Category Archives: Poetry

student writings

Abdication

At first I think
of postage stamps and the faces of queens, immortalized
in their black-and-white moment. The shades of the past
are monochrome, marred only by some accidental fold,
some streak of pale lightning. Pink roses blooming
on the wallpaper of my bedside dresser. When I take
this photo between my thumb and forefinger, I find
a child. Younger than I, somehow:
roundcheeked in a stiff-collared dress,
lips peeled back in what we called a shuaya smile—
“brushing teeth” in perpetuity, to appease some ghost
behind the lens. (Her own mother, as it turns out).
Her eyes are dark and wide. In her entirety
my mother is barely larger than my thumbnail.
(I am eight years old). Here are things that surely
must always have existed as they are
now: Mars. Stonehenge. Mt. Everest.
The swelling of the seven seas.
The gnarled roots of redwoods, reaching
deep through the soil of the earth. When
she tells me of my grandmother
witch, who sent her away at two, expecting
love at six, and then a smile flashed for the future too,
I cannot help but
shrink away from the unframed tears, saying
Bu xiang can le. I don’t want to see. Burying myself
in the legos scattered on the carpet, and the photo
underneath the socks in the uppermost drawer
of the dresser, floral and pink.
On nights when the moonlight streams through
my window slats like tiger stripes,
slinking slow across the ceiling, something
brings me to rummage out the past,
to gaze back at a face younger
and more vulnerable than mine, though somehow also

still sleeping in the room right beside me.
I wonder who else had watched Princess Diaries,
and pawed through their mother’s things, seeking family
heirlooms: perhaps the gems
of royalty, or an alternate path
towards nobility: “You were adopted!”
My mother tells me that she knew, at ten, that
her daughter would be a princess.
It is often the nature of things to follow
patterns, branches to twist onwards
as tangled as the buried roots.
Yet she does not curse me
with her inheritance—the mother of hers
who had chosen favorites, withheld
love. Could I too have
hacked a clean cut at the past?
Loved the usurper, that baby brother
like I would my own children? Transmuted
my blood into garnets
at each joyful coronation?
Never my (her) own.
(I am twenty six). Older
than the not-crying child in the photo,
older than her mother when her mother had her, nearly
older than the mother she herself would become
upon having my older brother
in this far and foreign land. The beautiful country.
Now when we hug and she says that
I am her dream, born into being, I wonder
if it is too late to throw down my crown.

Written by: Jessica Yao

Jessica enjoys exploring winding roads, new ideas, and interesting combinations of words. Hopefully one day this all coalesces into something beautiful. In the meantime, she continues to mash at her keyboard.

Maau!_Visual Arts_Photography_Kayla Wilton

Art title: Maau!

By: Kayla Wilton

I received my English degree with a Spanish minor from CSU Stanislaus in spring, 2019, and I will complete my creative writing certificate at CCSF in spring, 2020. Writing is my passion, but I also dabble in drawing, painting, photography, and performance. My work has appeared in Penumbra Literary Magazine.

Colliery

At the MoMA there is a series of photos, black and white,
Bernd and Hilla Becher who captured old steel mills, toppled
tipples now destitute. My heart is a braitch hole, once full now
excised of any valuables, cavernous drop through earth.

Fingers pick me over, break away the slate from the good coal.
Uniform pieces of anthracite so when heated I might burn
efficiently. Our purpose is limited: fuel the fire for those
who will forget our ash. The best poor man’s country stripped,
carted away by lokies, thirty at a time. Coal mine no. 9

These photos hang quiet, their reverence is a taunt.
Each frame remembers I am from the stepping stones
of industry, remembers that I am just a girl from south
of the mountain. Did the Bechers know how they
commemorated forgotten things? The resolve
of my lonely mountain towns, ugly from strip mines?

Oh, there are valley creeks converging in me, mine
run-off lays waste all these years later, the mud is xanthic,
smelling of peat and sulfur—this is my yoke. Tears ooze,

like oil, to leave stains upon my collar.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Make Your Visit

Evening signs a tremendous breath against
the groaning weight of this city.
Day away to rest, with its falling rays catching
sliding on arms straining beneath
rolled shirt sleeves, fishers back
from dock leaning out windows
butt-ends clenched between teeth,
curling tobacco rosettes
against flushed sky.
Falling light dusts long heads
of those impatient in their patience
for this pilgrimage, restless,
beneath bus stop awnings astride
funereal streets.
Where if you tried—just try—to
peer through shuttered life to glimpse,
to see
the hidden acts of plays best viewed
at this pale hour.
NEXT STOP
Here, a head held in hands, elbows bunching
mug ringed newspaper, lost amidst stacks of things
to-do.

To catch a moment between thumb and index,
where the pit of an ashtray overflows with ends, with
beginnings stuck between movie theatre cushions
where one single someone sits,

unfinished illumination.

Buzzing neon OPEN glowing red, cutting
long lines across a face, shuffling,
table to table
pouring coffee.
LAST STOP
Now look, a mumble about a room
Unbothered by the leaf-litter of his solitude,
he sets the kettle not for two. A life marked
by half finished things and Rachmaninoff plays
from the next room
tumbles front over end,
end over front.
THIS IS THE LAST STOP
He smiles for the whistle of a steaming spout,
presses forehead to window pane
to watch the falling of the day.

Written by: Dominique Whitman

Dominique Witman is a SF transplant who has been living in and enjoying the city for over six years. She is a part of the CCSF community and is currently studying English. She enjoys exploring identity and cultural differences within the US through her poetry.

Mother of Pearl Rosary

My brother Herbert and sister Luisa laughing
Sitting and swinging on a church gate
A black robed priest, wearing a crucifix,
swearing at them, to get down
Confirmation day, white dresses
Wearing a white carnations corsage my mother had given me
No indication of oncoming storms on that sunny May day
No indication of how our faith would be tested
No indication of oncoming heavy rains
My mother drowning in winter
Riding in the back of my father’s olive Volkswagen,
with my brother Herbert and sister Luisa
Drunken father, speeding Volkswagen
Terror of crash
After my mother’s death,
He broke down, crying
He neglected to put food in the refrigerator
I was a hungry child, searching for sandwich ham
Opening an empty white refrigerator
Finding only dismay and a bottle of cheap Italian dressing,
to hungrily gulp down
Under an apricot sunset
I walked along a crumbling seawall,
in need of repair
Broken heart
in need of repair
This pier has become my anchor
Dolphins joyfully leaping in ocean waves,
my consolation
Broken faith
White adobe church of my youth mocking me,
as I knelt on my knees to pray

Written by: Rocio Ramirez

Rocio Ramirez is a Counselor who works with families. She has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has been a Presenter for IVAT, Center for the Prevention of Abuse and Trauma, in La Jolla. She has recently presented on the use of Sandplay therapy and Collage with Domestic violence survivors. She is currently writing a book on sandplay therapy and art therapy with disenfranchised populations. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.

Crossing

A new tongue cuts through the canyon,
where the dusty road dodges.
The water dims with the red sun.
We did not build the bridge,
but our toes sparkled across it
until we heard the creaks
of someone else’s back.
We did not build it,
nor did we keep it from crumbling.

Written by: Matt Luke

Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum who continues to be inspired by the writing community he’s found through CCSF. He has also been published in Prairie Light Review and Ripples in Space. Links to his published works are at mattluedke.com.

Who Are These People and What are They Doing in My Living Room?

Your mother’s brother stands
in the foyer, che this, che that
accents of Argentina eja he says
en vez de la ella de Mexicanos
Tall and thinning, ruddy faced
white beard groomed

Su tía esta arreglando todo
Couches, tables, chairs aligned
in an oval lace covers
crystal dusted and untouched

The couple on the couch squints
at us, points an index finger
back and forth
morena at mi pareja
güera at her mother
güera morena yo les dije, es la hija de mi hermano

tía Anita frustrated
the daughter
of my brother who is not here
Mi hermano, sí, moreno

You feel they want to turn
to me if they could
and you are no response
we are all seated in our place
eating tiny white cakes
and a candle for tia’s
birth; feliz cumpleanos
sing Mañanitas
Beto y Maricela on their tiny space
heads moving from side to side
from Mascota, Pueblita of familia no one says where we are from
Mascota of the mountains I told you, she is the daughter

of my brother

Who are you? they want to say to me.

As we talk about where we come from

Blue eyes Brown eyes
Dark haired hija Mother once blonde, now grey
speaking perfect Mexican Spanish
And I say, soy pura judia knowing this has to be a lie
generations of undiscovered paths
rapes and some intermarriages

am only Jewish
And the cousin of tu tía on the couch
without missing the bite going into his mouth
que lastima sobre el holocausto
Yes, too bad
because there is no time
to search for other
phrases
Unless sitting on my stiff backed chair
eating my piece of cake about to fall
off the spoon

I say si, estamos juntas como maridos
pero diferente
I could take my beloved
across the patio below
with children and forgotten
toys, away from pristine crystal and lace
because we are together
but not really a married couple

so how can we fit this into idle afternoon conversation?

Written by: Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

Copy of Spitblossoms_#_Capricorn_Visual Art

 

Art title: Capricorn,

By: Spitblossoms AKA Carlos Ortega-Haas

CCSF student, Bay Area born and Tijuana-raised, Spitblossoms is a visual artist and successful musician who has always found joy and meaning in realizing his artistic visions and sharing with a community of artists. For Spitblossoms, art is a meditation, release, source of pride and sustenance that helps him perfect his vision, overcome hardship, and continue to push forward to achieve his goals and dreams.

Ode to the Olive Trees

Hardened after decades of adaptations
deep rooted desert strains
a tantalizing sun, scintillating
leaves in air that steals your breath, ghosts
Of children hidden to fight wild hamsin winds—
Climb boughs, deflect the scratches made by rough bark,
Fall over into toughened earth, catapult
stones at the armed men waiting at the barbed-wire fence.
Rows and rows of irregularly spaced
crooked gnarled branches growing into eternity
a grove of olive trees, children behind
an unmovable rock, calls to the Jordan river.
In Bethlehem the tree that has survived the longest
would take only seconds to destroy—
A hack saw electric style to the tree’s trunk
An explosive bullet in a young boys leg
Children surge to the forbidden border
a stream of rubberized smoke, burning tires
a slingshot of stones against barrier
barbed wire and the wall, earth cleared
Where sacred olive trees once stood, an opening
to aim rifles at the marchers’ heads, an armored
tank oversees roads Palestinians cannot travel
Military tear gas to upend the bodies moving toward the wall
Families, whole villages gather to harvest the olive trees
In the shade, a claim to their lands, women sit
Embroider starlike patterns into black cloth
reds that bleed, reds that refuse removal
while settlers from illegal outposts trample
the harvest, steal the olives left behind when harvesters flee
danger. The olives shaken from these ancient trees
press into the finest oils, the daily flow of resistance.

Three hundred year old trees
steadfast against the scars
etched into strong untainted wood, the people
continue to the march of return, raise their hands
with gestures of drawing their faces
on the maps of villages their grandparents recall,
forced removal and release incantations

Al-Quds
Einabus
eternal spring
Isdud
Lydda
sumud

the keys to their homes
in their pockets
Jibata
Al-Quds
Al-Asqua Mosque
the Prophet waits their gifts—
olive seeds, oil
hands that caress ancient

roots.

Written by Carla Schick

Carla Schick, educator, Queer Social Justice activist. Their works have appeared in Gathering of the Tribes, Earth’s Daughters, California Quarterly, & Invisible Ink. They received first place in the Barbara Mandigo Kelly Peace Poetry prize (2012, 2018). Theirpoetry will appear in the next issue of Milvia Street.

 

Poetry Piece: “If My Vagina Could Speak”

If My Vagina could Speak

She would tell me that she is the “mouth” of my heart.

She would say I have fed her rotted filth masquerading as food, for longer than I want to admit.

She might ask me, beg even, if I could sample my lovers first, if I could at the very least chew the invaders before I swallow. 

But I have always been the fastest eater at the table,

My world has always been an eat or be eaten- “who’s it gonna be?” world. 

If my vagina could speak.

But she’s mute most of the time,

Except when red dribbles from her lips,

Marbling into water,

Or when she’s so hungry she drools what becomes a waterfall of insatiable lust.

If she could speak I wonder if she would declare that we stand on opposite sides of the picket fence,

Calling me a traitor to myself,

If I gave her the power to speak would she speak on behalf of who I am or would she shame me,

Asking me if I remember all the ways I forgot she was a part of me,

And if I remember all the times I blamed her for the hijackings that took place simply because she existed.

 Because she would be right, 

And she would be wrong. 

If my vagina could speak,

We would laugh about that time she shot a menstrual cup onto the floor,

Spit it out and said “fuck this- I CAN’T BREATHE”-

And we would laugh about the time she convinced my urethra to pee in the middle of the kitchen,

And I’d tell her she was an asshole for drying up like some sort of sahara desert that one time-

And she would call me an asshole for falling asleep that time I masturbated.

If my vagina could speak

She would apologize for existing in the first place,

And I’d tell her that I love that she’s here with me,

And that it’s the fault of people who don’t understand no,

And it’s my fault sometimes for wanting to feel anything but—

Sshe would tell me she took what I gave, has carried what I did not-

And she would tell me that the burden of femalehood should not be as heavy a load,

And I’d say “but it is. Because you and I both exist.”

And we would both say our sorries-

If my vagina could speak she would ask me if I trusted her.

And I’d say we need another round of tequila for that conversation.

 

Written By: Christine Alicea

About the Author: I am a Queer Latinx Jersey transplant living in the bay area. I am majoring in education with an inclusion of queer studies. I am practicing the idea of becoming an Oasis for my community as well as telling people how they make me feel. We only have today.

 

Poetry Piece: “Close Your Eyes”

Close Your Eyes

 

Machine guns gleam and jackboots click

Vacant eyes blink back tears

Tiny prisoners caged for slaughter

Welcome to America, welcome to your new home

 

Vacant eyes blink back tears

Under flood lights blinding bright

Welcome to your cell, welcome to your new home

Piles of children spilt on concrete

 

Floodlights blinding, never ceasing

Turn the cameras off, there’s blood on the floor

Madmen chuckle and mop the concrete

A child’s eyes roll back into his head

 

Turn the cameras off, there’s blood on the floor

Two monsters come and take a girl away

A child’s eyes roll back into his head

Someone whispers nothing’s real here, nobody exists

 

Two monsters came and took a girl away

Everyone shuts their eyes and tries to pretend

The monsters cackle, screaming nothing’s real here, you don’t exist

The air is rank with piss and fear, everyone frozen, no one can move

 

Shut your eyes and try to pretend

Nothing’s real here, no one exists

The air is rank with piss and fear, everyone frozen, no one can move

Welcome to America, this is your new home

 

Written By: Chris Lukens

About the Author: Chris Lukens lives and writes in San Francisco. You can often find him prowling the streets of the Mission, burrito in hand, on his way to the Roxie or trying to remember where he parked his bicycle.

Poetry Piece: “Escuintles”

Escuintles              

 

Have you met the dogs

In the De Young Museum?

You can see them

Behind glass

 

In the Mesoamerica 

Room; it’s almost like

A pet shop.

 

Olmec, I think, they’re 

Like chihuahuas
But plump, 

The color of dust.

 

My favorite

Is scratching 

At his fleas.

 

Another is lounging

Just like every lazy

Dog you’ve ever seen

On a hot, hot day.

 

But this fellow’s been 

Lounging since before Cortes 

Came, maybe long before.

 

Study their faces. 

I swear you can see 

Which ones lick 

And which ones bite.

 

Written By: Jason Szydlik

About the Author: Jason Szydlik studied poetry at City College.