Looking for authors, poets, and visual artists for our Spring publication! Open to all artists and writers in the Bay Area! Deadline: February 27, 2019. Submission guidelines here.
Four Trees for a Name
by Zach Hauptman
Firsts are powerful. They’re seeds devouring the last of their nutrients to grow towards sunlight. They follow patterns laid out by the lines of the universe–a riot of roots that grow into flowers, the first thorn on a blackberry bush precisely placed, even when the thorn pierces a thumb.
But firsts are deceptive. Energy undirected can kill. Split cells become cancerous.
The Fair Folk devour firsts, are made of energy in potentia. Follow their promises on the lines laid out exactly and reap the benefits. Step off the path and never find your way home again.
This is why humans are such fascinating creatures. Potential energy is converted to action, breaking patterns and putting them back together. Creative energy is the peculiar synthesis of habit and creation. Beneath the bark of our defenses, the fae, like mistletoe, seem young and soft but are deadly and pointed towards the heart.
* * *
In the earliest memories, all you knew was the pair of iron shears hung with red ribbon above your crib, a mobile that you watched turn in air currents. And then you closed your eyes and slept.
* * *
This is what happened the first time you met a fairy.
You were six, and finally allowed to sit on your own horse at the Golden Gate Park Carousel. Your hands were sticky from the bar of pink popcorn your mothers bought, and you left fingerprints on the mane of your caramel-colored horse. The only things you knew about fairies were what you learned from Peter Pan, and even then you knew better than to believe technicolor lies.
The horse was one of the ones that didn’t move, so you could watch the dingy carousel glass and line of children waiting for their turn without getting sick and falling off. Somewhere on the third rotation, you saw, in a space between older children, something broken with glassine skin and wings that sputtered and flapped at the wrong angles.
With the bravery of a small child, you climbed down from your horse. Probably it was a good thing that the carousel was coming to a stop then, because even now you’re not sure you wouldn’t have just taken a leap of faith off the platform. Maybe your mothers called to you, but you had eyes for cotton candy blue dandelion hair and wings with edges that stuck out at 90 degree angles but somehow still managed to fly just far enough ahead of you that you had to run a little to catch up across the expanse of pavement. It settled beneath a tree, the sweep of dirt and grass extending out to lap at the edge of the sidewalk.
“I want to play with you,” it said, and it had too many teeth. “Tell me your name.”
When your mothers swept you into their arms, two steps into the span of dirt and just before the line of flat-capped yellow mushrooms curved into an uneven oval, the fairy hissed and bared silver needle fangs. It sounded too loud, as though you’d left the sounds of shrieking kids at the carousel far away.
At school the next day, the wind whipped your hair into knots so tight your mothers had to cut them out, and the scrape on your leg from where you fell off the swings looked like a hemicircle of too sharp teeth.
The iron nail sat beside your backpack the next day and, though your mothers never said anything, you pocketed it and hugged them both.
OUT WITH ITALIANS
EXT. SANTA REY – DAY – ESTABLISHING
A small fishing town in the San Francisco Bay Area. December 7, 1941.
INT. LINO’S APARTMENT – PARLOR – NIGHT
A small, simple apartment. LINO NOCCI, 35, wiry, handsome, a scar along the left half of his jawline, stands staring at his radio. An Italian-speaking announcer is talking about the Pearl Harbor bombing.
ANNOUNCER (V .O.)
Il bombardamento di Pearl Harbor denudera il gran buffone d’Italia, Benito Mussolini. La debolezza di Mussolini sara esposto per il mondo. Il nemico di tutt’italiani, il pazzo detestato stara disfatto. Mussolini …
The announcer is cut off in mid-sentence. There’s KNOCKING at the front door.
Lino turns the radio’s knob but gets only static. The KNOCKING gets LOUDER.
(heavy Italian accent)
Why you no break down?
FBI AGENT #1 (O.S.)
Lino Nocci. FBI . Open up or we will.
Who you are?
FBI AGENT #1 (O.S.)
Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Lino hurries away from the door. Continue reading “Screenplay: Out With Italians [Excerpt] by Tony Bianco”
by Ana Sjobon
Clara como a luz
que irradia do sol
Clara me conduz
mesmo me deixando só
Ela já se foi
mas é dificil acreditar
a saudade me corrói
pois me ensinou a caminhar
ás vezes sinto sua presença
me da forças e me acalma
como uma bússola que guia minha alma
sou seu legado
sua partida não foi em vão
seu exemplo é minha motivação
by Ana Sjobon
Bright as a light
That resonates from the sun
So bright that guide’s me
Even when on my own
She is already gone
And it’s hard to believe
Your absence corrodes me
As you taught me to live
Sometimes i feel your presence
It strengths and sooths me
Like a compass for the soul
I’m your legacy
Your departure was not in vain
Your example is my motivation
Ana Sjobon is a Business major student at CCSF.
Critically Acclaimed Poet Graces City College’s Mission Campus
By Adina Pernell
Mary Szybist, the second guest in the City College Visiting Writers Series, is a critically acclaimed poet whose numerous awards and accolades include being a Pushcart Prize winner, and whose most recent book “Incarnadine” won the National Book Award for Poetry.
“Incarnadine” is a book of poems revealing the many sides of the biblical Mary, often told through the lens of ordinary women.
Its cover features a depiction of the Annunciation, where according to biblical lore, the angel Gabriel tells Mary she would give birth to the Son of God. Szybist admitted that the image “dominated her imagination.”
“I grew up with this scene of the Annunciation; with the name Mary, in a Catholic household. I went to the church of Annunciation and my best friend’s name was Gabriella,” she said.
John Isles, the City College English professor who hosted Szybist’s reading, welcomed her by projecting the Annunciation scene. “I am blown away by ‘Incarnadine,’” he said.
Isles introduced a poem from “Incarnadine” titled “Girls Overheard While Assembling a Puzzle.” Its surreal, maze-like construction reads like a puzzle in structure. It depicts two young girls contemplating the idea of the biblical Mary and the complexity of faith and religion.
“It is not a spectator’s sport. You are involved in it, putting the puzzle together of the poem as you read it,” Isles said.
From the book, Szybist read “Annunciation: Eve to Ave” along with other attendees. The poem challenges the idea of “bad Eve” verses “good Mary”—what Szybist called a “terrible dualism.”
The symbolism and imagery of Szybist’s poems leave a lasting impression, and many audience members were fans of her work.
“Her poetry does not let go. It is so committed to exploring an idea, like a mathematical proof; her poems continue to look at the world long after others have moved on,” said Cynthia Slates, coordinator for the City College Writer’s Certificate.
Later that evening, in a candid interview after the event, Szybist added insight into what “Incarnadine” meant to her.
“Well, it is the color red,” Szybist said. “And I came to the term though Macbeth, and about that moment as I described before when he had blood on his hands. And he is trying to grapple with his own guilt and wash that blood off his hands—that feels he could ‘the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red…” That sense of washing…”
Cullen Bailey Burns, an English department faculty member and poet introduced by Isles during the interview, asked for Szybist’s autograph.
Burns, a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in poetry, most recently published a reflective volume of poems titled “Slip.”
The poignant moment of one poet getting another’s autograph only served to highlight the impact Szybist has had on the literary world.
Szybist continued after graciously signing Burns’ copy of “Incarnadine.”
When asked whether The National Book Committee’s quote that “Incarnadine” is “a religious book for nonbelievers, or a book of necessary doubts for the faithful” is accurate, she responded by saying, “that is my hope for what the book is.” “
“[‘Incarnadine’] wants to find a way to think about how religion might still be of use to us, even if it’s not through the lense of belief.”
Szybist’s casting of the biblical Mary is not an archetypal representation of the divinity of femininity.
“I’m interested in creating multiple and alternate versions of the figure of Mary. So part of what is so dramatic [and] so often repeated is that she is supposed to be all-pure. She’s supposed to be a virgin, and a mother,” Szybist said.
She paused and pursed her lips, creating a silence so pregnant with meaning that we both laughed at her statement before she continued.
“These are impossible ideals, right. And when women are measured against them, we fail,” Szybist said.
“And this has hurt women very much, internally and in our lives. So my ambition wasn’t to try and say ‘not this one, here’s the other.’ It was to try to put some chinks in that old idea by creating new ones.”
When asked which poem was most representative of “Incarnadine” as a whole, Szybist adamantly expressed her viewpoint of Mary’s personality as multifaceted.
“[In] ‘Incarnadine,’ I am interested in the world and how this mystery [is] grappled with in real incarnated ways. I sort of was playfully thinking, well what if I was to imagine it as a puzzle? I imagined what was putting the puzzle together. And what messages this kind of scene is sending to young girls especially? I was also thinking… in the Bible story, Mary would have been really young. We forget that. Mary would probably have been about their age.”
She spoke of the two young girls envisioning Mary and reflected on her creation of them. She looked off into the distance, as if she was seeing them.
Adina Pernell is a sometime singer, sometime journalist, occasional poet, random author and dreamer. She has been a CCSF student for the past few years.
by Alexandra Saba
Oh how selfless and true we could be if we only learned to communicate more effectively.
Oh me, oh my, oh dear
how our words spill carelessly
dribble like mother’s milk from a babe’s mouth.
We can plant these seeds carefully if we hold them in steady hands,
dig holes with intention.
Mend pains of nonchalance
Reckon healing with sedulously poised letters
balanced on cracked lips.
Alex Saba is a poet and student at CCSF. She enjoys psychedelic trance, dancing in the rain, talking to cats, singing to the moon, and hailing the glow cloud (all hail).
The Almighty Dollar; an essay
by Howard Tharsing
Yesterday afternoon I walked a block or so to the Dollars and Cents store on Eddy Street between Leavenworth and Jones. I had passed it many times but had not gone in. It looked small and dark, and the merchandise had been jammed onto the shelves, some of it apparently long ago. Peering through the window, I could see boxes and cans old enough to have acquired a patina of settled dust over the sun-faded inks of the packaging.
But lately the place has changed, like everything in the T.L. The store it looked bright and open. The big front windows were clean and uncluttered by signs or advertisements; the new wire shelving inside finished with shining chrome; the goods new; and the packaging brightly colored. The floor was bare concrete but well-scrubbed, perhaps even polished and buffed, like the floors of some fashionable high-end shops I knew in Manhattan during the 1980s.
As I wandered through the aisles looking for toothpaste, I found a few other things that I had been needing (e.g., scouring powder, petroleum jelly) but had not felt that I could afford. Here, however, for a mere dollar each, I could easily buy them without breaking my budget. I even found paper plates, which are tremendously useful not only for serving a meal but also for cooking in a microwave, the only appliance allowed in my SRO hotel room. I had passed them up at Safeway many times because I could not justify spending $5.00 on them. I had been making-do with paper towels and the like for over six months. But now I could buy a package of 10 without worry.
The Dollar and Cents store is now a clean, well-lighted space, with merchandise arranged neatly. The shopper can see what is available easily — and see that it is clean and new. And the soft-spoken, helpful Latino man at the register, neatly dressed all in black, his hair perfectly combed, his skin shining with good health, made me feel completely at home.
Something seated deeply within me relaxed in a way that I had not relaxed in over a year. I felt that I was seen to be sane, responsible, and connected to the world around me. I felt respected, and I moved more easily, with the solidity of our natural dignity.
All this for $6.40.
In the course of my year on the streets, I had found something similar at MacDonald’s. I imagine that most folks do not notice the Dollar Menu offered in every MacDonald’s restaurant, but those of us trying to find ways to keep body and soul together on next to nothing — sometimes as little as $10 a day for everything — understand the importance of this special group of items.
Everything on the Dollar Menu is priced at just $1. Among them are a MacDouble hamburger (with cheese), a chicken sandwich, and a truly delicious side salad. This salad consists of spring greens, cherry tomatoes, and a few other treats and comes with a choice of dressings, including my favorite, Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette. You can also get a large glass of sweet iced tea or a Parfait for dessert. All for $1 each.
I have a big appetite and usually order two MacDoubles and the side salad. Sometimes when I am heading home to a prepared dinner from Project Open Hand, I stop at MacDonald’s just to buy a side salad to have with my frozen dinner. Believe me, it is nigh on to impossible to get fresh vegetables in your diet when you are poor. A supermarket salad bar, at $3 or $4 per pound, cannot even be contemplated in the abstract. One comes to know that such things are not meant for folks like oneself.
But MacDonald’s is there for us, providing fresh bread, red and white meat, healthy beverages, fresh vegetables, and even a sweet little treat to end the meal. A complete meal costs less than $5. There have been evenings — I think of last winter and spring — when I sat in MacDonald’s, eating my dinner, feeling my hunger satisfied and knowing that my body was getting a wide range of nutrients that were necessary to my health, and was moved to tears. This company so often derided as an example of bland, homogenous American corporate culture displacing small, individualized, local establishments and local traditions, had also found in its heart, moving through the hundreds of thousands of people who make up the company world-wide, a true understanding of the needs of poor folk and had responded by providing healthy life-sustaining food at a price we can afford.
And that fact brings me to my last point. These establishments, the Dollar Stores and MacDonald’s and others like them, provide one more necessity of life, one of the most fundamental and profound, and one that cannot be provided by any social, charitable, or government entity or even by caring and selfless individuals.
Everyone needs to feel responsible, to know that she or he can take care of himself or herself. Otherwise we come to feel less than complete, as if we were something other than fully formed, dignified, adult human beings. Only we ourselves, as individuals, can provide this latter necessity by paying for our food, clothing, and other necessities we all need to show up for life day to day. For us poor folk, it is at the Dollar Stores and the MacDonald’s of the world that we find the opportunity to do so. It is there that we can enjoy the deep pleasure of selecting and paying for a few simple things that will help us maintain a respectable appearance, good health, and a sense of contentment with our life.