Category Archives: Poetry

student writings

Queer Writing+AIDS Crisis Call For Submissions



Between Certain Death and a Possible Future:
Queer Writing on Growing up with the AIDS Crisis

Hi all! Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore is looking to collect stories that narrate the queer experience in association with the AIDS crisis! Below is a description of the project, as well as guidelines, and Mattilda’s personal background. CHECK IT OUT!

Every queer person lives with the trauma of AIDS, and this plays out intergenerationally. Usually we hear about two generations—the first, coming of age in the era of gay liberation, and then watching entire circles of friends die of a mysterious illness as the government did nothing to intervene. And now we hear about a current generation growing up in an era offering effective treatment and prevention, and unable to comprehend the magnitude of the loss. We are told that these two generations cannot possibly understand one another, and thus remain alienated from both the past and the future. But there is another generation between these two—one growing up in the midst of the epidemic, haunted by the specter of certain death. A generation growing up with AIDS suffusing desire, internalizing the trauma as part of becoming queer. And these are the personal stories I’d like to collect in this book—accounts that overlap with the more commonly portrayed generations, and offer a bridge between.

By telling this specific generational story in all its complications, how do we explore the trauma the AIDS crisis continues to enact, and imagine a way out? How do race, class, gender, sexuality, age, ability, religion, ethnicity, indigeneity, rural/urban experience, regional/national origin, Global South/Global North perspective, HIV status, and access to treatment and prevention (over time and in shifting contexts) shape personal experience? What is excluded from the glorified myth of progress that now reigns?

How does the impact of growing up with the AIDS crisis continue to affect those left out of the white picket fence version of respectability promoted by dominant “LGBTQ” institutions? How does this apply to sex work, migration, public sex, cruising spaces and apps, abuse and survival, incarceration, reproductive health, homelessness, activism, drug use and addiction, subcultural striving, gay bar culture, HIV criminalization, and hierarchies within gay/queer/trans cultures?

Any generational frame offers only a partial truth, and I’m especially interested in the gaps between accepted narratives and lived experience. As a generation coming of age both with and without the internet, how has technology changed our lives, for better and worse? How does stigma against HIV-positive people continue today, and does the rhetoric around “undetectability” further exclusion rather than ending it? Who is dying of AIDS now, in spite of “AIDS Is Over” rhetoric? Has the energy around PrEP shifted the focus of public health campaigns away from demanding a cure for HIV? How could a meaningful intergenerational conversation about HIV/AIDS take place? What would communal care actually look like?

I’m interested in your most intimate stories, and your most personal fears—what you’re afraid to say is what I want to hear.

About the Editor: Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore ( is the author of three novels and a memoir, and the editor of five nonfiction anthologies. Her memoir, The End of San Francisco, won a Lambda Literary Award, and her widely hailed anthologies include Why Are Faggots So Afraid of Faggots?, That’s Revolting!, and Nobody Passes. Her latest novel, Sketchtasy (one of NPR’s Best Books of 2018), is about this generation between certain death and a possible future.

Guidelines: Please submit nonfiction personal essays of up to 5000 words, as Word attachments (no PDFs, please), to Contributors will be paid for their work, and will receive copies of the book. Feel free to contact me with any queries. The deadline for submissions is March 1, 2020, but the sooner the better!

“The Boogeyman” by Dee Allen


The Boogeyman

by Dee Allen

As lousy as
Some of my
Early childhood was,
I had never
Feared the dark.
Come thirteen,
Onset of puberty,
A frightening age,
Like other youngsters,
I dreaded
Running into
Some child killer,
As mentioned
On the news,

Or the boogeyman,
Coming straight from
Out of darkness,
Charging at me,
Little skinny me with my
Sun-darkened skin,
Unspeakable cruelty
On his agenda—–

He never crawled
Out of closets,
From under beds.
Somebody gotten those
Little details wrong.
I’ve learned
To avoid

The woods,
Lightless roads
At night
Where he
His numbers
May lurk.
Adults & children
Among my
Dusky people

In the South
Feared the twilight threat,
Terror-filling remnant
From the bad old
Days before I was born,
Real as you and me:
Phantom in white

White hood,
White robe,
Brandishing a blazing
Cross in one hand,
A loaded pistol
In the other—–

Dee Allen is an African-Italian performance poet currently based in Oakland, California. Allen is author of 3 books (Boneyard, Unwritten Law and Stormwater) and 14 anthology appearances (Poets 11: 2014, Rise and Your Golden Sun Still Shines, to name a few). Dee Allen is a former Political Science major at CCSF (2004-2010). Allen’s work appeared in Forum (Fall 2007).

“Laying the smackdown / On ignorance” (Dee Allen)



by Dee Allen

Forget seeing
Wonder Woman
In the movies
Or comicbooks.
She’d already graced
A Broward County
Hotel lobby
With her presence,
Capably defended
Herself and
The honour
Of Haitians
As swift as
Her two fists,
Landing where they may.
Laying the smackdown
On ignorance
In a tacky
Bright blue dress.
Wrecking its
Scornful mouth
Was unavoidable.
Bulletproof bracelets
Golden lasso
Had no purpose
In this public fight.
Racial evil
Struck down
Without their use
Or her shoes.

Forget everything you
Think you know
About Wonder Woman.
The facts regarding her
Character are fraudulent:

DC Comics
Doesn’t own her
And her real name
Isn’t Princess Diana
From Paradise Island,
But Colleen Dagg,
Hailing from South Florida.

Superheroes exist
In real time, too.

Dee Allen is an African-Italian performance poet currently based in Oakland, California. Allen is author of 3 books (Boneyard, Unwritten Law and Stormwater) and 14 anthology appearances (Poets 11: 2014, Rise and Your Golden Sun Still Shines, to name a few). Dee Allen was a former Political Science major at CCSF (2004-2010). Allen’s work appeared in Forum (Fall 2007).

“Thou Shalt Not…” by anonymous


Thou Shalt Not…

by anonymous

“Thou shalt not murder”
Leaving this world should always be on the almighty’s hands
That’s what they teach
That’s what they want us to believe
That’s what they taught me
That’s what they wanted me to believe
I kill people
For it needs to be done
For I have people dear to me
I will keep killing as long as there are enemies

I’ve never murdered, for killing is not murder

“Thou shalt not kill”
The new words differ from those that they taught
What I believe now
I find no pleasure in the kill, for it is not murder
I kill those who wish to harm, but that’s not murder
I kill for the need to protect
Little by little, every kill gets a toll
Little by little, humanity is lost
Little by little, the shackles of death weight us down
Imprison by our own actions
The chains of death grow
Grouping those that died by our hands

Killing or murder
They both take a toll

“If ignorance is bliss / Innocence means shit.” (Meg Brittain)

C. Davis Dream of Water
Dream of Water by Clara Davis
Clara Davis was born in Redondo Beach, California and moved to San Francisco for college. She is in the process of completing her BA in studio art at CCSF and SFSU. She has been shown in multiple local galleries and currently works in a shop fabricating and installing public art. 

Shepherd’s Sheep

by Meg Brittain

Come, O’ come ye faithful
Give praise to who sold you.
When capital is god
And Wall street is law
All gain is lost.
All truth is fraud.
Your name no longer suits you
Sheep Number Three will do.
If ignorance is bliss
Innocence means shit.
You don’t see the blood that spills
Wolves were let in.
They sleep in your den.
Comfort distorted
Yet, are you awake?
The only pain known has been your own,
But what if the corruption and violence drove you out of home?
All your loved ones are no ones
Left all alone
Tell me now, who will be the savage one?

Meg Brittain works as a hairstylist and is attending college for the first time. “I love the classes and professors at CCSF and feel lucky to be here at this time in my life. My goal is to develop a practice which promotes holistic wellbeing for my community.”

“At last check, Jesus’ teeth were doing fine,” (Christopher Cantrell)

Lydia La Roux Cycles
Cycles by Lydia la Roux, collage
Lydia La Roux is a Detroit transplant to the Bay area. She enjoys daydreaming, vegan cooking, screenplays, and the sun. Find her on Instagram @lyddderbox.


Medical Exam

by Christopher Cantrell

Jesus has a liver, you see,

that does its job of filtering impurities;

and two kidneys that function quite well, regular and dutifully.

At last check, Jesus’ teeth were doing fine,

save for the usual amount of plaque here and there.

Apart from a mild sunburn, his skin is healthy and in good shape, unbroken and clean;

his hair, as well, seems all right (though not very cosmetic, with all those split ends).

The microfilaments lining his large intestine, moreover, function with textbook precision.

Indeed, Christ’s internal organs, one and all, seem normal and complete: nutrients are broken down, energy is stored, and disease is combatted.

I might go so far as to say that, overall, he is a fine biological specimen, young and strong, and in as a good physical condition as can be expected.

Christopher Cantrell is a career educator, credentialed in five different subject areas, with twenty-five years’ teaching experience who grew up lifeguarding, playing tennis, and performing in community theater in Southern California.  Cantrell earned a MA from SFSU in 2000.  His previously published work includes poetry in Mists of Enchantment (National Library of Poetry: 1995); the short story “City Dance” in Blue Eyes & Other Short Romantic Stories (Phyllis Scott: 2011); and, most recently, the nonfiction essay “The Importance of Physical Education” ( 2017). He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.

“Its body grew small and yet, it towered before us” (anonymous)

Visual Arts – BUGSUR – THOTH – Acrylic on Canvas

Thoth by Alex Nizovsky, acrylic on canvas

Alex Nivosky is a designer, and biologist who is focused on the beauty of living organisms. His art expresses his passionate engagement with the beautiful forms of insects and their relatives. His new art project WWW.BUGSUR.COM is devoted to creation of the fantastic worlds of surrealistic creatures which are all based on natural forms.

Day of the Dark Sun

by anonymous

It was late at night
A dark sun illuminated the black sky
Pulsing waves coming from the dark sun

First wave came with a flash, making us see the light of day while the rest remained in dark
Ominous wind came next, damaging our hearing
A blazing beast followed them, set free to burn and crumble as it pleased
It’s growl heard everywhere

We got our hearing back; we wish we didn’t
The blazing beast grew quiet allowing us to hear the screams
The screams that were muted by the air and fire were now clear
Finally, they came
On the fourth and final wave

Their Presence, the ominous wind became docile
The fire looked merciful
The dreadful presence that was engulfing the town
By instinct we embraced each other
They moved as unison no place left untouched
A single mind, many bodies
Wherever they walked, a death miasma was left behind
Whatever was loud in front became silent behind

Those of us that were alive didn’t move, simply looking at the destruction before us
Many ran away, but we didn’t
Frozen within that fire
One approached, silently
Her shadow cooling us off
A young girl stood before us
Blonde hair and yellow eyes
She was young, yet mature
Docile, yet dominant
Beautiful, yet terrifying
She wore a black kimono with a white lotus pattern
She glared us down, with curiosity glimmering on her eyes

Some of them came to stand behind her
With their black robes covering their bodies, and white skulls hiding their faces
She stopped them in their tracks as they approached
Like predators in front of a prey stopped by fear
With a simple wave of her hand, she dismissed them and they vanished into the black sky
She returned to glare at us once more
She smiled and with another wave told us to follow her
We did as such
The miasma of death and destruction parted ways for us

We left the place we called home for so long
We entered a dark forest
Dark embraced us, the light of the dark sun was no more
A different light illuminating our path
The black night parting ways for us
Her presence illuminating our path
We walked through the night, reaching a clear field
She made a wave to the sky

A shadow moved from the dark sky
It fell making a graceful descend
It touched the ground causing a comforting breeze to engulf the field
It was like the night itself stood before us
A creature with big wings, long arms, body covered in feathers and a bird head
She talked to it in a different tongue
It looked at us with those big yellow eyes

They moved toward us
Its body grew small and yet, it towered before us
He wore a black robe that looked to be made out of feathers
It moved the bird skull hiding its face, revealing glaring yellow eyes and a human face
The glaring eyes became merciful and comforting
They spoke to us in our mother tongue like it was natural
That was how we met our parents

Photos from Javier Zamora Reading

We want to thank all who attended our reading on Tuesday at the Mission Campus with poet Javier Zamora! I think the students really appreciated meeting someone who they could see themselves in—young, down to earth, funny, casual, uncertain, honest—who is also an accomplished writer and educator. Thank you, Javier, for coming and we look forward to the next time!