Category Archives: Visual Arts

Fiction: “Miss Pandora”, Featuring Image: “Geary”

Miss Pandora

 

The man who identified himself as Mr. Foley, looked at me from across the table. “The only responsibility you’ll have is to take care of my mother’s pet birds.”

“That seems simple enough”, I said.

“Well, it isn’t.” Foley’s voice had taken on an edge. Then he sighed. “Look, there are some things you need to know if you’re going to work here”. He paused. It looked like he was trying to carefully pick his words. “My mother is…not well. She has a bad heart condition, and the doctors’ give her only a couple of more months, at best. I’m just trying to make sure that her last days are as comfortable as possible.”

“I’m not a professional caregiver,” I said cautiously. “You might want to consider someone else for this job.”

“She already has professional caregivers coming by regularly. You’d only have to take care of her birds.”

By the hesitancy in his voice I could sense some red flags popping up. The job seemed way too simple for what Foley was offering to pay me. “What kind of birds are we talking about?” I asked. “I don’t have any background handling exotic birds either.” I was envisioning macaws, mynahs, even hawks.

Foley grimaced impatiently. “You sure seem hell bent on finding excuses for not taking this job I’m offering you.” He leaned back in his chair and returned my gaze evenly. “The birds are standard pet shop varieties: parakeets, finches, love birds. Nothing more exotic than that.”

This was all very confusing. “Just exactly how many birds are we talking about?” I asked.

Foley cleared his throat. Okay, I thought. Here’s come the catch. “I don’t know exactly,” he answered. “Over a hundred. Maybe around hundred and fifty”. He paused to let this sink in. He saw my expression and gave a wry smile. “Don’t worry. The story gets a lot crazier.”

I didn’t say anything but just sat there, waiting.

“Do you know the Greek myth about Pandora’s box?” Foley asked.

Well, I didn’t see that question coming. Foley seemed to take some slight amusement at my startled look. “No,” I said cautiously. “I don’t know anything about myths.”

“Pandora was sent by the gods to mankind along with a giant unlocked chest,” Foley said, his voice in story-telling mode, “With firm instructions that these stories go, Pandora was consumed with curiosity about what was in the chest. Finally she couldn’t stand it any longer, and she gave in and opened it. And every conceivable horror that now plagues mankind flew out of the chest, through the window and into the world at large. Every suffering that humanity has to endure today is because of Pandora’s obsessive curiosity and disobedience .” He stopped and looked at me, gauging my reaction.

“Um, why are you telling me this, Mr. Foley?” I asked.

Foley let a good twenty seconds go by before he spoke.  “Well,” he said. “Beside her heart condition, my mother also suffers from dementia.” He sighed. “She thinks she’s Pandora’s reincarnation. And her job is to undo the harm that the first Pandora did.”  Without meaning to, I gave a startled laugh. “Yes,” Foley said sardonically. “I suppose this all does sound funny.” 

“How is she going to set things straight?” I asked. I was embarrassed that I had laughed. Foley obviously did not consider this a laughing matter.

“She buys and cages birds, and assigns a particular evil to each one. ‘Greed’, ‘Pestilence’, ‘Cruelty,’ and so on. She believes that as long as these birds are caged, she’s sparing the world from everything ugly. And she keeps on telling me to buy more birds, every time she thinks of some new nasty thing to protect humanity from. So, I buy the birds. It keeps her happy.” He gave a wry smile. “She named the last two birds I bought ‘Indigestion’ and ‘Genital Warts’”.

“Okaaay,” I say. “And just would my job be?”

Foley’s expression grew exasperated. “Just take care of those damn birds,” he said. “Change the cage linings daily. Make sure they all have enough food and water.” He shook his head. “Her place stinks like a giant aviary. At least try to keep the odor down to a minimum.” His eyes  opened wider. “And for God’s sake, don’t ever let a bird escape from its cage. All hell will break loose if you do.” He gave me a smile with precious little amusement in it. “So, do you want the job?”

I thought about the generous pay that Foley was offering. “Okay,” I shrugged. “I think I can handle that.”

Foley nodded. “Good.” We stood up and shook hands . “You start tomorrow,” he said. As I opened the door, he called out, “She wants to be addressed as ‘Miss Pandora’, by the way.” 

Because of what Foley had said, I was prepared for the smell when I entered Miss Pandora’s house.  But not the noise. Foley and I were greeted by a cacophony of chirps and trills, which would have been cute if uttered only by two or three birds. But with this menagerie, it was harsh and deafening. Foley, speaking loudly over the noise, introduced me to his mother. Miss Pandora said nothing, but gave me a long, hard stare. To describe her as “birdlike” would just be too glib, but she did have the sharp glower and jerky head movements of some bird of prey. She carried about her the fierce aura of a warrior hell bent on saving the world, whether it wanted to be saved or not. At least her intentions are noble, I thought.

Her house was not big, and there were stacks of bird cages, several rows deep, all along the walls of her living room. I could see more cages through her open bedroom door. After Foley left, I waited for Miss Pandora to say something. She eyed me suspiciously, but was silent. “Well, I said, putting a hopefully friendly smile on my face, “I might as well get to work.” 

I spent the rest of the day going through Miss Pandora’s house, room by room, changing the bird cage liners, and refilling the water and seed containers.  There were at least three and often as many as six birds per cage, and a card was taped to each cage identifying its inhabitants. Not only the seven deadly sins were represented, but smaller and more particular evils as well: “Cavities”, “Bruises”, “Line cutting”, “Belching”, “Talking too loud”, and so forth. There was a green and yellow lovebird identified as “Rape”, a pure yellow canary called “Genocide”, and a sky blue parakeet tagged as “Running Sores”. I winced at the harsh names given to these small, pretty birds, but they seemed happy enough and well-fed. The birds fluttered around, chirping and squawking, whenever I stuck my hand in the cages, performing my tasks. “Careful!” Miss Pandora called out once, sharply, as I was struggling with one of the larger cages. That was the only thing she said to me that day.  

I did this work for several weeks. Once, Miss Pandora had me run an errand to a pet shop nearby. She had a running account there, and the sales clerk greeted me with a friendly smile when I identified Miss Pandora as my employer. Per her instructions, I bought a finch and two parakeets. When I returned, Miss Pandora pointed out the empty cage she wanted me to put them in. After that, she assigned each of them a name, which I dutifully wrote down on an index card and taped to the cage: “Allergies” and “Sullenness” for the two parakeets, and “Anal Leakage” for the poor finch. 

A little over five weeks into the job, I got a called from Foley telling me that Miss Pandora had died last night in her sleep. His voice gave nothing away, but I imagined that he was more relieved than grief-stricken. “I need you to come by this morning,” he said. “For one last chore.”

When I got to the house the door was wide open, as were all the windows. Foley was in the center of the living room, opening up the cages and shaking the birds out. They fluttered frantically around the room before finally, one by one or in pairs, finding an open window and flying out. Foley raised his head and looked at me. “Start opening cages,” he ordered gruffly, “And help me get these fucking birds out of here.” While he was talking, I watched as “War”, “Brutality”, “Athlete’s Foot” and “Farts” flew out to freedom and disappear into the distance. We spent the rest of the day releasing all the rest of mankind’s ills and sorrows onto an unsuspecting world.

 

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.

 

Geary_Visual Arts_Photography

 

Visual Art “Geary” By: Meredith Brown

Fiction: “HoH”, Featuring Image: “Haze”

HOH   

     You liked her as soon as you first heard her speak while both of you were inside the elevator on your way to the fifth floor – she with that distinct, Michelle-Pfeiffer-sultry voice that coos and mesmerizes the Fabulous Baker Boys while she sings on top of the piano. You were meant to be together, you whispered to yourself. You were surprised, and so was she, when you realized that both of you were going to the same restaurant for your first day of work. The lounge area was so quiet… and the only sound that you heard was the thuds in your rushing, beating heart. You knew right there and then that you must have her, by hook or by crook.

     Of course, several months later, you got what you wished for. You visited her place one time and after dinner, both of you listened to Roberta Flack as she ebbed her dying chorus regarding a boy who was strumming her pain with his fingers and was softly killing her with his song. You needed to close the windows as the rustling of leaves kept intruding the harmonious silence of the evening. You were listening to her sighs as she kissed your palms while you were gently caressing her cheeks. You knew how someone from her past had screeched her gramophone and left saying nary a goodbye. You heard the sound of her tears sliding down her cheeks as it tousled with her hair, and you just put up your dam to prevent it from overflowing. Shhhh… It’s going to be alright, you said. She said she wanted to eat…. But then you just sat there, feeling disoriented because you had just splurged on the first memories of your skin touching, and you were still basking in the afterglow. No, she said. I didn’t want you to sit. What I wanted was for us to eat something. Aren’t you hungry? You then laughed, sealing the chemistry between you two, grateful for the connection. But it was also the first time when you experienced how a mishearing can affect your communication. After that night, you became an item. She became the cup to your saucer, and you, her tenon to the mortise. You became inseparable. You became her god while she became your muse. 

     Soon you became one in marriage and not long after, three children followed. You both were devoted in bringing them up. You both knew the intimate times were somehow getting few and far between. But it didn’t matter. You both were caught up with your own respective affairs – you as the boulder of the family, and she as the light. You barely noticed the seasons passing by in a frenzied hush, sashaying you to be quiet. Their moods were mostly mad, desperate for speed, squashing what was left of the day before when all were just figments of borrowed memories. Soon you both found yourselves missing the silent rifts and skirmishes amongst your children. You heard the last fledgling leave, and you were left with the empty nest. What to do now?    

      You loved watching films at home. During Blockbuster’s heydays, you always made sure that Friday and Saturday evenings were spent watching whatever films you both fancied; it was also the sacred time for homemade pizzas or pastas, which she so lovingly cooked. You adored her for her culinary expertise – wasn’t that the primary reason why she caught your attention and fell in love with her in the first place? But the food you always guzzled down on those nights was just secondary to the passion you both have for the movies. You loved to be scared out of your wits and preferred whodunits or psycho thrillers. You got a knack out of watching Ted Bundy’s horrid tales and Hannibal Lecter’s eating fava beans for a side dish, while she adored romantic comedies which featured all the ingenues from the Golden Age up to the present. You saw how she got starstruck and imitated her favorites in Tinseltown – Claudette Colbert, Audrey Hepburn, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence. You laughed whenever she would mouth Bette Davis’ famous line, ”Fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

     Whenever you both went to the cinema house on rare occasions, you always turned to her and asked her to repeat what had just happened or what the character had just said. You said you were lost. You were kind of upset when she ignored you.  You know that whenever she watched a movie, she wanted to focus on it and not get distracted in any way. You wanted to hear every single word that was uttered even by the minor characters. You wanted to be there. You wanted to be in the moment. All around you, you heard the shhhs and the tsks tsks – coming from random people in the dark. You hated it when home movies didn’t have subtitles.

     You were fine, you mentioned. This quirky ear would act normal soon. You always  convinced yourself that you are far from being deaf. The hospital visit could wait.

     You were not there when Mr. Paredes mentioned to your wife that your land title was being revoked due to a technicality. Your wife wished to tell you sooner, but she was preoccupied with finding the resources to hire a good lawyer. She hid all the details not just from you but to all of your children… thinking in her mind that you wanted to get rid of the property and just look for a smaller place for the both of you. So she decided to just be quiet in the meantime. She would let you know at the opportune time… as soon as she got a better deal for the sale.   

      It was 3:00 in the morning, and you complained about why she needed to wake you up just to check if your dog Tubby was safely tucked in her bed. Hmmm… hmmmm…. Then eerie silence. You said, “do you really need to check?”

     You remembered earlier you had just watched “A Quiet Place” in the cinema. Alone. You had done that because you had to wait for her while she was having her me-time with her two friends at the salon. Aarrghhh… Emily Blunt mouthed. You abhorred the alien who would like to pry on her and perhaps hurt her unborn son. You knew how painful their silence was. Tap. Tap. Tap. Water was overflowing in the bathtub… Shhhh…. You knew you enjoyed the movie, like the way you enjoyed foreign films because you didn’t need to hear the lines, you just need to read the subtitles, especially now that you could watch movies on your tablet.

     It was dead of night. You were there, beside her. For some reason, you just wanted to hug her, feel the warmth of her embrace and touch the glistening strands of her wavy, graying hair. You pushed your chest against her breasts and soon you two were stuck together, glued by unseen forces, your two hearts beating as one. You let her feel the tears running down your cheeks, a river that wouldn’t let up. You touched her face like she was the only star left in an evening on which all of the universe’s galaxies had hidden themselves for the night. You were hugging her so tightly, both of your loose naked skin screeching like a printing machine, which always jammed because the oils hadn’t been used and calibrated for so long; enmeshed and oohing, a mosquito buzzing in your ears to let you know it wanted to suck your blood.

     “I’m sorry,” you said. “How can you forgive me?”

     Shhh. The window pane was knocking like a soft tumbleweed, all the snowflakes summoning Jack Frost to come and make amends for not coming sooner, just when you needed him the most.  

     You just sold the most important deed in your lives – the land title you had so long kept and cherished. When she told you to just “seal it” and wait for her to look for a better deal, you thought you had heard her say “sell it” and with that mishearing, Mr. Paredes smiled the widest smile of his life not realizing that the next day, you, and your wife’s lives would never be the same again.

     You tried to rectify your mistake. You tried to contest the misunderstanding, the mishearing. You told them it was your condition that caused the blunder. Trying as you had to recover all lost ground, the enemy didn’t budge. You signed it. Your wife endorsed it. Somehow you wished this was one of your silent movies that you were used to watching on Friday or Saturday nights, when even if you couldn’t hear what Robert de Niro was saying in Raging Bull, or Scott Campbell’s gibberish to Julia Roberts in Dying Young, you could always depend on the subtitles. If you were given the chance, life should be a series of tapes where even if you forgot to hear the words, you could always pause and rewind them to hear the misheard lines again. Hush. The night is still. It’s just money.

     You decided to leave that night, convinced that it wasn’t too late to get the land title back. All you needed was a good lawyer. This lawyer lived next to a railroad station and you were determined to get a hold of him. You hailed a cab on your way there and soon found yourself walking on a railroad track, praying somehow that you would be back early morning the next day, just in time so you could make her some brewed coffee, for a change. You didn’t hear the muffled sounds of an approaching train. All you heard in your mind were answers that would bring a smile back to her lips. You loved her. It would break your heart to see her cry. Back home, she was awoken from her sleep when she missed hearing your rugged snoring. Downstairs, Tubby was groaning, like a cat trying to kill a rat. Back in the bedroom, she tried pulling herself from the bed but decided against it. You just couldn’t interrupt her smile for obviously, she was enjoying her dream. She was hugging the pillow like it was you. You were there.

 

Written By: Fernando Rosal Gonzalez

About the Author: Fernando Rosal Gonzalez has published novellas, children’s storybooks and written TV scripts both for mainstream and independent producers in Manila. He created the children’s TV show, “Oyayi,” which was jointly produced by CBN-Asia, the NCCT (National Council for Children’s Television), and ABS-CBN. He is currently taking up filmmaking and creative writing courses at CCSF.

Haze_Visual Arts_Photography

 

Visual Art “Haze” 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.

 

Poetry: “Courage of our Ancestors”, Featuring Image: “Maya Angelou”

Courage of our ancestor
My grandmother was named after one of the Adelitas
in the Mexican revolution
The dresses she sewed for my sisters and cousins,
were Art
We walked for miles,
in the Colonia de San Andres hills,
selling her dresses door to door
She was home for me,
an inner home
With her I found joy, emotional nourishment
I took her to Acapulco once
We breakfasted outdoors,
next to a turquoise green sea
We ate chilaquiles
and the most delicious ice cream I have tasted,
made from fresh coconuts
I bought her soft brown spiraled seashells
It was all she asked for
In the 80’s, our sister Patricia paid a coyote
to get our grandmother across the border,
from Tijuana to Los Angeles
Family pitched in with money for this journey
I gave $200
Her priest gave a santa cruz blessing
She was squeezed tight with another immigrant, a youth,
as the lid of a trunk of a car was closed on her.
A viejita praying she would not die
I was scared for her
It was not criminal for our Abuelita
to want to see her grandchildren
Her only motivation for crossing
She never talked much of the rigors of this crossing

She talked once of my grandfather Sixto,
not giving her a document she needed,
to cross the border
Intentional withholding,
so he could have power and control over her
Revenge for leaving him
I recall playing with red geraniums,
when I was 6
She said, This is your grandfather, Sixto
A saxophone player
I never saw him again
He died a few years later
My Abuelita died in her house, in Mexico City
400 people came to her funeral
I could not go.
I have never visited her grave
I feel too sad to see it
On a hot July afternoon
walking by Chicano Park,
I saw a mural of an Adelita painted underneath the bridge
She was wearing a long white cotton skirt
and a rifle
I felt then that my grandmother
was in a sanctuary, a deeply peaceful place
Her courage still inspires

 

Written By: Rocio Ramirez

About the Author: Rocio Ramirez has a Masters in Counseling Psychology and a Certificate in Expressive arts therapies. She has recently presented on Sandplay therapy and collage, with Latina domestic violence survivors, at the Institute for Violence, Abuse and Trauma. She is always happiest when she is next to the sea.

Maya Angelou_Visual Arts_Acrylic on Wood

 

Visual Art “Maya Angelou” 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: “Essential Processes to the Development of a Sense of Self”, Featuring Image: “Zion’s Watchman”

Essential Processes to the Development of a Sense of Self

 

You string a hammock 

up beneath the willow 

within a thicket of oaks and redwoods, 

your body swings gently

back and forth, back and forth, 

 

time to relax⁠—inhale 

 

a deep breath of crisp fresh air, 

savor the soothing scents of eucalyptus, 

appreciate the rustle of leaves

after a sudden gust⁠—a chilling breeze,

the sun punctures her way through the clouds

kissing your skin⁠—the warmth tickles,

then there’s bliss, 

the bliss that comes with 

staring up at a canopy of bright

green leaves, eclipsing a sea of evening stars,

 

dawn draws near⁠—You exhale  

 

amongst the grove of oaks and redwoods, 

vines of ivy grow, clambering towards the sky, 

You observe, in the hammock 

beneath the willow swaying 

back and forth, back and forth. 

 

Written By: Francesca Bavaro

About the Artist: Francesca Bavaro enjoys reading and writing poetry and short fiction. In her spare time she enjoys hiking, walking dogs, and frolicking in the grassy knolls of Golden Gate Park. She is terrified of birds.

Zion's Watchman_Visual Arts_Photograph

Visual Art “Zion’s Watchman” By: Constance Louie-Handelman

About the Artist: Constance Louie-Handelman completed her A.A. degree at CCSF in 1973. Now retired as a clinical psychologist, she has returned to CCSF 2019 spring semester with a focus on digital photography.

Poetry: “Order” Featuring, Image: “Mom’s Chewing Gum”

Order

 

The magnets spelled out the A      B Cs

Or they should have, to my mind

My friend arranged them in      any

order

 

I told him he was wrong

I knew how to read after all

Even if I was faking it half the time

I wanted to be like my older brother

 

The same friend moved away

We lost      touch as easily as we had met

 

At 18, I read an article

A rifle, a murder-suicide

A     hole   in the universe

This time

I’m not sure there is      any

order that

makes

      sense

 

Written By: Matt Luedke

About the Author: Matt Luedke is a former editor of Forum. He loves to use words and art to pursue the magic of the Bay Area.

Mom's Chewing Gum_Visual Arts_Adobe Illustrator.jpg

Visual Art “Mom’s Chewing Gum” By: Veronica Voss-Macomber

About the Artist: Growing up in the wilds of Saskatchwan (you know where that is, eh), Veronica created with whatever was at hand – the family Super 8 camera, sidewalk chalk. Now a grown up (sorta) Veronica mostly uses a computer to create, but she has been spotted using a pencil and paper.

Fiction: “How to Time Travel”, Featuring Image: “Hedy Lamar”

 “How to Time Travel”

 

Google “YouTube.” Revisit clips of shows from ABC’s TGIF lineup, along with Nickelodeon cartoons if there’s time. Make time. Do this periodically, every weekend, for a span of five years. Mourn when you’ve found out your favorite clips have been taken down for violating copyright infringement laws. 

You dry your eyes and decide that the ‘90s were the superior decade. Become an elitist. Google “elitist”. State this supremacy on the Internet to make it fact. Reddit just gets you. Brew a mean, tall glass of Tang while typing furioUSLY IN CAPS. Become bothered that TV, music, and movies aren’t as good as they used to be when you were a kid. Become so distressed that you lose sleep over it. Take a good look at those eyebags. There’s nothing St. Ives can’t fix. 

 

“Shit was so much better when I was a kid,” you tell your younger cousins. They do their best to tune your bitterness out, faces illuminated by bright flashes and flickers of their iPhone screens. They respond: “I almost got banned from TikTok”, like you’re supposed to know what that means. Roll your eyes once. Then do it again. Scoff if you have it in you. You’re still convinced kids born in 2000 are 8 years old. But, you never could count too well. Break out a calculator, the one on your phone. Begin to rant about “kids today”. Choose to tweet your frustration on Twitter instead. Remember the 280 character limit. Block anyone who doesn’t agree. Follow those who do. Twitter reminds you of your trusty old diary. The one with the pseudo secure lock and faux pink fur, covered in Lisa Frank stickers and sixth grade secrets. 

Stalk all 9 of your grade school crushes on Instagram. 

He’s bald. 

He’s married. 

He’s sunburned. 

They’re all bald. 

Think, You’re old. You’re old. 

Scavenge for useless ‘90s memorabilia on eBay. Order Spice Girls lollipops, issues of Tiger Beat, and metallic colored Tamagotchis with peeling paint and scratched screens. Another woman’s treasure. Wear blue ripped Calvins, an oversized green plaid flannel, and yellowing white Chucks for four days in a row while you await your goods. Your Mom tells you you begin to smell, but Kurt Cobain would be proud. 

Rejoice because you can now stream your favorite ‘90s sitcoms on Netflix. All the ones you’ve seen more times than a normal person should. Think, They still hold up really well! Commit the corniest lines to memory. Studio applause and laughter are your new favorite sounds. Howl with laughter into the night, until your sister, born in ‘98, slams the door shut to show her dismay. “Shut the door, you dumb bitch!” Laugh again. “You got it, dude!”

 

Your package arrives. The buttons on the Tamagotchi smell weird and the Tiger Beat issues are dusty. Eat one of those Spice Girls lollipops. Take a lick. Regret the lick. Take another lick to make sure. They used to taste better. Finish the lollipop because you paid for it. Consider the taste of chalk in your mouth. On your tongue. It stays there a while. Compost the jar of 30, now a jar of 29; try to forget that you paid for it. You’re fairly certain no one “composted” in the ‘90s. Repent and help yourself to two glasses of Tang. Add ice.

Complain to eBay. Harass the seller. Leave a scathing, one-star review: “Like these lollipops, your mediocrity should have stayed in the ‘90s. Total dweeb.” Share your unsavory experience on Facebook. Wait for the likes to pour in.

 

Written By: Loretta Bonifacio

About the Author: Loretta Bonifacio is a Filipino-American writer interested in exploring nostalgia and family dynamics. She dedicates How to Time Travel to her grandmother and muse, Milagros Tan Bonifacio, who celebrates her 90th birthday on December 13, 2019.

Hedy Lamarr_Visual Arts_Relief Print

Visual Art “Hedy Lamar” 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.

Fiction: “All the Way to New York”, Featuring Image: “Through Rose-Colored Glasses”

All the Way To New York

She was too young to go to New York with dad, her mom had told her. Besides this was a business trip. It would be boring for little girls. But she could come to the airport and kiss him goodbye. On the ride home she stretched out in the back. She watched a plane take off out the window. Probably his plane, she thought. Dad was just settling into the large reclining seat as a tall stewardess poured him a large glass of ‘cocktail’ with two big ice cubes, just like they do in the old movies. Dad would turn to a very attractive woman in the seat next to his – she was much more attractive than mom – and they would talk and talk. He would make her laugh. And they would have an affair all the way to New York.

 

Written By: Sean Karlin

About the Author: Born in California, raised in Israel, served in the military, educated in film and television, documented environmental and social justice work, produced and directed commercials, Sean Karlin is a filmmaker and creative director who lives in San Francisco with his wife Orli.

Through Rose-Colored Glasses_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art “Through Rose-Colored Glasses” By: Nadine Peralta

Poetry: “Cars”, Featuring Image: “En El Trafico”

Cars

 

if we could talk for hours

I’d tell you of planned nights

nights that I have mapped and charted

that we might journey through and

visit every part of

no traffic on the roads

just us

exploring slick streams

that keep replenishing at the

toss of a pebble 

gently flown to the waters

if we could touch for hours

you’d know of planned nights

riding in warm cars

the motor idling at the

dips of rivers

idling at quiet, swaying 

forest trees

trees bending silence in our ears

you, a canopy over me

as we dull the motor

and shift into 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.

en el trafico_bnw

Visual Art “En El Trafico” 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.

Fiction: “The Other Day”, Featuring Image: “Sink on Farm”

The Other Day

The other day– bear in mind that when I say the other day I am referencing any day between the present and my birth, I was at the Powell Muni station coming home with my date. Well, technically speaking, it wasn’t the other day, but the other night. Also while we are getting technical, referring to Koana as my date is a bit of a stretch. Because is it really a date if you slam back a few luke-warm Jameson shots in a seedy dive in the Tenderloin with someone you met on Hinge and decided 45 minutes later you were going to sleep together and probably never
speak again?
For the record, that’s exactly what happened, but that’s not really what this story is about.
Powell was putrid smelling, rancid. You know the scent. Rotting waste, urine, feces, God knows what else. Also, it was hot. Hotter than hell. Satan’s ball sack level hot. Maybe it was because the earth is literally on fire, but it was also September, Indian Summer. During the day the city nearly reached a hundred degrees. The evening was cooler, but still stifling; you felt like you were trying to breathe in a garbage bag. You might be wondering why I am going on and on about the heat, but at that particular moment I remember being quite fixated on it. I was self conscious about how sweaty and possibly smelly I was–wondering if I was too much of those things to get naked with a stranger.
I did a quick sniff check after we sat down while Koana glanced at her iPhone. I
reapplied deodorant before meeting up with her. My pits proved to be holding up. Thank god. I turned to her, and said the first thing that popped into my head. “Is that a Google phone?” I have no idea why. I knew it wasn’t. Maybe I was just trying to draw attention away from the fact that my nose had just been in my armpit.
“No, its an iPhone.”
“Oh, I have a Google phone.”
“Okay,” she snorted and went back to texting.
Literally what the fuck is wrong with you Lilith. I had this affliction, where my brain
completely collapses in on itself like a dying star around pretty girls, or should I say women? I need to break that habit, referring to women as girls. You would think it would be easy, since I know I don’t like it when men do it to me.
I adjusted myself on the seat. The sweat from my thigh had completely stuck itself to the metal, like some sort of industrial grade adhesive glue. It stung when I moved it, like ripping off a bandaid. My leg spazzed a bit. Koana must have mistook this for some sort of signal. She put her hand on my thigh. I wasn’t mad about it. I put my arm around her, and pulled her in closer to me. I couldn’t help but think we were kind of cute.
“The N-Judah is the bane of my existence,” I announced, louder and more boisterous than I intended. I had just finished a three month sobriety streak and my tolerance had plummeted.

Koana cackled and gave my leg a little squeeze above my knee. She might have been tipsy as well. She was fairly petite. “We’ve been waiting like forty-five seconds, Doll.”

If anyone else addressed me as “Doll” I would have instantly despised them, but for her it totally worked. Some people are just like that, so confident in their quirky idiosyncrasies they can pull off anything.
“It feels longer.” I glanced at the screen, the red-lights suggested the next N would be
here in 8 and 17 minutes, but I had been down this road before, lied to far too often by that sign to find it believable. “Waiting for the N kind of brings out the worst in me.”
“Hmm, well how about we do something more interesting to pass the time?” she
suggested, doing that cheesy double eyebrow raise, coupled with a sly grin.
She leaned in,
“Oh no, not PDA,” I said sarcastically.
We started making out. She was a really good kisser, and someone who knew what they were doing with her hands. I was eager to get her home.
“Excuse me,” someone interrupted. It was a delicate, gentle nudge. Like when you were a kid and your mom would wake you up from a deep slumber to get ready for school, but much like that situation, it didn’t matter how polite the intrusion was, you were going to be, at the very least, irritated at the source of the sudden disturbance.
We turned around and responded with “Yes?” and “Yeah?”
A homeless man was standing before us. He was stumbling, or swaying a little, probably drunk or high, or a little of both. He was coherent though, not slurring or anything.
“Can I ask yous a question?”
“Maybe?” I allowed.
“It’s personal,” he explained.
“Probably not then,” I said, annoyed. I turned to Koana. Her expression was hard to read. I wished I had known her better, so we could communicate nonverbally the way close friends do.
“Which one of you is the more dominant one?” he asked with a shit-eating grin.
“Yeah, you definitely can’t ask that.”
“Well it’s not that straight forward,” Koana answered in a reasonable tone, at the same
time as me.
I kind of loved her for that. Of course the polyamorous UC Berkley Gender&Sexuality
Studies graduate who LARPed on the weekends would answer that question like that.
“Yeah man, don’t be so heteronormative!” I chuckled.
The man looked like he was poised to respond, but then a lot of bizarre occurrences
happened at once.
The J-Church pulled up and a gaggle of older women in their sixties got off the train.
Their style was campy. Bright make-up. Big hair. And even bigger personalities. They were laughing and shrieking so loud, a chorus of those gut-busting belly laughs that go on and on and on until you start to feel almost sick. The only coherent sentence I managed to make out was something along the lines of, “So that’s what I was doing at the police station in 1975 at three in the morning!” Their howling laughter was cut as abrupt and as unnerving as seeing a cyclist flying down a hill, crashing and being flung off and over their handlebars.
The ensuing chaos was caused by a single pigeon.
The pigeon descended from the entrance platform far more graceful than you would think a rat with wings could, like a swan dive. The pigeon flew the length of the platform, alongside where the J had been an instance before, leaving in its wake a steady stream of shit. It looked like white rain, descending upon its victims in a perfect parabolic arch. It was kind of remarkable looking. Not beautiful or anything, but something that would have made an entrancing photo if
you were fortunate enough to capture it.
It took them a few seconds to register what had happened, but you can tell when it did.
The ladies started shrieking and running out of the station, frantically waving their purses in the air, as if to ward off any other unanticipated aerial attacks, fowl or otherwise.
All three of us were looking at one another with jaws dropped and covered mouths,
attempting to stifle our giggles.
“Looks like the pigeon is the dominant one,” the woman seated next to us added, without even looking up from her book. I hadn’t even noticed her before.
Our laughter broke like a dam had exploded. We were doubled over even more
theatrically then the women covered in pigeon shit before– well before they were covered in pigeon shit. I practically couldn’t see from the tears in my eyes when the N arrived. Koana and I got on the train hand-in-hand with a jovial wave goodbye to the man. It took us a few stops to finally calm down.
Koana let out a deep exhale, almost like a sigh.“Sometimes it’s just good to laugh,” she
said, resting her head on my shoulder.
“Definitely,” I agreed. I held her arm in my lap and started running my fingertips up and down her forearm.
“I kind of needed a night like this,” she added, “I got fired recently. I’m hella stressed.”
“Oh no, what happened?”
“Well the other day–”

 

Written By: Francesca Bavaro

Sink On Farm_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art “Sink on Farm” By: Gloria Keeley

About the Artist: 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.

Fiction: “The Clipboard”, Featuring Image: “Macrobiotic”

The Clipboard

 

Scott is naked. He is stretched out in the hospital bed on the 5th Floor of San Francisco General Hospital. A small blanket covers his body from the waist down. He can’t get comfortable. Every time he attempts to lie on his side, the muscle bound and very serious young man in the navy-blue scrubs quickly repositions him on this back. This wasn’t how he had planned this day.

He had arrived via ambulance just after midnight. Once the stretcher passed the threshold of the ER, Scott was under-the-microscope, he besieged with attention. His shoulder was aching. There were contusions on his right shin and just above his left eye. A peripheral IV line was fashioned on his left hand and a PICC line was inserted in his right arm. 

What had they found? He was in the dark. Everyone he attempted to speak to seemed to cock their heads left to right, like an old-time coo-coo clock with a half-smile. They’d pat his hand and disappear like a mirage. On rinse and repeat, he kept hearing, “try and get some sleep” and “the doctor will be in soon.” He was a mime but in reverse. Pity took hold. His body was tight and constricted. Everyone kept picking up a clipboard fastened to the side of his bed and jotting down a few sentences. He really wanted to be home in his plush queen-sized bed but his requests to be released were shrugged off. Scott began to feel tired and began to doze.

Scott was a success. He had plenty of money in the bank. Not a fat-cat but enough to cuddle-up like a calico in the afternoon sun. He never fretted about the future with a retirement and deferred comp package on steroids. Without a moment’s notice, he could pick up the phone and with wheels up, he’d be wheels down in Hawaii or Brazil hours later. Walking into a room, he was treated magna cum laude by friends, family and neighbors. He was Julie the Cruise Director, planning the most elaborate galas or a quiet weekend soiree in Big Sur. Physically, he was forced to duck underneath most doorways. His olive skin was brushed with a light mocha finish having striations in every direction. Lovingly, Scott was Michael Jackson to everyone’s Paul McCartney. Men vied for his attention as if he was a celebrity walking a press line. Scott was loved with an occasional frenemy but always greeted with a daisy, not a bayonet. 

Yet, Scott dabbled in deception. His brush strokes were short. Either beige, grey or black. No white to be found. He muted his colors with omission. His expansive canvas was draped in missed opportunities. He never told anyone what was really going on. He regularly stated, “Oh I’m fine,” when asked “How are You?”.  Or “Everything is just great.” And sometimes with a chuckle, “No complaints here, no one ever listens anyways.” Scott’s responses were like a cop clearing a crime scene–nothing to see here. It was obvious, Scott most feared judgement or the perception he was weak. Scott didn’t want to discuss his condition. He didn’t want to share about his year long struggle. He had long since abandoned his mantra “Honest in All of Your Affairs” and the cracks in his aging infrastructure were beginning to show.

Not surprisingly, he had found himself being loaded into a set of double-doors below a Code 3 siren. Flashing red and squelching in every direction. And as it sped away through the tree-lined streets, he was speechless. Through the back of the speeding ambulance, the images became apparitions. Appearing. Disappearing. Like dew on a windshield exposed to defrost. First Morning Due Café. Gone. Then Delores Street Law Offices. Gone. Next Tartine Bakery. Gone. His feelings were a fallen boulder upon his chest. Scott was physically exhausted, mentally fatigued and spirituality bankrupt. And then the paramedics with their questions. “When was the last time you had anything to eat? Are you on any medications? Do you remember how you hurt yourself?” Each one damning him to the next. He opened his mouth but only a few words would dribble out. His thoughts trailing off into the abys. His neurotransmitters were on life-support and his circuit board was fried.

As Scott opened his eyes, he focused on the starkness of his room. As he glances around, he’s taken back by the off-white polyvinyl wallpaper showering all four walls. He looks up. There’s a silver-grey colored serpentine pattern which his bed curtain follows. He spots a dry eraser board across the room. In large black letters, he sees Room 504. Below it says “Saturday, September 15, 2013”. That couldn’t be right. Somebody made a mistake. It was only Thursday. He shrugged it off. He eyed two lithographs on each side of the 24” flat-screen TV. The left one read 100th Annual Nantucket Art and Wine Festival. He makes out a muted lawn chair and a beach blanket flanking it. He thinks, very David Hockey. 

As he attempts to focus and read the other piece, a small woman in a white coat enters. “Hello Scott, I am Dr. Waybill,” she says. She has pixie length red hair. She’s boyish and elf-like. Scott thinks, oh my God, my doctor is Frodo. He laughs out loud. She has a Cheshire grin. Her pen is adorned with simulated red, green, pink and gold rhinestones. There’s a small lavender and pink ribbon jutting out from the top of it. It’s cheap but pretty.

She picks up the clipboard and stiffens slightly. She begins asking questions. First, “how are you”. Easy. “I’m fine.” Silence except for the short movements of her bejeweled ballpoint pen. Next, “do you know how you arrived here at the hospital.” Another easy one. “Ambulance.” More writing. “Do you know how long you’ve been here.” He thinks for a moment. “Hmmm, 6 hours. No wait, 8 hours tops?” Scott is pleased with his answer. She pauses. Her pen then advances but there’s a procession of sentences. Scott attempts to sit-up. “What, what?” Dr. Waybill looks directly into his eyes. He’s uncomfortable. He can feel a burning sensation between his butt crack. For the first time, he smells his own shit. She tells Scott he’s been here for the last 2 days and they need to run more tests, possibly an MRI. He would need to stay at least another 24 hours. Dr. Waybill returned the clipboard and exited the room. That damn clipboard. What had they discovered?

His rational mind had run a marathon. He was on running on empty. His stomach began to ping. He craved familiarity. Some ramen please! He wanted answers and received none. He clinched his fist. His forearms began to cramp. He relaxed and they slowly receded. He couldn’t even be angry. His body initiated a prolonged yawn and he turned his head away from the window.

Scott drifted again but awoke and he wasn’t alone. A language unfamiliar to him was being spoken. Their inflections were foreign. There were a few hands upon his body. At first two but last count, four. Small beads of water trickled down the back of his legs. He was on his side. Elation to be off of his back. Scott is being held up on his side with two hands and the other set is applying soft, repetitive motions with a warm wash cloth around his ass. Please, oh please, keep scrubbing. The pungent smell of lavender and tee tree filled his nostrils. Scott catches his attributors eyes. He’s short. He’s light brown with jet black hair. His name badge reads Note. Like music to his ears. He’s smiling as he dips the washcloth into the pink-colored wash basin. He slowly wrings it out. Scott can hear the run-off trickle back into the basin. He’s beautiful. He’s an angel. Note applies pressure and moisture to Scott’s crotch. The water droplets move gently through his pubic hair. It tickles only briefly. With small dabbing motions, Note is meticulous. He surprisingly begins washing the shaft of Scott’s endowment. Scott’s nipples harden. Scott tenses up at the sensation. Note continues. Scott’s testicles constrict. His penis is engorged. His brain begins to hum. Note pays no attention to Scott’s recent developments.

Note finishes and as Scott is slowly lowered onto his back, he sees Note standing clipboard in-hand. He’s scribbling down a few lines. Scott didn’t mean to get hard. Why would he write that down? Scott is distracted as Note’s accomplice repositions Scott’s cock and covers him with a new unsoiled blanket. Note returns the clipboard and smiles briefly. Selfishly, Scott wants a hug or a little peck. He dismisses the thought. Not good for the clipboard. As Note turns to leave, Scott attempts to throw him a kiss but he is unable to touch his fingers to his mouth. Maybe next time.

After a few minutes, Scott realized he had more questions than answers. He began to ponder when they scheduled his MRI. Clipboard. When was he going to eat? Clipboard. Was his family notified? What about his emergency contact? What about work, had HR been notified? Clipboard, clipboard, clipboard. His world had shrunk. His life had been reduced to the opinions of people who really didn’t know or understand him. And those opinions randomly scribbled on a sixty-nine-cent clipboard.

Scott’s train-of-thought was interrupted with the familiar cadence of Tagalog. San Francisco and Tagalog were like a burger and fries. He was reassured with a tinge of warmth. A Filipina woman dressed in pastel-flowered scrubs enters. She has a round-face with a small smile. She is mildly jovial. She’s unearthly. A cherub. She attempts small talk while briefly checking his vitals and repositioning his IV lines. She reaches underneath the blanket and with a light touch checks his pulse. She reaches for the clipboard. A quick notation. She reaches behind him and he hears Velcro separating. She states she’ll need the bigger cuff. She sets the clipboard on top of the bed. It begins to slip off the bed. As Scott reaches for it, he manages to displace half of his blanket as he catches it with a few fingers. He’s elated. He grabs it just in time. The afternoon sun pierces the room and for the first time he can see the soft white Velcro bands around his wrists and ankles fastened to the sides of his hospital bed. He can no longer hear any sounds. He is still and silent. His breathing feels shallow. He glances around and his gaze focuses upon the clipboard. It’s slightly askew. He can make out the hospital logo. He begins to read. But his eyes fail him. He shuts his eyes tightly. It’s worked before. He must focus before it’s removed. His eyes open wide and for the first time, he can see. It is clear as the rays of light through the 5th floor window. There it is. It was there all along. EXTREME NARCOTIC INTOXICATION. Scott might be sick but his condition was no longer a secret. They all knew him well. Therefore, the clipboard knew him well. The epiphany exploded in his head.  The torment of the benzodiazepines was defined. The amber bottle’s hold on him had been determined. He had been rescued. His days were no longer numbered. They had been replaced with fifty-one fifty. He began to wail. It was over.

 

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.

Macrobiotic_Visual Arts_Photography

Visual Art “Microbiotic” By: Nikos Kihem

About the Artist: Nikos Kihem is a bicycle, motorcycle, world traveler and music lover. He enjoys reading graphics novels in newly discovered lonely benches. He is an award-winning photographer and writer living in Athens, Greece. His poetry publication is “οι στροφές και ο δρόμος”(the road and it’s turns). You may visit him at kihem.com or send an inquiry to nikos.kihem@gmail.com.