Category Archives: Forum Magazine

Poetry: “Lamentation”, Featuring Image: “Ruth Bader Ginsburg”

Lamentation

 

‘Tis known age comes to each and all who’ve been

But what, I ponder is such change about?

No more, soft babe-in-arms, oh how I miss that skin, 

Like alligator, now, and that fact makes me pout.

A mind, in school days, fast, at last enjoys

Slow cogitation in this elder manifestation

But thick’ning waist, chipping nails; each loss so annoys;

Though very small price to pay for continuation.

In age, youth’s lustrous sheen shuns hair and eyes,

The glow of rose no longer cheers the cheek.

Yet, the twilight owl within this aged breast soon flies

With taloned understanding when deemed time to speak.

          Growing old may be but lamentation;

          And yet, each indignity invites some revelation.

Written By: Claire Heinzelman

About the Author: Claire Heinzelman is enjoying retirement from serial careers of (reverse order) music education, advocacy training for families of children with special needs and corporate finance. To the untrained eye, this progression may not make sense; nonetheless, each chapter has provided a different lens through which to observe life and attempt to capture it on the page.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg_Visual Arts_Acrylic

Visual Art Image Titled “Ruth Bader Ginsberg” By: Ana Lazaro

About the Artist: Ana Lazaro is a San Francisco based artist. She considers herself a world citizen and has, since childhood, had a passion for capturing moods and emotions through her portraiture. Ana’s current work is inspired by her desire to celebrate empowered women making a difference across the globe.

Poetry: “Ten Days”, Featuring Image: “Married to Art”

Ten Days

 

My friend, I write to reach you:

It’s the loneliest thing in the world—

waiting to be found.

 

Days annotate themselves before us,

before we have time to arrive

before we have memorized the

proud trot of

a passing morning.

 

You are behind my eyes, where I lead my life most of the time—

I watch us walk,

bellies hollow, arms

raised In identical obedience,

the last wash of light bleeding from the sky.

 

We are animal-bent on this plane

our angst—

a footnote to the dissertation

the entropy

of hours

winking on our lips but

 

at least we enjoy the moonlight,

the way it trickles down our throats like laughter

We open our mouths for luck and

the sharp crease between us blurs for a little while

 

We are masters at knocking things over

 

Written By: Eva Langman

About the Author: Eva has lived and worked in San Francisco since 2002, when she moved from her hometown of New York City for the promise of gold. She learned to love music and poetry through her grandfather, who wrote and composed original songs that they sang together on Russian radio when Eva was little. For the last 12 years, she has been teaching drama and creative writing to young people, who sometimes ask her if she is a “real” adult.

Married to Art Grace Jones_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art Piece Titled “Married to Art” By: Vincent Calvarese 

About the Artist: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Fiction Piece: “Going to Pot”, Featuring Image: “Sunflower”

GOING TO POT

     Not many trees grew in the town where I grew up.  My family lived on a barrier island off the coast of South Jersey.  If you dug in the ground to any depth, you quickly hit salt water. But that didn’t stop residents from planting flowers.

     My grandmother loved to plant petunias, marigolds, and geraniums in her large front-yard garden.  I didn’t share her floral passion. To my nose, the marigolds and geraniums had a foul odor. Though I did like the orange color of the marigolds, I hated the red color of the geraniums.  And although I was glad the petunias had no smell whatsoever, the way they collapsed on themselves at the slightest provocation made me angry. I can forgive them for not being able to withstand a garden hose, but even the slightest rain shower was too much for them.

     Nevertheless, I did like my grandmother, a spunky diminutive woman dressed in black who came across the ocean when she was a little girl.  Near the turn of the century, she came with her family from Naples, Italy. She wasn’t the best cook, but she made sure I had a daily meal.  To this day, her acidic tomato sauce still lingers in the back of my throat.

     During a string of my preteen years, I helped my grandmother tend her garden.  We both were on our knees in the spring, getting muddy while planting and watering.  In the summer, my grandmother picked off the plants’ dead leaves and blossoms that were past their prime.  She left the weeding to me. I told her, “I can’t tell the weeds from the flowers. Why can’t they just all grow together?”

     My grandmother wasn’t swayed from her conviction.  She said, “Just keep pulling!” A small white statue of the Virgin Mary stood in the center of the garden.  I prayed to the Virgin for inspiration to know what to say to my grandmother, so she would grant me permission to escape the hot blazing sun.  Mother Mary failed me.

     One time, I saw my grandmother viciously attacking a geranium plant.  She was shaking the plant and pruning it down to its stem. I asked her why she was destroying the poor defenseless thing.  She spat out, “I don’t want it to go to pot.” I had no idea what that meant, so I asked her to explain. She said, “If the plant makes seeds, it’ll stop flowering.”  I felt forlorn that the plant would never get the chance to reach full maturity.

     My grandmother didn’t want me to grow up.  My grandfather was much older than my grandmother.  I was the youngest grandchild, and she didn’t want to be abandoned.    She didn’t like the life she led as a fishmonger’s wife. My grandmother bribed me with outlandish promises, such as, “I’m gonna leave the house to you when I die.”

     I told her, “I don’t want the house, and I don’t want you to die.”

     In the fall, I helped my grandfather dig up the geranium plants.  So that the plants wouldn’t freeze come winter, we put them in clay pots and stored them in his oversized garage.  My grandfather talked nonstop about how the Old Country was so much better than this country.

     As soon as I turned eighteen, I fled my stifling hometown to a place 3000 miles away, where there are lots of trees and lots of gardens populated with flowers that I never saw grow on the East Coast.

     After hearing from a cousin of mine about my grandmother’s demise, I waited to hear whether a free house was waiting for me.  This aching desire to return to the place I couldn’t wait to get away from came to me one day quite unexpectedly. As it turned out, I wasn’t even mentioned in the will.

     But that was a while ago.  Now, surrounded by eucalyptus, cedar, and fir trees in a big garden known as Golden Gate Park, I watch the skies while from a clay bong I smoke away my homesickness.  Fairies dance in the fog with me. Though homeless, I’m content enough. For unlike my grandmother’s flowers, I’ve discovered the joys of going to pot.

Written By: James Daniel

About the Author: James Daniel has spent the fall semester of 2019 attending Cynthia Slates’ “Creative Non-Fiction” class at City College of San Francisco. James is currently working on a novel called “Straddling the Centuries,” which tells about his near-death experience that occurred near the turn of the century.

Sunflower_Visual Art_Linocut

Visual Art Titled “Sunflower” By: Steven Salinas

About the Artist: Steven is a young and coming artist exploring various mediums including photography, film, and printmaking. His work explores nostalgia, its interaction with each of our presents, and how that interaction can be used to wield a sense of identity.

Poetry: “Bird Stories” Featuring Image: ‘The Eyes of Bougainvillea”

Bird Stories

 

I

 

aging birds that

once hopped fields, 

sang on clotheslines,

now straddle trees.

hot wind across the desert 

fluffs cactus wrens,

branches bend; eaves hide warblers

that echo dark canyons. 

under cumulous skies, thunder claps

like flaps of feathers

upsetting the balance of alighting night owls

 

II

 

a robin’s egg hatches in the trellis,

sparrows jet over blooms

then dance on the wood-block tree

at the end of spring, is the nest

half full? half empty?

vines hang to cover light

the babies nest 

above the doghouse

 

III

 

crack/break of hummingbird eggs

shelled beaks

chanting canticles

background fiddles weave patterns

violins, violence

opposites attract

the doves crow for harmony

Written By: Gloria Keeley

About the Author: I’m a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing. My work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Slipstream, Forum and other journals. I graduated from CCSF and I taught at CCSF for 34 years and was the editor of Forum in 1969.

Eyes of Bougainvillea_Photography

Visual Art Piece “Eyes of Bougainvillea” By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Artist: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

Fiction Piece: “The Flesh of the Father”, Featuring Image: “The Sunset”

Flesh of the Father

     “Oh, thank you. Is my breath bad?” my Father Ari asked. “No, it’s just the thing I do when I am having one,” said my Uncle Zeb. I watched the transaction as if it was in slow motion. My father, a devout vegan, accepted not any Altoid but an Altoid from the red-bordered tin box!

     As we stood in Beth Chaim Synagogue, immediate family on one side, friends on the other, I looked around to see if my Mother Melissa had witnessed the ultimate sin. Nope. She was focused straight and center on my Cousin Elba. I scanned across another bench, in the most modest houses of assembly and both my brother and sister were flipping through a mini-Torah. “No look, that’s the right one,” Jerone stated. “No it’s not. I will show you,” Ziva stated. “Shhh. Not now you two,” my mother responded with one sideways finger at her lips.

    I watched as my Cousin Elba and her new husband Rakel smashed the wine goblet and the largest family members of the relative hierarchy, carried them down the aisle, out to the reception room. It wasn’t long before everyone was seated and eating. I was seated to the left of my Father. I know Mom had filled out the green-bordered meal cards for Elba’s special day, ensuring we all received “proper” dishes. Exactly the way it has been since I can remember up until now.

     For the rest of the night I watched my father like a hawk. He was a field mouse and I hadn’t eaten in days. I scanned his every movement. I even followed him twice to the men’s room. I watched as he ate the vegan-prepared meal. I kept thinking there would be some sort of a facial expression or a sign, letting me know he was no longer one of us. But nothing. Instead, he exclaimed with his typical gastronomic response, “These plum-roasted green beans are superb,” and with his last bite, “Oh, those carnivores have nothing on us!” For the first time while listening to my Father, contempt filled me up. I was tempted at least four or five times to say something but I always remembered Mom’s Rules of Veganism. In this case, Rule #4, “Don’t Make A Scene.” We flew home the next day. 

     My Mom and Dad were vegan before they met. Mom began in high school at the Athenia School for the Gifted. She was drama. She was debate. She stood for change. Dad’s dad was a farmer and raised soy. Zayde drank a lot and wasn’t a good farmer. Money concerns were prevalent and his family mainly ate soy, vegetables and nuts. Dad just got used to being meatless.

     After the wedding, I never missed a family meal or a family restaurant outing. I found myself watching my Father eat every Vegan-strictive mouthful. I couldn’t help but watch every spoonful of veggie soup. Every fork full of roasted Brussel sprouts. Every slice of flourless, sugar-free carob cake.  It wasn’t a guarantee of his faith but it left me somewhat satisfied.

     “Kids, you’ll thank us when you’re older,” my Mom would exclaim as she passed around another round of roasted peppercorn tofu, her favorite. You could hear The Smiths playing in the living room.

And the flesh you so fancifully fry

Is not succulent, tasty or kind

It’s death for no reason

And death for no reason is murder

     When my parents married, we were told, they decided their children weren’t only going to be raised Jewish but we would eat “nothing with a face”. We also weren’t allowed to consume any eggs, dairy or sugary products. It was a Portland Public Television and private Hebrew school only household. Talk about the chosen!

     Since the wedding, I relived all the times standing with my compadres at the local creamy. Always waiting to be last, so no one could hear my order. “Yes, I’ll have two-scoops of the dairy-free, sugar-free taro root, please.” I always followed the rules. I was “Team Vegan-Lacto-Ovo-No Sugar” all the way!

     I found myself going through his pant and coat pockets whenever I had an alone moment, usually a Saturday afternoon when they had gone to the park with Jerone and Ziva. I was hoping for some sign. But I always came up empty handed. The best I could do were a few empty sugar-free Jolly Rancher wrappers. If Father had left the faith it didn’t show. So far, the Incident of the Altoid was a one-off.

     We’d always get invited to outdoor functions with all of the other soccer-mom-dads. Mom would always assemble our “relief pack”. Usually, homemade ginger beer, veggie sticks, hummus, a 3-bean salad and Linda McCartney’s Field Sausage with golden potatoes.  Dad always brought our unsullied Hibachi with separate utensils for barbecuing and consumption.

     At these functions, positioning was everything. Downwind of the BBQ pits was forbidden. Once the carcasses hit the grill, we’d position ourselves with the The Klein Family, usually at 12 o’clock. They didn’t eat pork or anything cooked next to it. I’d keep an eye on Father to see if he’d be coaxed out of the pocket but no chance. He’d use the homemade ginger beer to draw a family friend over to the “safe side” for a frank discussion about politics or the upcoming Fall Oregon Hiking Schedule. Artisanal anything is a human magnet in the Willamette Valley.

   That June, I turned 17 and college brochures and Oregon summers allowed me to be sometimes slightly distracted about my Father’s spring-time indiscretion but never quite forgotten. There was wind surfing on the Hood River with my girlfriend Shiva and kissing after dark at the Bonneville Dam. The roses began to bloom and their aroma wafted through every memory. I started night soccer in mid-September. We got to play at the “good” fields, just past the Pearl District heading towards Powell’s Books.

     One Wednesday night, after practice, with Mom at her book club and Dad at his iron-working class, Shiva and I were crisscrossing through all of the local artist’s lofts, ending up on Lovejoy Street. It was always fashionable and lively with hip brands, indie boutiques, reclaimed warehouse spaces, artisan coffee shops, contemporary art, photography and glass works. Afterward we could hang near the wading fountain. The Portland weather was perfect for the first time in months. Everyone in shorts and not an umbrella in sight.

     Shiva said, “Hey, isn’t that your dad?” She pointed toward a new shi-shi restaurant, The Pearl Tavern. I spotted my Father standing outside with two of his artisan buddies. I looked at Shiva and exclaimed, “Hey wait, meat! That’s a steakhouse!”

     My Father and his company walked into the restaurant and were quickly seated in the front window. My knees buckled for a brief moment. I took a deep breath and took a wider stance. I insisted Shiva go home and I would see her tomorrow at school. She was concerned but I watched her disappear into the Indian Summer evening.

    For the next thirty minutes, I was awash in a myriad of emotions. Anger would trump confusion. Resentment would overtake confusion. This wasn’t the Garden Grove or Shangra-La’s. These eateries were safe zones for many of us. No temptation to be seen. But the tavern! Vegan blasphemy!

    Just after 9:30pm, standing behind the cover of two huge ficus trees, I witnessed something that would change my life forever. I saw my Father cutting into a ribeye steak. I saw him smiling and taking bites. Some small, some larger. He seemed so peaceful and at ease. He was laughing and washing down his bovine with a tall heady brew, as if he had done it a thousand times before.

    After my Father had said goodbye to his friends and began walking down the street. I confronted him just past Jamison Square. “Father, can I talk to you!” I said. “Wow, Asher where did you come from? What are you doing here?” I clenched my teeth and said, “I saw everything! How could you!” My dad grabbed me and hugged me for a very long time. I could smell the gristle on him.

    For the next two hours, sitting outside our house in our 2009 Prius, my father and I discussed everything from deception (white lies versus a big lie) to Altoids (Red vs. Green). “It started with a beef broth soup by accident a few years ago. These days, it’s a once a month with the guys. The showering, flossing and brushing afterward is imperative. I think your Mom knows but hasn’t said a word” he said with a bit of apprehension.

     Dad still towed the Vegan-line, “Asher, the manufacturing of raising cattle and chickens is still a poor food source because it destroys the land, pollutes the rivers and its all-out torture. And in the end, a total blood-bath slaughter.”

     While talking to him, I remembered all of the PETA-inspired videos we all watched as a family, when I was just a pre-teen. The “crippled chicken” campaign hobbling against McDonald’s stating, “Your UnHappy Meal is Ready!” or the “Furry” farm animals wishing everyone a “Happy Veggie New Year!”

     “But then why?” I exclaimed. He responded, “Asher, I am imperfect”.  He continued, “Asher you’ll be leaving us soon and heading to college. You’ll be a man. You’ll be making your own decisions. Your mother and I have set the table. You will get to choose.”

     I remember Mom’s “Rules” once again. Rule #6 “When Someone Is Discussing Their Healthy Eating, Never Pounce.” I guess this pertained, even to my own father.

     A few nights later, at dinner, Mom passed around her latest peanut sauce, green bean concoction. Jerone and Ziva were talking to their posse of imaginary friends. Sitar music was lofting in from the living room. I cleared my throat and started slow and took a deep breath. “Mom”. She looked over at me with a smile. “You know one day, maybe not tomorrow, or even next month but soon, I may want to have regular ice cream.” Involuntarily, my eyes squinted and my upper lip and nose moved closer to my eyes. “Maybe even a store-bought candy bar.”  I exhaled the rest of the air in my lungs. I took a short breath and continued as I glanced over to my dad, “But I will never eat meat.” She gave me a half-smile but as her gaze shifted to my dad, it disappeared. Rule #10-Don’t Argue About Diet.    

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

The Sunset_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art Piece “The Sunset” By: Nia Bankova 

About the Artist: Nia, a SoCal native who recently moved to the Bay Area for college, took photography all throughout high school, with a concentration in portraiture, but started doing more landscapes as she settled into San Francisco. Nowadays, you can find her with her nose in a book, and scribbling poems.

Fiction Piece: “Shortcut”, Featuring Image: “Foggy Hill”

Shortcut

Carol looked up at the man walking beside her. “You know, you really don’t have to escort me back to my grandmother’s house,” she said. “It’s just a 

two mile stroll along an open road. All I needed was to borrow a flashlight.”

The man kept his eyes trained ahead. “Apparently Betty thought otherwise,” he said curtly.

He’s not making any effort to be gracious about this, Carol thought. She couldn’t even remember his name. She had met Betty, his wife, for the first 

time at the party, some distant cousin God only knows how many times removed. What possessed me to fly out to this reunion? she thought, not for the 

first time.

“What are you suppose to be protecting me from?” she asked. “Bears or something?”

“There aren’t any bears in Iowa,” the man said. He didn’t add, you moron, but it was clearly implied in his voice. They took a few steps in silence.  

“Well, there is Crazy Billy,” he added thoughtfully.

“Who’s Crazy Billy?”

“Some guy, Bill Phillips, who use to live around here a few years ago. Had a wife and two kids. He seemed normal enough.” The man paused. “Well, that is, unless you looked into his eyes. Closely. Then you got a feeling that something just wasn’t right about him.” 

Carol could tell that the man was expecting a response from her. “What happened to him?” she asked. 

The man shrugged. “One night he upped and murdered his family. Just slit their throats with a hunting knife, one by one. Neatly laid out their bodies 

on the living room floor and took off. Never got caught.” He was clearly relishing this story. “Some folks say he still lives in these parts, wandering through 

the cornfields at night, doing crazy shit.” The man paused. “Last year, the teenage son of a local family disappeared. Folks said he just upped and ran 

away to some city.” The man sighed. “He was a wild kid, all right. But I personally think he just ran into Crazy Billy in some cornfield late at night. And now 

he’s fertilizer.” The man stopped and turned his flashlight along the right side of the road. Its beam revealed a row of corn stalks. “Speaking of cornfields,” 

he said. “If we cut through this one it’ll knock half a mile off the walk to your grandmother’s.”

“Aren’t you afraid we’ll get our throats slit by Crazy Billy?” Carol asked. She had meant to sound flippant but she could hear the tension in her voice.

The man shrugged. “There are lots of cornfields around here. I think the odds of Crazy Billy being in this particular one are pretty slim.”

He’s talking like he really believes there is a Crazy Billy, Carol thought. She looked dubiously at the row of cornstalks caught in the flashlight’s beam. 

It seemed impenetrable, or at least a tight squeeze. “I’d rather stay on the road,” she said.

“Look,” the man said impatiently.  “If we stick to the road I won’t get back home until after midnight. We’re taking the shortcut.” He walked to the side 

 

of the road, pushed the stalks aside and plunged in, without looking back. Carol had no choice but to follow. Her feelings towards him ratcheted up from 

vague dislike to active antipathy.

It was late summer and the cornstalks were so high that they blotted out most of the night sky. The man had his flashlight trained on the ground 

ahead of them, leaving Carol to stumble in near total darkness behind him. There was no sound except for the rustling of the dry stalks as she pushed 

them aside, and their brittle, papery leaves slid against her face and bare arms.

“Have you ever read anything by Stephen King?” the man asked suddenly, throwing the question over his shoulder.

Carol impatiently pushed a clump of corn leaves away from her face. They had a  sandpapery roughness that was rubbing her bare skin raw. “No,” 

she said irritably. “I don’t like horror fiction.”

The man seemed unfazed by this admission. “He wrote a short story once, called ‘Children of the Corn’”. The man stopped and looked towards 

Carol. He turned the flashlight’s beam on her, making her squint. “It was about this married couple traveling out somewhere in some farming area. Their 

car breaks down and they’re barely able to limp along to this tiny town in the middle of nowhere.” The man turned away and resumed pushing his way 

through the corn stalks. “Only something was very weird about this town,” he continued. “It was empty except for a handful of teenagers and children. 

There wasn’t an adult around. ” He stopped talking.

He wants me to urge him on, Carol thought sullenly. To hell with him.

When it was clear she wasn’t going to say anything, the man continued talking. “Anyway, this guy goes nosing around, leaving his wife behind in the 

car. He wanders into this church and scans the place. There’s a life-size crucifix mounted behind the altar, only this time the dying Jesus has corn stalks 

jammed down his open mouth and empty eye sockets.” Another long pause as they pushed through more dry stalks.

Carol’s uneasiness was ripening to a sharp concern. For the first time, she realized how utterly alone and vulnerable she was. I don’t know anything 

about this man, she thought. Not even his name. Her belligerence melted away, replaced by a growing fear. “So what happened next?” she asked meekly.

“Well, this guy totally freaks, of course,” the man continued. “All he’s thinking is that he and his wife had to get out of there, no matter how and NOW. 

He runs out of the church and back to his car. Only his wife isn’t in the car. ‘WHERE IS MY WIFE?!’, he screams.” Carol flinched as the man’s voice rose 

to a shout. 

“Are we close to my grandmother’s house?” she asked, her voice tremulous. She could feel her eyes filling with tears.

“One of the kids points to the cornfield,” the man continued, ignoring Carol’s question. “And says, ‘She ran into the cornfield’.” So the guy frantically 

runs into the cornfield too, looking for his wife. He spends hours running up and down the rows, searching and calling out her name. Finally, when it’s just 

 

getting dark, he sees a figure in the distance. And runs up, and what do you think he sees?” He turns and shines his light again on Carol.

“I don’t know,” she said, crying. “Are we close to my grandmother’s house?”

“He sees his wife,” the man said, his voice triumphant. “Crucified on a cross, with corn stalks stuffed down her open mouth and empty eye sockets. 

Just like the crucified Jesus in the church!”

“That’s a horrible story!” Carol sobbed. “Why did you tell it? I don’t even know your name.”

“It’s William,” the man said in a low even voice. “William Phillips. But you can call me Billy. Hell, go ahead and call me Crazy Billy if you like. I don’t 

mind.” He held the flashlight under his chin, making his face look monstrous.

“Is that suppose to be funny?” she cried, her shoulders shaking.

“Do you want to see my driver’s license?” Billy asked. He took a few steps forward and pushed the corn in front of him aside. There was open space 

ahead, and a cool evening breeze wafted through the corn stalks. “Your grandmother’s house is straight ahead,” he said, his voice cold.

Carol pushed past him and ran towards the house. She gave one quick glance behind her, worrying that Billy might be chasing her. But he was just 

standing at the edge of the cornfield, watching. She wasn’t sure in the dim light, but it looked like he was grinning.

The house was dark, except for the porch light, which meant that her grandmother had gone to bed. Carol raced up the steps to her room. The walls were thin, and she buried her face in a pillow so that she wouldn’t wake her grandmother up with her sobs.

Written By: Clint Seiter

About the Author: Clint Seiter, a longtime inhabitant of San Francisco, is now retired and loving every minute of it. He has been a prolific writer, with seven anthologies of his stories published under his former pen name Bob Vickery. He is also an avid gardener, a passionate reader and a perpetual student.

Contact: Kharmanci@gmail.com
Contact: Kharmanci@gmail.com

 

Visual Art “Foggy Hill” By: Kerim Harmanci

About the Artist: Kerim Harmanci – raised in PA and NY – is a San Francisco photographer and student at City College, currently taking darkroom and lighting classes as well as peer mentoring and doing aerial drone photography on his days off.

Poem:”The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street” Featuring Image: “Way Back Home”

The

        Slanted

                    Winds

        Down 

 

The afternoon fog will roll in from the North

                                                                   and burn off first from the South.

                 The bridges will hold the droplets of moisture

                                                   until dinnertime as lovers embrace through locked

                                                                                 lips, while a wingless angel forgotten,

                  stands at the glistening edge,

                                                leaping, ending the present.


She’ll flick the kitchen light on first

                 and wake up her youngest last,

                                 standing slipper-less in the hallway,

                                                                remembering the miscarriage

                 who couldn’t wait, tears always

                                                  for the impatient.

 

They say she didn’t suffer long,

                          she went quick, the rigor mortis

                                                     set in as the body bag’s zipper snagged

                                                                      her lacy front nightgown her daughter

                          bought for her on a Mother’s Day,

                                                           years ago, forgotten.

 

She still doesn’t allow her husband 

                              to undress her at night, only cradle

                                             her softly with the nightlight visible

               and her calls to the detective go unreturned,

                              while her rape kit remains untested,

                                            nine months old.

 

Once gentrification visits a neighborhood,

                                                                    who will remember              that name,

                                                                                      those people,

                                                                                                     that corner,

                              whose culture,

                                                                   that lost identity

                                                   which invites us in to stay.

 

The wind whips up and grabs

                                                the leaves and debris of last night,

                                                               becoming today and the future,

                  as a woman stands with her newborn

                                                                                    cradled in her arms, 

                                stale teardrops upon her neckline,

                 her ignored, days old soiled hand

                                                                   extended outward,

                                                 begging for her next meal.          

Written By: Vincent Calvarese

About the Author: As a writer and visual artist, he found his wings amongst his heroes of Eureka Valley. Using the San Francisco Bay Area as his canvas, he highlights themes of restorative justice in The Final Visit, familial pain in The Flesh of the Father, gun violence in Three Cloves of Garlic, the pharmaceutical crisis in The Clipboard and the gentrifying 7×7 plain in The Slanted Winds Down Guerrero Street. He is a past General and Poetry Editor for Forum Magazine.

 

Visual Art By: Eunbin Lee

About the Artist: I am a student studying photography from Korea. Living in a new culture and environment of the United States, I try to express through pictures what I felt based on various daily experiences. I feel a sense of freedom by expressing it through my photographs rather than words. I hope people can feel the feelings that I want to convey through my photos.

Way back home_Visual Arts_Photography

Forum Launch Party: Get your Fall Issue!

It’s that time of the year! As the semester comes to a close we want to celebrate all the beautiful work produced by the greater CCSF community, and especially, the newest issue of Forum! We will be hosting a launch party with readers from the newest issue and an open mic, so feel free to bring your work. We’ll also be playing the short films that we’re publishing, so don’t miss out on this exciting opportunity to witness the unfolding of a new chapter for Forum Magazine! We’re always looking for more ways to publish and amplify your voices!

The current issue and past issues will be available for purchase, and snacks and drinks will be offered to make this a true literary party!

Come join us for the official launch party of the Fall 2019 issue of Forum Magazine, on Wednesday December 18th from 6-9PM at Alley Cat Bookstore in the SF Mission District.

Check out our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages for more events like this one.

Fiction Piece:”Let The Past Remind Us” Featuring Image: “Night to Remember”

Let the Past Remind Us

Written By: Jeff Kaliss

About the Author: Jeff Kaliss has been studying creative writing and music at City College following the completion of an MFA in creative writing at San Francisco State University. At City, he’s appeared in Forum in various genres, read at Lit Night, and hosted the Poetry for the People Podcast.

A creative historian digging into my past, after I’ve been dug under, may claim that jukeboxes had been my places of worship. 

But they’d probably have to dig up a real jukebox, too. The kind which had rocked my world. Those marvels actually looked like illuminated cathedrals, with their foundations grounded on the floor, resonating the rumbles of the earth from far below, their tops rounded like the shoulders of the everlasting arms. They’re mostly not around anymore, replaced by computerized boxes attached to the stucco, demanding too much money to assail you with the latest thumping auto-tuned artifice. 

Back in the Fifties, in Maine, when and where I was a roly-poly toddler, my teenage babysitter, Sookie Coffin (she was the daughter of the family doctor, Silas Coffin), would take me to Harris’s Soda Fountain and seat me on top of the jukebox, and have me sing along with the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll, to amuse her high school friends. Later, when the family would stop at the Brookside Restaurant in Ellsworth, the county seat, I’d borrow a dime from Mom and reach up to  put it in the jukebox there to play the Weavers’ recording of “Goodnight Irene”. The Weavers were being investigated by the House Unamerican Activites Committee, so they counted as politically correct to Mom and Dad. 

Near Boston University, in Kenmore Square, I could take my girlfriend for grilled cheese sandwiches and punch up the Beatles’ latest jukebox hit, which was probably “Paperback Writer”, which I should have realized I wanted to be one of. Instead, I studied to be a scientist, like Dad, and followed that girl out to Southern California, where it seemed that all girls wore tight tee-shirts and cutoffs and hung out at diners in malls, sharing trips to the jukebox and 

breathy adulations of Jim Morrison and Van Morrison (no relation). 

That girl’s parents and my parents wanted us married, and we got married, but as part of the deal I relocated us to San Francisco, where it was really happening, man. We got divorced a few years later. It took me a while to get back into dating and jukeboxes, but I did. It took me a longer while to find a woman I wanted to think, on my own, about spending the rest of my life with, and she sure had to be someone who liked the songs I picked. I found her, we found places to live near nice bars with nice jukeboxes, and we had a couple of kids, who learned to like out songs too. (And yeah, a few of their own.) 

And now that those kids are off to college on that other side of the country, I’m spending more time at my local bar, which, appropriately for me, is called Memories. Everybody, from the local college kids to the retirees, and, of course, particularly the latter, knows how the bar got its name, and kept it. It’s sort of where the past can sit beside the present and not worry about the future outside the swinging door. That’s why I’ve become a regular. 

Particularly when the antique jukebox is working. It hadn’t been or a while, until they ordered replacement parts from Germany and found some old geezer artisan who was able to get it going again. 

Don, the bartender/owner, had been talking up the resurrection of the Wurlitzer for a number of weeks, and planned it as a big Friday Happy Hour event. Don was pouring rounds while we listened to one of the mix cd’s he’d put together to fill in for the ailing jukebox. 

There was Little Feat’s “Willin’”, from about 1970, when most of us were still on our first marriage. Old Mike and Mildred were slapping down a loud game of dominoes. I think he was losing, she was winning and singing along: “‘Give me weed, whites, and wine —‘. You know who did the best version of this is?,” she asked her husband, and then answered herself: “Linda Ronstadt!”

“Of what?”, said Mike. You couldn’t tell whether he’d already had too many Anchor Steams or whether he was just avoiding conversation.  

“Of this song! But I just cried when I found out that Linda has that disease.” 

“Yeah,” said, Mike, “we all get old and sick.” 

The mood needed to change, and fortunately there was a song on the cd to do it. Phyllis, hanging out with her bosom drinking buddy Betsy, started singing along with it: “‘Don’t bogart that joint, my friend.’” 

“You old pothead!”, Betty laughed, and slapped her on the back. That’s alright, be an old pothead!” As if on cue, a batch of  State College kids wandered in on their way to the back patio, probably to smoke whatever they were calling it these days. 

Another round of drinks began to blur the line between old and new, almost distracting the crowd from the still-dark old jukebox, waiting patiently against the wall. Mildred and Mike totaled their domino points. She was still winning. But Don the bartender was losing his patience. He cleared his bass-baritone throat audibly, grabbed the tv controls and shut off the ball game and the hockey game, stepped out from behind the bar, with all eyes following him, and plugged in the jukebox, which lit up like the neon cathedral I’d known it to be. On second thought, Don left everybody waiting while he slipped out the back to retrieve the cannabis kids. He wanted everybody inside, at attention, present and accounted for. 

There was a hush. Don slid a buck from the bar till into the jukebox, and punched up Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”. Whatever color the oldsters’ eyes were, they got misty, as soon as they heard that acoustic guitar intro. The stoned kids just stood there mesmerized. And that’s when it started to happen. 

You could almost watch it: the music oozing out of the jukebox and into the nervous systems of everyone within earshot. And the lyrics, written in 1969, were coming out as conversation, nigh on fifty years later. And it seemed like no matter who you were or where you were, you could hear, and feel, what everyone else was saying.

Mike, rugged and gray-bearded, turned to Mildred, whose blue eyes were still bright behind her grammy spectacles. “It’s getting to the point where I’m no fun anymore,” he confessed, sounding like he was speaking but singing. He continued, “I am sorry. Sometimes, sweetie, it hurts so badly I must cry out loud. I am lonely.” We knew Mike was a quiet, inner sort of guy, but this sounded pretty profound.

Mildred leaned over and hugged Mike, which is just what we wanted to happen, watching them. “I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are,” she murmured musically. But she added, “You make it hard.” 

John the plumber was the next to pick it up, at the other end of the bar, next to his Irish wife Colleen. They were taking their daily break from their brood, all red-headed kids, like their mom. “Remember what we’ve said and done and felt about each other,” John rattled off. “Babe have mercy.” 

“Don’t let the past remind us of what we are not now,” Colleen responded. “I am not dreaming.” Though by that point, as another acoustic guitar riff streamed through the amber of the whiskey bottles, we were all sharing some kind of dream, somehow made of everything sweet and sad we’d ever tasted and felt. 

One of the State College kids, who might have been a glimmer in his grandma’s eye when that song came out, wiped his eyes with one skinny hand, and placed the other gently on the shoulder of a lovely young woman he must have come in with. “Tearing yourself away from me now, you are free. And I am crying,” he told her, in a young man’s breathy teary tenor. “This does not mean I don’t love you — I do. That’s forever, yes, and for always.” 

The drinking buddies, Phyllis and Betsy, swiveled on their stools to share a loyal hug and lead the rest of us, Don included, in the refrain: “I am yours, you are mine, you are what you are; you make it hard.” 

“Something inside is telling me that I’ve got your secret.” That was Don speaking, directly to me. “Are you still listening?” (Sure, Don, I thought to myself. When Don talks, we all listen.) “Fear is the lock, and laughter the key to your heart. And I love you.” You expect wisdom from bartenders. You hope for affection, but you don’t usually hear it.  You don’t expect to be brought an exotic cocktail, without ordering one. But that’s what I got. I didn’t know what it was, but I gulped it down. 

And found myself sitting at a kitchen table I thought I’d forgotten, with Don’s words (or were they Stephen Stills’?) now coming out of an old transistor radio, in the original three-part harmony of Crosby, Stills, and Nash. There was Jo, as she had been, that California girl who’d become my first wife, and we were in our little rented apartment, in 1969. “I was yours, you were mine,” she was saying, the lyrics in the wrong tense. “You will always be what you are,” she went on. “You’ve made it hard.” 

And I knew, because I had known, that she’d be leaving me. And that my words would be locked up by fear. I’d been scared not to marry her, though we’d been much, much too young. And then I’d been scared that I didn’t really love her. I didn’t know how to love her. Most of all, I was scared that love was something I’d only hear about in songs, but would never know how to do. 

Jo walked out of the kitchen, and everything in the kitchen walked out with her, except the chair I was sitting on. The light was cold, and there was a cold chorus, which somehow sounded like every woman I’d ever tried to love, and ever would. 

“Friday evening,” they intoned. “Sunday in the afternoon. What’ve you got to lose?” I don’t know. I just don’t know. 

“Tuesday morning,” they began again. “Please be gone, I’m tired of you. What’ve you got to lose?” I wish I were gone, ladies. I’m tired of myself. 

I felt possessed by a grieving devil, and I wondered what that would sound like, and where it might take me. “Can I tell it like it is?”, I begged of nobody, and heard nothing. “Help me, I’m suffering! Listen to me, baby!” Was I the baby? “It’s my heart that’s suffering, it’s dying,” and I so wanted to be born again, to be rid of wrong ways. “And that’s what I’ve got to lose.” 

That seemed to sound some kind of rightness. I felt myself rising above all the rented residences, all the yearning years, to a time and place where I could see and sing forever: “I’ve got an answer,” I told myself, “I’m going to fly away! What have I got to lose?” 

I could even see my mother, the first woman in my life, whenever and wherever she was now. “Will you come see me,” I invited her, “Thursdays and Saturdays? What have you got to lose?” 

Flying with me was the sweet strumming of a guitar, taking on the wings of a harp. The instrument and I swooped and found ourselves back in the Memories bar, where my daughter Melanie, as was her wont, was dancing for the denizens, who encouraged her with, “Chestnut brown canary, ruby-throated sparrow, sing a song, don’t be long, thrill me to the marrow.” 

Don seemed pleased, but not surprised, to see me back. I wondered what I could tell him and the others about my journey. “Voices of the angels,” I started, “ring around the moonlight, asking me said, she so free, how can you catch the sparrow?” And I laughed. And Don knew I’d found my heart. And that was when my Lily came to join the chorus, and to share the delight in our daughter. 

“Lacy lilting lyric, losing love lamenting,” I addressed her, reveling in the alliteration with Lily. “Change my life,” I told her, “make it right; be my lady!” 

Some guys from Melanie’s favorite taco truck had followed her into the bar, and they began a perky Mexican chant, which, since it involved no actual Spanish, was taken up quickly by everyone else. “Doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo, de-doo doo doo,” they vocalized, “doo doo doo doo doo, doo doo, de-doo.” Then one of them, I think his name was Gabriel, began a perky rap over the chant. Melanie, who’d been fulfilling her college language requirement, seemed to pick up on it: “Que linda la traiga Cuba, la reina de la Mar Caribe, cielo sol no tiene sangreahi, y que triste que no puedo vaya, o va, o va”. 

And so it went. And after the last doo doo doo, everyone — Mildred and Mike, John and Colleen, and the college couple included — seemed in love with love, and ready to toast it with another round. “You know what?”, Don boomed rhetorically. “Stephan Stills, who wrote that damn song, and Judy Collins, the ex-girlfriend he wrote it for, are getting back together and going out on tour! Not bad, after fifty years apart!” 

I tried to get Don’s attention, to order more margaritas for Lily and Melanie and me, but he was on his way to the jukebox again. I wondered where we’d end up this time. 

 

Visual Art “Night to Remember” By: Jhon Terrado

Night to Remember_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art Submission “Lawson”; Featuring Poetry: “Down The Long Night”

Down The Long Night

Written By: Gloria Keeley

About the Author: I’m a graduate of San Francisco State University with a BA and MA in Creative Writing. My work has appeared in Spoon River Poetry Review, Slipstream, FORUM and other journals. I graduated from CCSF and I taught at CCSF for 34 years and was the editor of FORUM in 1969.

Down the Long Night

think beehive and

private tiny entrances

the Poseidon of the garden

through the maze

the span to the end

a trail of stings

 

four quiet wings

flap timpani

float nectar to nectar

 

returning to their hive

crab-cracking percussion

shakes down their dreamland

notes progress horizontal

soft now, like cotton

“Nature Boy” by Miles Davis

lulls baby bees to sleep

 

Visual Art Piece “Lawson” By: Erick Orihuela

About the Artist: Erick Orihuela is an Ethnic Studies and Film as Literature high school teacher. He grew up in the Mission District after moving from Mexico City. For him, teaching is a means of showing people his favorite philosophers: Frantz Fanon, Silvia Federici, San Te of the Shaolin Temple, and MF Doom. Takes pictures to better balance work and ludic activities.

Lawson_color