Javier Zamora was born in El Salvador and immigrated to the United States as a boy. He earned a BA from UC Berkeley and an MFA at NYU and is a 2016-2018 Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Unaccompanied is Zamora’s first poetry collection. His poetry has been featured in numerous magazines and he has received multiple honors including a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship.
Goooooood evening, everyone! It’s your former blog editor, Zach, back at it again~
This blog went dark for a few months over the summer semester between Forum classes. I hope you all had a good June and July with at least a decent amount of relaxation.
CCSF classes started on Monday, so this marks our first ENG 35L/M class of the new semester. We have new staff advisors, new students, and we’re looking forward to getting a whole host of new submissions, from you, for you!
Please welcome Steven Mayers, a veteran Forum advisor, and Chante McCormick, our new advisor for this semester. They and we would like to invite you to SUBMIT TO FORUM MAGAZINE!
Forum, the literary magazine of City College of San Francisco, gives voice to the talented authors, poets and visual artists in our community.
- Short Stories
- Creative Non-fiction
SO I know I said that I’d have this post up “soon”. A week is “soon”, right?
Anyway. We had some really great moments at the Launch Party. Many many many thanks to Adobe Books for being fabulous hosts. Thanks to the Forum Staff who came early to set up (and to Jeremy Williams, who organized the whole thing). Thanks to Jackie Davis-Martin and Saramanda Swigart for beautiful featured readings. And gigantic thanks to everyone who read, and everyone who came!
Look at all these beautiful, amazing human beings! I hope everyone who came left satisfied, and everyone who didn’t have a chance to come can come see us at the next event~!
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. (more…)
Under the Saffron Sun
by Alexander Hudluman
Under the Saffron sun, to the east and west
amidst its brilliance.
A pair of unlikely sun burnt eyes strained forth.
Played upon by the endless mirage trickery.
Misery was surely the desert’s dealing with the devil.
Suffering was its voice and the land told a tale of a hellish wasteland.
Littered with ornamental bones to laugh at the next unsuspecting man.
Death provided the over watch to the many things that didn’t necessarily survive.
Undeterred by other’s heed to the desert’s hostilities.
The man had dug his own grave.
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.