprise. Mr. Candy shielded his eyes with his free hand. He was the only one not wearing sunglasses, and the girl assumed this was because he wanted her to be able to see his eyes. He did have kind eyes, as far as she could tell from up here, the sort of eyes you want in a negotiator. All at once the woman wasn’t sure. Her resolve, so strong moments before—and hours and days and years—wavered, and she felt tears come hot and humongous and rolling, and she felt fright at her predicament.
But everything’s attracted by its own end. The girl let go. She experienced a thrilling, frightening moment of weightlessness. Then she accelerated. She remembered, ridiculously, from a physics class she’d almost failed, that she was accelerating at 9.8 meters per second per second. Meaning, she thought, that each second she was going 9.8 meters a second faster than the previous second (right?). She was surprised by how nice acceleration felt, and regretted all at once that she didn’t have longer, farther, to fall. It was a nice day she’d chosen. Sky bejeweled with plump little clouds. On the way down, she thought she heard the man who’d jilted her call out, Watch out for that…! But his voice failed to move her. He was, she realized with regret, not worth this gesture, this falling off the overpass gesture. Then she thought about her parents, who’d been helpless in the face of her mountainous sadness, and she felt sad all over again, a sharp pointed little anguish like acupuncture needles in her spleen. They wanted to have been good parents, Maud and Dick. They’d been less interested in becoming good parents. They didn’t love the future tense. Remorse, they’d wallowed in it. It was more fascinating to them than she was. So stately, their self-mortification. Nevertheless, I love you, parents, she thought, as though giving a speech from a balcony, gesturing benedictions over the whole crowd, the freeway, the patrol cars with their spinning lights, her whole audience: I love you all!
Falling, and the sped-up air excited. Her shirt flapped. Her own heartbeat was in her cheeks, a heartbeat, she knew, that had a finite number of beats left. Sam used to take her pulse. He’d turn her toward him, catch her wrist, and lay two fingers against the blue veins there. She said, “What are you doing?” and he answered, “Shhh.” That was during his residency, when he came home forgetting that he still had a stethoscope around his neck. She’d put her fingers against her neck, and they stood still, listening to her heart. “What’s it telling you?” she asked. He said, “Nothing unusual.” That was the problem.
The girl thought suddenly, with a twinge of anger, about getting kicked out of her ritzy high school because of the boy she’d been caught with up against a column at a school dance, her dress pulled up to her waist. (What was his name? Something biblical: Aaron or Ezekiel). She didn’t notice the assistant principal coming up to them, because her eyes were closed in strain or rapture (she didn’t remember which: everything in high school was somewhere on that continuum). Double standard! Nothing happened to the boy, but it was Catholic school for her, where she didn’t get in trouble again because a wooly sadness had started to envelop her like a wet winter coat, and rebellion just didn’t seem worth the effort. At Catholic school she had a classmate, Margaret, who played the harp. She was some kind of a prodigy or some such, went on National tours, and the girl thought of Margaret’s face when she was playing the harp. It was almost goofy in its concentration, but hard to laugh at because it was obvious what Margaret was doing was deadly serious to her. Some boys laughed anyway, and the falling girl remembered feeling a deep despair in her soul that people could laugh at a serious thing and if they could what was the point of doing serious things, or indeed any things? She’d envied Margaret the harp and all its attendant meanings. She didn’t have the sense of a future that was worth working toward. And then at a party Margaret got her fingers caught in the garage door—going up, it lifted her clean off the ground—and after that her hands were too broken to play. They canceled her performance at the commencement ceremony. Margaret went to the same college as the falling woman. They didn’t speak once aside from a hello here and there in the hall. The girl heard later that Margaret died of an overdose. It had been her first introduction to death and decay, and to be honest she’d been a little romanced by it. “I knew her,” she’d said. “That girl and I used to be good friends,” she’d said, which hadn’t been strictly (or remotely) true. She didn’t remember being sad at the time of Margaret’s death, but now when she thought about Margaret and the one-by-one snuffing out of dreams and plans made her feel, well… it was self-evident, the falling girl thought, how she felt. The falling made it so.
Sam was the first man she made love to whom she loved. Confident, he was her first great lover. Good rhythm, that’s what he had, maybe because he was a medical student and well-acquainted with the tempos of bodies, and well acquainted with her entirely average heart. But Sam, Sam was so long ago… the one who jilted her was fresher in her mind. A last straw is what she had told herself. He didn’t deserve this gesture.
(Here’s the ground, OOP. Not a pain exactly, but a not-rightness on the left side of her body. The arm, the leg, maybe she’d…)
No longer the falling girl. Now the fallen. All the thoughts in her head fell, too, like type in a drawer that’s fallen, that the girl remembered was… “pied”? Pied was the chaos of lead letters that have fallen out of the typesetter’s case. At the ritzy school she’d taken an elective in which she learned to use a letterpress. Memories bled out of her and as she struggled to gather them, to order them, she had a sudden thought: semaphore? Something she’d used to do? Flags and… legs and arms and a red-and-white outfit. A telegraphy system to convey information at a distance using…
(Could she really have already hit the ground? She wasn’t done falling! Words… come. Not easy).
…Visual signals with hand-held flags which… Yes, she’d done a summer of semaphore. There had been a patchy field, and mosquito bites on her ankles like Morse cold. Not cold. Morse code. Transmission of messages around the field and why on earth did her parents have her do semaphore? What makes people think of what they think of. Rhetorical. Question. Her right arm with the flag had gotten more tired than the left.
(She could only move her right arm. Her left was heavy as the deep).
Sometimes she still thought words out in semaphore when she was especially bored, like in group therapy at the hospital. During every moment of her six hospitalizations, when the clock crept slow and the minutes mocked, she’d subtly lifted her arms, lowered them, as though they had flags in them. The hospital seemed to have a philosophy about extending life by slowing it. The hospital made life into an asymptote: it bisected the minutes into infinity. Y equals one half X, where every second stretched out longer and flatter along the axis, but never met zero. She thought about the one who’d jilted her—his smell like hay in the sun, the smile that burst all over his whole face, his whole body, like a sun, warm, a life-giving force. In group she moved her arms in arcs: right arm straight, left arm left, angled down; right arm straight, left arm right angled up; right arm straight, left arm left, angled down. S.O.S.
She’d written a note this morning and posted it to her parents with a Save the Rainforest stamp. “I’m a waste of space and money,” she’d said. (Ugh: maudlin). And, “There’s something wrong with my brain. It’s broken. I’d like to donate my brain to science.” She wished she’d written another fig. Another thing.
I love you parents, it’s not your fault.
Language leaked out and pooled around her head. Shapes—blurry. Motes floated. So this is the end. Dust spread from a focus in her visual field and wiggled out of sight. (Focus, Foci. Lat, N., masc. A hearth, a fireplace, an altar. Latin at the Catholic school. Catholic at the Latin school). A sudden deep and dreadful sense of meaning flooded her, more lovely than any harp, and her heart lit up like a fireplace, like an altar. Bitterer because it might be her last. And in a sense her first. A fatal fall finally makes life feel falluable. Valuable. And it is, isn’t it? Valuable? Precious, even? See it drain—try holding it in cupped hands—but hands won’t cup.
Mother, father, peace and blessings upon you. I forgive you. Do you forgive? Sam, are you there? Come and take my purse.
And you, boy who jilted, with the sun-warm smell, with the fingertip you kissed and pressed against my lips like my body was an altar, in whose pale arms I nestled, a child again. I loved. But this is hate. I’m sorry for this entirely wrong gesture.
There’s blood still surging around in here. In the donate-to-science brain. In the entirely average heart. Lay your stethoscope against my breast. Be gentle. And Margaret. Play your… harp. And you, scorner, do I hear your voice? Why did it take death to give life, finally, this gravitas? Life—stop unspooling. Come back. I order you.
And just like that Lieutenant Candy was above the fallen girl. She stared in wonder. She’d never seen someone so beautiful and terrible. An angel made of pure light. A mustachioed angel. Death gives you this. It takes away semaphore and letterpress and Latin, lovers and doctors, sense and trajectory and words, but it gives you this: a huge rough-hewn angel of your very own, offering something. A choice. Lieutenant Candy had big pores on his nose. His lip was a little twisted, like perhaps a bar fight had gone away. Gone awry. His eyes, flashing with blind kindness, took her into a fierce embrace and squeezed like a boa constrictor.
He leaned in, squatting, supporting himself with his hands to get close enough to her face.
“That was a magnificent jump,” he said quietly. It was exactly what she’d been thinking, longing to be back in the jump.
“Lieutenant!” an officer behind him admonished.
“Step back,” said Lieutenant Candy over his shoulder. He came in close again. “I’ve never seen a jump so beautiful. You should go to the Olympics.”
If only I could do it again—different outcome. The life choice—she made it now. Too late for that but there’s also this other. Something was pooling beneath her. Deliver me. From. She lifted her right hand part way and pointed at her lip.
“The mustache?” he said. Of course angels read minds. “People always ask. We wear them so we can rub menthol into them. Sometimes things don’t smell so good. Not now.” he shrugged. “But sometimes.”
Gratitude flooded the whole right side of her body. She tried to nod.
“The ambulance is almost here,” said the angel. He pushed her bangs from her forehead and took her right hand. “The doctors are waiting. I’ve seen it all so I know what will happen. They can put you back together.”
His hand was hot and hard and full of purpose, and he laced his fingers in hers.
“You have to want to live,” he said. “Do you? Don’t nod.”
With her remaining strength, she squeezed the angel’s hand.
Saramanda Swigart has an MFA from Columbia University, with a supplementary degree in literary translation. Her work has appeared in Oxford Magazine, Superstition Review, The Alembic, Border Crossing, Expanded Field, Hypertrophic Press, Saranac Review, and Euphony. Her first novel, Meaning Machine, is currently out for consideration. She teaches at CCSF.
As a Philippine-born visual artist, I continue to explore concepts of identity and of home through the lens of the Filipino diaspora. My work draws from Western art history, Filipino and American cultures, post-colonial life, and pop culture.
What a joy to walk to school,
A path well-trod, to and fro,
Past the bus and street car stop,
Dumping loads of molding minds,
For me a bid to keep from molding.
Ring of the rails, the breaking buses
Ptishshsh, ktoooshah, whiiish.
Unity Plaza our common ground
from bus to coffee to class,
Tabled chaired talkers in full throat,
A mixed multitude, pods of Chinese kids
one fourth my age. Flirtatious youth
studying, soaking up the sun and each other.
Grannies with rollaways and canes,
Homeless dragging houses behind them.
No suits, more stick figures than six figures.
Clacking of skate boards crash the air,
As I set to walk into the clatter
a reared up board and boy tumble at me,
The trick not meant to crash old men.
His “sorry, sorry” met with my brush off.
Walking away he yells something about
old white men, I turn to his “you heard me.”
Angry young man of color liberating his grudge.
But that evening I could only puzzle,
The irony of a cat call about whitey
three days after eleven of my tribe were
massacred by a lone white supremacist
while in our sacred place at peace in prayer.
Since retirement Corey Weinstein has devoted himself to his passions of clarinet and poetry, playing with the Or Shalom music ensemble, chamber groups and his neighborhood jazz band. He published two CDs and wrote a play, Erased: Babi Yar, the SS and Me performed in 2016 to commemorate the 1941 massacre at Babi Yar.
Bernadette Bohan is a multidisciplinary artist and renaissance woman, not only topping her long-standing fine art career with new recycled, museum-ready collection of pop-art pieces but she is also a singer-songwriter, musician, writer, performance and installation artist, dancer, talk-show host and activist. She is a member of both Ducal and Imperial Councils and on the leadership team of the Comfort & Joy non-profit. She has raised awareness and thousands of dollars for amazing causes in the Bay Area and beyond. Her impact and influence on the art scene in San Francisco is fierce and pertinent, contemporary and charismatic.
Light’s rays recede
Melds into azure
Blue hues deepen
Silent silver specks
Fireflies or faeries
Emerge as stars
Cycle in turn
Thomas A. E. Hesketh
I was born in Toronto, Canada, on a cusp, last millennium; none of it was my fault. Most of the things that have happened to me have happened to other persons, too. Coincidence!?!? I enjoy poetry because of its verbal range, except the caesuras, and chess because it is non-verbal, until one talks about it alpha-numerically. P-Q4.
This piece, titled “Neptune,” is inspired by the eighth and farthest known planet from the sun in the solar system and its moon- Triton. With its vast detail and intricacies, Neptune is primarily composed of ice and rocks, which can be seen in the abstraction of this piece.
i was reminded by
the totems of time
that hold up my mind
of two hunks of cold grey stone
where we sat stoned
watching fresh steel soar
cutting the sky without consent
bleeding oracles foretold
and you said this city is
dying dead death
eyes fogged with routine
unaware of the other side of
the side that’s not so nice to hear
the one that says
for this mess
for lives led on sidewalks
for roofs forcibly removed
for concrete coffins carved
for weeks without warmth
for months that look like years
on spirits beaten
and faces distressed
for this mess
Anna Sergeeva is an interdisciplinary artist born in Ukraine and currently based in San Francisco.
“I draw and create art to tune into a deeper sense of calm. It is a meditative practice to allow my attention to focus completely in the present moment through whatever is being created on the page.”
veronique fleming is a local artist currently living on the city island of alameda.
I could have gone to work, driven with windows open
rain, tiny pins on my face; traffic, slow and easy
I would have missed the news: the houses falling into the hole
like old tinker toys in a child’s sandbox
I could have driven all morning,
tree parts sucked into my car’s grill
a fallen branch here; a crushed car there
picture the tree crashing right through
the house where that family used to watch tv
now a sunken living room, furniture boats adrift
ballerina with dirty toe shoes pirouetting into the earth
the scene of the Seine, French-like and elegant
trees and stumps, broken plaster of Paris
paint mixed with mud, Moulin Rouge dripping
toys askew, broken, shattered, split
the happy clown cracks the big log legs
I used to play Cootie, putting the arms on, then the eyes,
the ears, then joyfully pulling them apart, bloodless and clean
I could have glanced casually out my windows
the winds blowing peoples’ lives apart, bits of their history
riding a gust to town, the garbage cans flying by,
like little soldiers in the war-torn streets
you would have laughed at how warm I looked
in my warm-ups drinking mocha decaf
I’m a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing. I’m a former student of CCSF and taught at CCSF for 36 years. When I was a student in the 1960s I was editor of FORUM and was lucky enough to have a few poems published.
Joseph Johnston has been taking photography classes at City College since 2011. He has won the top photography price of the department, the Cherkis Award, for a photo-story about a family member dealing with alcoholism and drug addiction. One of his current projects is a sympathetic depiction of homeless people.
What does that really mean
The physical mental social
And not merely the absence of disease
And not merely the absence of infirmities
But in this environment
Where the mentally challenged are seen as weak
Where it’s easier to hide our vulnerabilities
Because that’s what we were taught
To repress our thoughts
To live problem-free
Or at least appear problem-free
We encourage patients to exercise
But look at our diets
Look at our diets
If health is wealth
Then many of us are poor
But we continue to ignore
is an issue
We’re taught empathy
And at the same time to not take things so personally
The personal crosses dangerous boundaries
So we depersonalize
We detach ourselves from the crowd
Outside longing for somebody to notice their pain
And the reminder calls begin to sound the same
Like customer service looped tapes
“Hi this is Maria from the Over 60 Health Center, How may I help you?
Your appointment’s at 2
Your appointment’s at 8
Have a good day!”
Next! The medical assistant calls
There goes the patient treatment assembly line
One pill here, one pill there.
And this goes on every 15 minutes
And this goes on every day
They open their doors to those
With gold and silver
But if he can’t afford health
They don’t deliver
If every human life has equal value
Why does the term, “pediatrics,” ring bells
But the word, “geriatrics,” sing silence
If every human life has equal value
Why are some still at the sidelines?
And to be healed
How long must we wait?
And to be healed
Are pills the only way?
Health isn’t just bandaging a paper cut
Or casting a broken arm
It’s also about mending spirits
And sending “Are you okay?” messages
To those that need to hear it
And health doesn’t merely happen in clinics
With doctors and stethoscopes
And formal white coats
Health happens in our homes
A place to feel warm and safe
to return to at the end of our days
Health happens in schools
When the 6th grader gets ready for PE
and when the 5th grader finally stands up to his bully
Health happens when we’re outdoors
Inhaling fresh air (inhale)
and exhaling despair (exhale)
Health happens at the grocery stores
Will it be carrot sticks on aisle one?
or corn chips on aisle four?
So if you tell me that health happens in a 10×10 exam room
I’d say, “Well – homes, parks, and schools…”
These are healthcare settings too
These are healthcare settings too
Maria double majored in Rhetoric and Social Welfare at UC Berkeley. During her free time, she enjoys spending time with nature, playing badminton, and eating string cheese. Of course, all of these are better with friends and family.